Two Wristwatches

I realized that there is a very specific group of people out there (Hello!) who wear two wristwatches. The Venn diagram makes it a pretty exclusive group:

  1. Those old enough to appreciate the value in a wristwatch.
  2. Those young enough to appreciate these newfangled electronic gizmos that are marketed as “smartwatches”.
  3. Those who are happy to be different. (AKA, happy to be weirdos with stuff on both wrists.)

But why two watches?

1. The Old

On my right wrist is an old mechanical “self-winding” Seiko watch. Well, actually, not that old, it is a self-charging watch. Inside there is a little weighted pendulum that occasionally makes a partial revolution one way and at some point back again, as I move my wrist one way or another. I suppose there is a little permanent magnet on it, and a wire coil that it passes as it moves, inducing a little electric current, that charges a little low-leakage capacitor (just like a rechargeable battery, except completely different). No “charging” necessary on my part, wear it and physically move a normalish amount, and it works.

And that is a key point, it works: when I look at it I will see the time! And it keeps good time, I set it occasionally, and at the moment it is about 4-seconds ahead of the correct time.

I have had this watch for many years, I expect I will have it for many years to come. The capacitor seems to need replacing every decade or so, but it is replaceable.

2. The New

On my left wrist I have a Garmin “smartwatch”. Its battery lasts for many days (take that, Apple fans), but I do need to regularly take it off, plug in a special cable, plug that into a power supply, and wait maybe an hour-or-two for it to recharge.

It is quite nice, it does lots of cool stuff, but I think of it as really just an accessory to my “smart phone”: when the phone rings I can look at my wrist to see who is calling, when news happens my wrist will vibrate and I can see who died, started a war, won an election, was convicted of a crime, etc. When I look at it I never know what I excitement might see!

It also has also standalone features: a magnetic compass, GPS receiver, and more that I haven’t entirely learned how to use. And if I do use, can burn through my battery much more quickly.

It even tells time, but I don’t know whether time is what I will see when I look at it. One day I looked it was doing some automatic update it decided it needed, and it wouldn’t do anything else until it was done.

It sets its time automatically, and at the moment it is about 7-seconds behind the correct time. The automatic time setting is nice, but I don’t trust it. When I wake up on a Sunday morning after daylight saving time has changed will the watch will be in the new timezone? So far it seems it will, but I haven’t had it long enough to be sure. I also don’t know what I will see when I am changing planes in, say, Milwaukee. Has it changed to a new timezone? And if so, what timezone?

My other watch, however, will be in whatever timezone I put it in.

But most notable, I expect to throw away this “smart watch” in a few years, because everything seems to be disposable these days. Something will break or wear out that can’t be repaired. It does have a removable watchband, that’s good…but I seriously doubt the battery can be replaced, and even if it can, will that battery still be available? (I have a “phone” someplace here that is so old it has a replaceable battery! But the battery isn’t available anymore.) And then this watch could suddenly stop working one day, if some MBA at Garmin decides to change their business model.

3. Being Different

The other day a teenage girl asked me if I knew the time. I told her it was a bit past 8:30, she said thank you. But then I realized she was making fun of me. Okay, I can handle that. I was a nerd way before it was stylish. (Which makes me a real nerd, not one of those posers.)

I got over any worry of being “different” many years ago.

Over Time

This Garmin watch is at least the fifth electronic gizmo I have had on my wrist over the years. (Boy, do I mess the Pebble, it was great software design, but there were physical problems, it couldn’t be repaired, and then they sold the company…and turned it off.)

Over all those years? My Seiko has kept on running. And after this Garmin becomes e-waste?, I expect my Seiko will still be running.


I do appreciate that old fashioned watches are back in style, but it seems that’s all they are: Style. They are worn as jewelry, according to ones mood, or not worn, according to ones mood. They aren’t there as a functional device to tell time, goodness no!

These days, when people want to know the time, don’t they pull out enormous pocket watches—that they call “phones”—even when wearing a “watch”?


©2024 Kent Borg






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