I received my first watch on my 13th birthday as a gift from my step-father. As part of a rite of passage, it felt appropriate to receive the message that I had grown up enough that I could be expected to keep track of the time. Unsure of where that watch might be, or even what kind of watch it was, I keep hoping that someday it will turn up among my things. This watch served as the initial spark of a fire that would burn brightly more than two decades later in life.
Keeping track of the time, or my things for that matter, has never been my strength. When I purchased my first cell phone, just out of college, I liked the convenience of having the time available in my pocket without having to wear a watch that I might lose. It took another ten years for me to start thinking about wearing a watch again when I pondered finding something nice to wear for my upcoming wedding. I started noticing watches and even keeping an album of watch photos online of models that interested me.
A Wedding Watch
Choosing a quality watch and doing the research that it would take to come to that decision, eluded me in the busy months that led up to the wedding. A couple of days before the wedding, I happened to notice one particular Skagen quartz watch that had caught my eye, available at a local retail store. In the absence of time to pursue any other options, I decided to purchase it and really enjoyed wearing a watch again for our wedding and honeymoon. I continued to wear it when we went out on dates or for nicer occasions but still relied on my iPhone for day-to-day timekeeping. I’ve since regretted not spending a little more time and money to purchase a better watch for the occasion but the Skagen is part of my journey with watches.
The Apple Watch
Then the rumor began to spread that Apple was going to release a watch. I was working for Apple at the time in business sales so I was keeping up with the rumors even as I was beginning to notice growing interest among the business clients that I supported. I wanted a new Apple Watch but not so much because it was a watch but more because it felt like it would help me to step away from my phone and yet still receive notifications if needed. I ordered the first Apple Watch and waited excitedly to receive it.
Apple offered us a more generous than normal employee discount on the first Apple Watch so many of my co-workers received their watch around the same time that mine arrived. I remember looking around on one of the first days after the watch was on our wrists and realizing that every watch, from a short distance, looked the exact same. They were the same shape, featured the same crown, sat unusually high on the wrist and didn’t really look all that good considering the cost. I realized quickly that if the Apple Watch would grown on me, it would have to be for its functionality, not for its aesthetics. Apple kept pushing out new strap options because that was only way to try to improve the look of the watches.
What I liked best about the Apple Watch is that I actually started to become more conscious of time with a watch on my wrist again. The thing that I liked least about it was that in order to save battery, the screen stayed dark unless activated by tapping the screen or raising my wrist. This meant that there was no inconspicuous way to check the time during a meeting. Since raising my wrist didn’t activate the watch screen much of the time, I had to either use an exaggerated motion or actually touch the screen, prompting people to often ask me if I need to go when all I was really trying to do was check the time. Then I saw a picture of my wife and I that I really liked but the one thing that bothered me was a blank screen strapped to my wrist. Watches are supposed to look nice, I thought, and their primary appeal is the dial, not just the strap.
Connected Watches With an Analog Dial
When it was rumored that Apple might redesign the Apple Watch in 2018, I started to ponder if I would upgrade my watch or just quit using one altogether. I had already repressed the urge to look into mechanical watches because I knew that they appealed to me and could get quite expensive. I had read once about an Olympic speed skater, named Apolo Ohno, who purchased watches to mark major milestones in his life, and I liked the idea. Having welcome our first child into the world earlier that year, I wondered if I should buy my first mechanical watch to celebrate the milestone.
Unsure if I could give up the digital connectedness that I had become accustomed to on my wrist, I decided to try out a Fossil Q hybrid smartwatch with a traditional dial but a few connected features that would work through a bluetooth connection to my iPhone. Wearing a watch with an analog dial convinced me that I wanted to move away from a screen on my wrist that lay dark for the majority of the time. It was nice to check the time at a glance, for a change, and to not worry about keeping the watch charged. I also soon realized that the Apple Watch was not doing much for me that my iPhone couldn’t provide.
After trying a few connected watches, I realized that I did not want to limit my options to watches that integrated with my phone. Now that I was ready to move away from smartwatches and into the world of mechanical watches, I spent many months in research. I didn’t know where to start but everything I explored made horology more fascinating to me on my quest to find my first mechanical watch. Twenty-five years after receiving my first watch as a gift to celebrate becoming a teenager, I was ready to complete my gradual journey back to wearing watches to celebrate the birth of my daughter.
This search is what launched my interest in the watches and topics that I will be exploring as part of this new blog called “Thoughts on Watches.” I have thought more about watches, over the past two years, than I ever considered possible and I think it’s time to share some of those thoughts, both for my own clarification and also to engage with the community of those who love watches on a deeper level. I’ll share what watch I ended up choosing as my first mechanical watch in an upcoming article. Meanwhile, I would love to hear from you about what brought you into a fascination with the timekeeping devices that we call watches.