Pocket to Wrist: Apple Watch shifts timekeeping yet again

Apple’s new wearable is following the tradition of changing where we keep information while adding a host of new features for the next generation.
by Patrick Herrilka

For his 16th birthday, a close friend of mine received a stainless steel, self-winding Rolex watch as a gift. His father told him that we wear watches to always be aware of time so it’s never wasted. According to Wikipedia, the wristwatch came to be around the 16th century and was almost exclusively for women while men carried pocket watches. Whether or not this scholarly source is to be trusted, most of us not yet claiming social security are more familiar with the wrist watch while the pocket watch is considered more of a collectors item. However, once dad’s brick cell phone was small enough to keep in a pocket his wrist watch also became a sort of antique. Those still wearing watches for the sake of fashion or status can still be seen instead going for their phones to find the time. For nearly two decades now the cell phone has been the wristwatch killer for those of us no longer relying on pocket watches, obelisks, sundials or the hourglass as a means of deciding whether it’s time to punch out and kick back.

In 2001 Apple created a different kind of product killer in the iPod, going on to sell an estimated 350 million units and putting to shame our older brother’s Sony Walkman. Then, like the over-achievers they’ve come to be known as, Apple reset the cell phone standard with the release of the iPhone. Now in a repeat of history it seems they are looking to again move things from the pocket back onto our wrists with the new Apple Watch. Potentially setting itself as the new standard for the future of what has been labeled the “smart watch,” like the iPhone this product dawns the beginning of a new technology. The Apple brand is often associated with perfection, and their new watch is leaps beyond the Casio calculator watch worn by the tech geeks of Steve Jobs’ era. Yet it’s been over twenty years since my friend’s birthday and his watch is still ticking away.

There are a lot of things my friend’s watch can do that can’t be said of an Apple Watch. Short of an unfortunate catastrophe, he can say with relative confidence that it’ll last at least another twenty years while Apple is notorious for making their own products obsolete within three years. Apple’s new wearable has been reported to be surprisingly resistant to showers and swimming, putting to rest an early perceived criticism against the device replacing traditional wristwatches. An Apple Watch may not yet stand against Rolex’s notorious deep sea challenge, but it’s essentially moot when a bath is the deepest body of water you’re ever going to see. One thing his watch never requires is charging, or a software update. Speaking of those all-too-regular software updates; what happens when your $15,000 Apple Watch Edition in luxurious gold is no longer capable of adequately handling whatever new operating system Apple unleashes across their product fleet?

From what we’ve seen over the last decade, Apple users are quite willing to shell out money to keep up on the latest advances. Trade-ins and hand-me-downs are becoming more common with a company that creates products known for outlasting those of their competitors. A three to five year-old Apple laptop might not satisfy that new niche of tech fashionista, but it still does its job. Good enough for your kid brother to do his homework on, or distract grandma with online pinochle and “the Google”. Maybe it won’t be long before the owner of an Apple Watch can know their purchase will still be with them in ten years. So it’s possible that one day, when fathers trade-in their Apple Watch for who-knows-what, they can pass it on to their sons, confident it will keep them on time (or Tweeting) for years to come.

Patrick Herrilka
Patrick Herrilka is a comedian and writer living in New York City.

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