Are cell phones hurting the watch industry?

Just a short off topic post because I thought it was an interesting “hmmm” breakfast topic.

I’m chatting with a bud at work this morning, Robert, and I noticed he was wearing one of those big manly watches, one of the ones with the fat faceplate and the big dial with the radium twist, the kind that’ll say somewhere on it “waterproof to a depth of 500 fathoms” or some crazy shit.

And in a land-locked state like Minnesota, that was good enough for me to give him a ration of crap, but that got us to talking about watches.

I noticed he was wearing the watch, mostly because I just don’t see many folk ever wear them anymore.

I used to have a dive watch myself, one of the same sort of big stainless ‘butch’ watches, they were a big thing in the ’80s. Of course, I actually dove with the damn thing, but that’s not why I had it. I had it because it was a big manly watch.

The reason I threw mine in the trash is I made the mistake of wearing it once around some salty old dogs who reamed me for it.

It turns out, fledgling little diver that I was, that I did not know barracuda will attack anything that flashes in the water. Like, oh… the light flashing off moving stainless steel in shallow water.

So yeah… the stainless steel dive knife, the stainless regulator surfaces, the dive watch… bad ideas. Crap.

Somehow, the idea of swimming along minding my own business, and suddenly having a barracuda attacking my wrist sounded like a BAD IDEA.

Anyway, we’re joking, and I ruminated on how I just don’t see too many folks that wear watches anymore. Cassie wears one, but I haven’t worn one in over a decade, at least.

I have one, a dress one for getting all gussied up, but I haven’t even gotten that out of my tackle box in years.

Oh yeah, I keep all my small loose items in a tackle box. You know, Marine Corps tie tack, gold watch, gaming dice, palm dagger, bookmarks with pretty pictures, the usual loose crap I don’t want getting lost in the cushions of the sofa.

So, end of story, Robert and I are laughing, and I mention I haven’t worn one in years. And I say, “If I need to know what time it is, I just…”

And Robert finishes my sentence with “… look at my cell phone.”


Damn near everyone carries a cell phone nowadays. And one thing about cell phones, they all have a display that shows the time. Why wear a watch if I am going to carry one in my pocket all the time anyway?

Unless it’s just a fashion thing, dress for success, that sort of thing. Like those stupid Swatches from the ’80s. Maybe important people in social circles I have nothing to do with still wear fancy Rolexes all the time as status symbols.

Anyone else noticed this?

Maybe I’m just full of it or deluded, but that’s what makes it a breakfast topic, it’s something to speculate on.

But how wierd if an entire industry selling portable timepieces were losing market share and facing dwindling profits because a seemingly unrelated market, the mobile telephone market, were replacing your products.

Just seemed kind of funny, an example of a side effect of proliferating technology that no one in the ’80s would have ever predicted, not with the big watch boom of ’84.

Anyone remember Swatches? Big ass macho watches? Digital calculator watches? How about video game watches with their own little plastic joysticks? The ’80s made it seem watches were exploding in popularity.

Maybe they still are, I’d be curious to know.


28 thoughts on “Are cell phones hurting the watch industry?

  1. That’s quite interesting…

    I wonder if it’s a cultural thing on that side of the Pond… I don’t think there are many people I know in the UK who don’t wear a watch.

    Maybe there’s a “British tradition” of needing to know the time, so that we can talk accurately about the weather!


  2. I’m wearing now, and have worn the same Ironman Triathlon watch for the past around 15 years. (I take it off at night, don’t worry) At this point I can’t stop wearing a watch the fishbelly white band around my wrist is far to telling. I have a fancy dress watch my wife gave me, but the batteries died and it’s to expensive to have some yahoo at walmart replace them. I like the clock on my cellphone and use it when I need to set an alarm or make sure the batteries on my watch aren’t dying, but I always feel like an ass if someone asks the time and I have to find my phone instead of checking my wrist. I know almost everyone has a cellphone, and you’re right most watches do seem like just ornamentation at this point, but it still reeks of one-up-manship when I have to pull out my cell in public. Of course, I’m the kinda of person that would prefer a pocketwatch, fob and all, and that’s pretty much the end all be all of ostentation.


  3. Hell yes, I do remember Swatches! I had at least four of them (never those very big ones, but I remember them being very popular with girls for a while – terrible!). I would have put Swatches in the 90s, though. But perhaps that’s a European difference sort of thing.

    Anyways, I used to wear a watch all the time ever since I learned to read it, couldn’t go anywhere without it. And then at some point during my university years it stopped. I really don’t know what triggered it, but ever since I have never worn one again, even don’t possess one.
    I figured there were so many watches in public places anyways that there was no need to check the time every few minutes on my wrist. Nowadays, I live in a small town and small towns seem to lack all those watches at every corner of a street. Quite interesting, by the way…

    I still don’t wear a watch, but I don’t carry around my cell with me at all times either. I could very well imagine that cell phones are hurting the watch industry, but then, I have to go with Stobnor: I don’t think there are many people I know in Germany who don’t wear a watch – at least where women are concerned. There may be a decline in men, though. Have to watch my surrounding wrists more carefully… 😉


  4. B3 – I love these “off-topic” rambling posts. It might be helpful if I could say precisely why, I suppose. Maybe it’s because it’s kind of cool to know a bit more about a blog author? That is a WAG from the English Major inside me, but who knows? It might even be true.

