In the age of cell phones, why bother wearing a wrist watch?
It's a fair question - the utility of the wrist watch can be questioned when we live in a time where the act of taking a cell phone out of a pocket is not functionally different than the flicking of a wrist to check the time. And yet the wrist watch remains stubbornly present in the wardrobes of most young, professional men. Unlike radios, calculators, voice recorders and music players, and so many other technologies of the 20th century that have been buried by the ubiquitous smart phone, the humble watch lives on. Why?
In 2018, more people are purchasing wrist watches than ever before.
It's a testament to the the wrist watch's longevity. Total global sales of wrist watches have been growing at a steady 7-8% compound annual growth rate over the last decade, and it's driven across all three major strata:
1. High end luxury Swiss watch companies (Breitling, Omega, TAG Heuer, etc.) continue to see increasing adoption as a growing upper class in emerging economies wishes to deploy their disposable income.
2. Emerging "affordable luxury" brands like Michael Kors, MVMT and Daniel Wellington quickly established an alternative entry to wrist watches with their minimalist watch faces and simplistic bands.
3. The enormity of the Chinese quartz watch movement. A diaspora of Chinese manufacturers produce more than 1 billion watches every year. And the total revenue these watch makers produce is more than $40B USD.
So what's driving this growth?
Watches are more than utility - they are one of the few accessories men have to showcase their style.
With the exception of wedding bands, wrist watches are the only pieces of jewelry that most men can comfortably wear on a daily basis. A well-worn watch can align with a man's image that he wishes to project. A cultivated collection of watches can accentuate a man's appearance, and allow him to display a piece of jewelry that has both functional utility and serves as an accessory to his appearance.
Watches are more professional than using a cell phone.
The young professional may be burdened with 40 tasks to complete before lunch. As he sits with his boss reviewing an urgent project, he needs to keep track of his time. Looking at a wrist watch is significantly more professional than pulling out a cell phone. Plus, a wrist watch is a generational item - similar watches can link the style of a younger man with his older cohort, and that's a good thing in the world of business, where interpersonal relationships are everything.
Watches have sentimental value that are deeply personal to the owner.
During World War II, all uniformed English officers received a Rotary watch. These watches were strapped to the wrists of young men as they traveled thousands of miles by land, by air and by sea. These watches provided a measure of time and place in a world beset by harrowing uncertainty. Thousands of these watches remain in use today, either passed along to descendants as a treasured heirloom, or remain in rotation on the wrists of sons and grandsons out of a sign of respect for the watch's meaning to the original owner.