As we learn more about human history, we learn more about how vital the telling of time has been. The Antikythera Mechanism, thought to have been the first mechanical clock, was likely created in the 2nd Century BC. Let’s just say we’ve come a long way since that time. In a market now oversaturated with timepiece options, deciding the best fit for your usage and style can be pretty confusing.
Everything from entirely digitally integrated to bespoke watches is at your fingertips but choosing how you’re going to tell time and possibly more is no small consideration. Here we’ll discuss how to blend both for practical, everyday use and more specific utility.
These are by far the most common of what we see today. Digital watches have come into prominence in the past ten years in large part due to two major developments. One is the drastic increase in battery life for the watch’s form factor. Previously, a Casio Databank (the silver calculator watch from 1980) housed a replaceable battery that only gave limited functionality in a standard number format.
From such humble beginnings, we now have literal computers on our wrists. Digital watches are high resolution, rechargeable, GPS enabled, fitness ready, and, more often than not, can be linked to your cell phone to utilize your phone’s mobile data ability. This is a hugely powerful tool. However, there are some drawbacks. If your goal is to remain somewhat less connected to technology, this device is the opposite of what you want. It makes you highly trackable, and even if not linked to your phone, they are often constantly pinging GPS satellites.
Having a smartwatch, as they’re now known, available as a tool for certain things is a fantastic idea. That being said, wearing it every day can present certain unseen challenges. Lastly, because of the need for so much technology in a device, they’re often large and unpleasing aesthetically. That’s why many companies have now adopted the model of substituting onboard capabilities with the power of a cell phone connection. This allows smartwatches to be sleeker and smaller.
For decades this has been the most common type of watch. Utilizing specific batteries with a relatively simple mechanical mechanism, these watches are the backbone of how we continue to tell time on our wrists. They are durable, reliable, and simple, yet they have a few challenges. First amongst them is the battery. While the battery life can often be measured in years, what 2020 showed us is that supply chains are incredibly fragile, and something like a watch battery is a niche item that is also not rechargeable.
Replacement of those batteries is also more challenging than one might think, with precision timepieces requiring specific tools and methods not to damage the watch. Next, the times must be set manually, and any interruption in power to the watch can cause the time to be lost unknowingly. Modern watches only lose a little, if any, time. However, that is all based on how the time was set in the first place.
To be highly precise, checking your watch for a possible time adjustment needed monthly is always a wise choice. The biggest plus for analog watches, though, comes from their simplicity. Most digital watches have a battery life that can be measured in days or weeks. Analog, battery-powered watches can be measured in years. Next, when tracking certain things like counting numbers, an analog-style watch face has a definite place.
For example, when counting someone’s pulse, especially under pressure, having a watch face with a hand that measures seconds is much easier for our brain to process. While also counting the beats of blood flow than watching numbers on a digital face. Due to their mechanism, they also come in a wide range of styles, form factors, and designs. No matter what happens or what the future brings, there will always be room for the analog battery-powered time-keeping option.
Rounding out the list are watches that don’t contain a replaceable battery. Instead, they use external forces to continue running. Solar watches are a unique and relatively new option compared to their other analog counterparts. They can be found increasingly in digital options as well. Solar watch use, you guessed it, the sun! Considering the solar option for those who live in primarily overcast climates or spend most of their day in an office.
The last thing you want to do is look at your wrist, needing to know the time, and see that the hands are frozen due to a dead battery. Next, what are known as automatic watches are spring-loaded. Each time you move your arm, that motion recharges the internal battery. This is an excellent and ultra-reliable design as long as the watch moves. The advantage is as a daily wear watch. They can come in all the form factors in a standard battery-powered analog watch without needing an interchangeable battery.
A word of caution on solar and automatic watches should be daily worn choices. If either is sitting in a closet as dress wear for an extended period, you’re likely to find them not working when you choose to wear them. For both solar and automatic, the internal batteries that store a charge from sunlight or movement last 48-72 hours.
Watches are a great way to make a statement and be used daily as a simple and useful tool. The ability to tell time without seeing the sun, stars, or moon was a significant development in human history, not to be taken lightly, and your timepiece should reflect the same. There’s no such thing as a perfect watch for all items. Instead, there are timepieces for specific uses. Next time you look at watches, think about why or how you’d use that particular one rather than just if it looks fancy or flashy.
I keep both digital and analog watches in my kit. My analog is solar powered, though it will also charge off a flourescent bulb (just not as fast).
Just like owning a GPS, one should also know how to navigate with a compass.