    Anyway, I am in the same boat as you – no more watch. I stopped carrying a watch because of my cell phone, but now I work on a campus that *gasp!* DOES NOT HAVE CELL SERVICE. It’s not even in Amish country! But I drive a desk, and desks all have computers, and computers all have very, very, very accurate clocks. Also, I have been trying to lose weight and my watch feels much, much heavier now than it did 20 lbs ago. It got to the point where I noticed it enough that it bugged me, so I started taking it off when I sat at my desk, which just begs the question of why I was bothering to wear it at all.

    And regarding big fat huge flashy macho watches, if you’re not wearing an Omega Speedmaster, you ain’t wearing SHIT.


  5. Its why I don’t wear one.

    Odd thought: I had to go without a working cellphone for a month or two due to pigheadedness on my part and the entire time I was wondering where the heck my watch was. You know…the one I wore before I got the cellphone?

    But I never put the two thoughts together.


  6. I would think that as cell phone technology has gotten better and continues to advance even further, that they would hurt multiple industries.

    * I don’t own a watch because my cell phone doesn’t pinch and pull the hairs on my arm.

    * I don’t own a camera because the camera on my phone is more than sufficient for taking photos.

    * I don’t keep a “land-line” phone simply because the cell phone is more than adequate for the little phone-talking I do.

    * More and more cell phone companies are making their devices Wi-Fi and compatible with such applications as Skype, which allow you to talk to other Skype users for free, and to talk local and long-distance at seriously-deflated rates.

    * Most cell phones over games. Some of the more-advanced phones use Windows Mobile as an OS, which is capable to running a large library of games, applications and tools.

    * Most cell phone devices play MP3s or some other form of digital audio.

    * Some of the latest cell phones even offer GPS capability.

    With all of that in mind, most technology-based companies that fall into any of those categories should be mindful of how the cell phone industry is growing and how it will currently and in long-term, affect their sales.


  7. Ditto with Hedus. I will probably always wear a watch even though I carry a cell phone, which I turn on occasionally…lol.

    My watch choice is a Mickey Mouse watch from the “classy” side of Disney world – a nice silvery image of Mickey and traditional watch hands. Classy, yet fun. Oh, yeah, THAT’S me!

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…..ah ha ha ha….ahhhhhhh


  8. I have a watch as i think im just to lazy to pull my phone out of my inside pocket… and the watch is just on my wrist right there…

    Also, having once worked in a phone-operating environment i have gotten into a funny habit of always glancing at my wrist to look at the time before answering a telephone, so as to say good morning or good afternoon… i do it everytime now, cell phone, work phone, home phone, any phone!? (although obviously i dont answer my cell phone ‘good morning blah blah blah’… saying that… i probably have once or twice!)


  9. Watch? I have the same reason. It’s on my cell phone. It’s on the clock on the radio in the car. It’s in the bottom right corner of the computer. It’s on the VoiP phone’s display at work. It’s on the cordless phone in the house. It’s on the microwave, the stove, and the corner of CNN on the TV at home. And it’s on the mini-map in WoW.


  10. I was forced to ditch my watch while I was recuperating from a motorcycle accident. It was temporary at the time, but after getting used to looking at my cell phone for the time I ended up not going back to wearing a watch after I was fully healed. So, in my case, cell phones did kill my watch usage.


  11. Wow, I had no idea so many folks still enjoy their watches.

    And for good reason, apparently.

    I will say, I have noticed that if I’m wearing shorts or I’m at the gym exercising, it’s a sudden irritation to NOT have my cell phone on me to check the time, but not enough of one to get a watch again.


  12. heh – you haven’t seen the revenge of the watch industry yet, have you? No, it’s not actual, it’s my forecast.

    Notice, in addition to all the other neat stuff folk like Messyah mention above, that your cellphone is getting smaller? In fact, so small that a headpiece is just short of mandatory for some of them? Yeah, you see where this is going.

    Large, clunky watch-like object, showing time/date by default, worn on the wrist. No need to be Dick Tracy when you can use your bluetooth headpiece, but otherwise the similarities are eerie.


  13. I can’t live without my watch…not wearing it feels really awkward, and it takes a conscious decision on my part to Not Wear My Watch while on vacation. I’m a PhD student in biochem and use the timers and alarm on my watch to remind me to do stuff all the time. I probably could use similar functions on my cell phone, but frankly it’s easier to do on my watch.

