The watch comes back for sec­onds

The Washington Times Weekly - - Page Two - By Shelley Wid­halm

Matt Swanston rel­ishes his col­lec­tion of sports, dress and fun watch­es­the­same­waysome­women ad­mire their ar­ray of shoes.

“It’s the only piece of jew­elry most guys get to wear,” says Mr. SwanstonofAr­ling­ton,Va.“It’sa­fun thing to wear with a con­ser­va­tive out­fit. It’s a peek that you’re not as stiff as the suit would im­ply.”

Deco­rum is an­other rea­son Mr. Swanston, di­rec­tor of busi­ness anal­y­sis for the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics As­so­ci­a­tion in Ar­ling­ton, sticks to his watch-wear­ing habits. He does not like to be seen pulling out his cell phone to check the time at a meet­ing or in con­ver­sa­tion. Nor does he like the awk­ward­ness of fum­bling for his phone when he rides his mo­tor­cy­cle, he says.

“I don’t like wear­ing a cell phone all the time,” says Mr. Swanston, who has got­ten used to the weight and feel­ing of wear­ing a watch.

He is a loyal watch wearer in a day and time when the op­tions for telling time have ex­panded to in­clude cell phones, per­sonal dig­i­tal as­sis­tants (PDA), com­put­ers and other elec­tronic de­vices. The elec­tronic dis­plays on those de­vices ful­fill a func­tion that once be­longed to the wrist­watch and, be­fore its in­ven­tion in 1904, the pocket watch: check­ing the hour and minute.

“Tech­nol­ogy has forced the wrist­watch to be­come more ad­vanced and to be more than just a fash­ion ac­ces­sory or more than an ac­cu­rate time­piece,” says Kim Craven, mar­ket­ing spokes­woman for the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Watch and Clock Col­lec­tors Inc., a non­profit sci­en­tific or­ga­ni­za­tion in Columbia, Pa. “It’s true that the cell phone has re­placed the wrist­watch for some.”

Watch com­pa­nies have come out with watches that have in­te­grated global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem (GPS) re­ceivers, In­ter­net con­nec­tions, Blue­tooth at­tach­ments and lowres­o­lu­tion cam­eras.

The FM3 watch has an MP3 player with an FM trans­mit­ter. The IBeam is a tra­di­tional watch with a flash­light and mag­ni­fier for the 50-plus crowd. The Fore­run­ner 301 is in­tended for ath­letes to mon­i­tor their heart rate, along with run­ning speed, dis­tance, pace and calo­ries burned. The OvWatch is for women who want to track their fer­til­ity cy­cles.

“It would ap­pear, at least from our per­spec­tive as a tech­nol­ogy as­so­ci­a­tion, that the wrist­watch is poised for some­what of a come­back.It’sbe­comeanex­ten­sionofde­vices we al­ready carry,” Mr. Swanston says.

The ex­ten­sion fol­lows on the heels of a num­ber of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in the past 40 years.

In the 1970s, quartz watches re­placed me­chan­i­cal watches, which used springs and gears to keep time and re­quired wind­ing to op­er­ate, Mr. Swanston says. Quartz watches work by run­ning a small elec­tri­cal charge through a piece of quartz that vi­brates to keep time.

In the 1980s, watch com­pa­nies de­vel­oped dig­i­tal watches with num­bers formed by light-emit­ting diodes (LED), but they did not last long.

“Itismucheasier­tore­adaround dial watch than a dig­i­tal, and the lo­ca­tion of the nee­dle on the face of a watch than the num­ber pre­sented on a liq­uid dis­play panel, be­cause that’s how our minds work,” says Elias G. Carayan­nis, pro­fes­sor of science, tech­nol­ogy, in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship for the School of Busi­ness at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton.

In the 1990s, cell phones made watches re­dun­dant for their time­telling func­tion and later, their ex­ter­nal dis­plays that en­able date and time to be seen with­out flip­ping open the phone, says John John­son, spokesman for Ver­i­zon Wire­less in Lau­rel, Md.

“It’s more im­por­tant for me to have a cell phone than a watch be­cause a watch does one thing, and a cell phone does many,” Mr. John­son says. “An in­crease in mo­bil­ity and mul­ti­task­ing makes cell phones more in­dis­pens­able.”

Cell-phone com­pa­nies re­quire pre­cise time­keep­ing to op­er­ate their cel­lu­lar net­works, Mr. John­son says. Abyprod­uct of their time­keep­ing is an ac­cu­rate time on in­di­vid­ual cell­phone dis­plays, in­clud­ing dur­ing a change in time zones, he says.

“Peo­ple­knowthatand­knowthey can de­pend on it, and that makes your phone more re­li­able,” Mr. John­son says.

Mr. Carayan­nis notes that a sim­ple turn of the wrist is more ef­fi­cient than reach­ing for a cell phone.

“It’s of­ten an in­con­ve­nience. You have to do many things to see time on a cell phone,” he says. “The aes­thetic af­fects of watches and ease of use are im­por­tant el­e­ments in place.”

Thecon­ceptof­time­haschanged to ac­com­mo­date a busy pace of life, mak­ing dig­i­tal time dis­plays with the sec­ond in­di­cated cru­cial, says Mo­hamedChouikha,pro­fes­so­rand chair­manofthede­part­mentof­elec­tri­cal and com­puter en­gi­neer­ing at Howard Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton.

The day is no longer di­vided into work, be­fore and af­ter lunch, and af­ter din­ner, but is a con­tin­u­ous 24 hours, with the abil­ity to work any­where and ac­cess in­for­ma­tion any­time, he says.

“Time is our mas­ter. We are rush­ing through things, even on week­ends,” says Mr. Chouikha. “Time is a con­cept that is out of hand. That’s the first vic­tim of our def­i­ni­tion of time are the watches. [. . . ] The con­cept is ev­ery sec­ond counts now.”

Watches have the ad­van­tage of not hav­ing to com­pete for car­ry­ing space with other elec­tronic de­vices, Mr. Swanston says.

“As the watch learns to at­tach to other net­works and de­vices, it’s a valu­able piece of real es­tate on your per­son,” he says. “If your IPod and cell phone are com­pet­ing for a place on your belt, there is noth­ing com­pet­ing for this space on your wrist.”

Watches also of­fer variety and come in dif­fer­ent fab­rics, col­ors, styles and widths, along with rang­ing in qual­ity and ex­pense.

“Watches don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be the most high-qual­ity to be at­trac­tive,” Ms. Craven says. “It’s a fun ac­ces­sory to have.”

Il­lus­tra­tion by Li­nas Garsys / The Wash­ing­ton Times

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