    I do, however, also have a really poor internal sense of time. There are times when I’m working that I have very little clue what time it is without looking at a clock or my watch. I wonder how that correlates with watch usage. My wife, for example, wears a watch only at work but has a good internal clock.


  14. I grew up wearing a watch all the time. I had digital but still prefer those with hands. I stopped wearing one when i started in a manufacturing job that scratched up the crystal all the time. I even turned the watch face to the inside of my wrist, but it still got messed up. So, I started just keeping my watch in my pocket. When the battery died I never got around to fixing it and for the past 15 years I’ve not had a watch and didn’t have a cell phone until early 2000’s. Now I wouldn’t even think of getting a watch, I like my wrist being naked.



  15. I have a very nice Citizen Eco-Drive (no, not that monstrosity Eli Manning shills!), which I wear for two reasons: One, it tells me the time when I don’t have my reading glasses on (old age ftl); two, it’s a damn fine piece of jewelry, and I can’t afford a Rolex or Tag-Heuer.

    I also don’t carry my cellphone all the time: When I get to work, it sits on my desk (no one ever calls me anyway, except my wife, and she’s as likely to email me). At home, my cellphone sits on top of my wallet, which I don’t carry around the house either. Of course, I don’t wear my watch at home either: It interferes with my keyboard wrist-rest, and of course I have computer clocks all over the damn place.


  16. If you travel on business a lot, having a watch is very, very good. Especially international travel, where cell service is spotty.

    Outdoors activities are also kinda nice for having a watch, but in general I don’t like having them outdoors because I like to, well, not worry about what time it is outdoors. 🙂


  17. I worked in the Jewelry dept at Wal-mart for many a year, and I can say that your observations are pretty damn spot-on. Not many people buy watches anymore, the mass majority of the ones I sold were simply for “bling” (you know, the impression that the watch is flashy and expensive, when in fact it is a $15 piece of shit you bought at Wal-mart…)

    I myself carried a pocket watch for some time, but only because I hate phones and don’t carry a cell phone around. Anymore these days, however, time is meaningless to me. I don’t work a set work schedule, my TV shows magically download when there’s a new one, the grocery store is open 24 hours a day… what need do I have for the time? Hell, what time is it now? What day is today…

    Oh and on a side note, when are you gonna write about WoW again? 😛


  18. The watch is the only “respectable” piece of jewelry a man can wear in a business setting. I have about 15 watches that color coordinate with whatever shirt I’m wearing, as well as 2-3 “low maintenance” watches and 1-2 “interview” watches.

    Conversely, my cell phone is boring, never changes, and represents an anchor –a way for people to “get ahold” of me.

    It might sound girly but it’s annoying that the only none shirt/tie/vest/jacket thing I can do to enhance my appearance is a watch while women get rings, bracelets, hair-thingies, pierced ears, etc. So I totally live it up. =)


  19. Baseball, you missed some things that are still “valid”.

    Tie hardware of various sorts comes to mind – tacks, clips, etc.

    Odds are you’re wearing a suit (given the rest of your discussion), in which case lapel pins of several sorts are respectable.

    Oh, and I almost forgot fountain pens. My handwriting is execrable, and I lose pens readily myself. But if you want “men’s business jewelry”, that’s your path. go to for your starting point.


  20. I have a cellphone. I always forget to take it with me. Ditto on the watch, which is a bit of bling but very sensible. I used to lose watches on a regular basis. Then I bought an expensive one (Tag) and suddenly I always knew where it was. After 6 years wearing it on oil rigs, drill floor and all, the casing is a little dented, but the face is still perfectly scratch-free. And being a “diving” watch (albeit small and girly), I can wear it swimming or in wet places (hiking or such) without any worries of water damage.

    When I remember to wear it.

    The second hand is very useful for timing stuff, measuring pulses etc (I’m a vet now). I have no clue if my phone has any utility like that.


  21. I love my watches. I wear my Eeyore (yeah I said it) watch daily. I have a leather strapped ladies US Army watch. I also have a gold watch given to my husband by an Iraqi Sgt Major to give to me as a thank you for the walkman my husband had given his son. The kid said he wanted one, so hubby gave him his. For that I got a gold watch when he came home.


  22. Yeah I still wear a watch every day as well. I just like to be able to glance down and check the time, especially when you need to do it discretely. You know, like when you’re in the middle of a meeting thinking, ‘When the hell is this going to end”–not exactly the prime moment to whip out your cellphone.

    Seriously though I just hate cellphones with a passion. This always available and plugged in to the network thing is for the birds. I carry the cell for emergencies, but personally if you’re not my wife or my mother you can send me an email =)


  23. A bit of an old post but I figured I would toss in my 2 cents. I been living in Japan the past couple years and yesterday I went to a dinner party. Pulling out some things to wear I looked at my watch. I realized I haven’t worn my watch in over a year. Pretty weird. People here really don’t wear watches. Occasionally as status symbols but for the time 9 times out of 10 you will see someone look at their cellphone.


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