24 Jan 2019
When I married eleven years ago I got myself a nice watch to mark the occasion. It was a beautiful, self-winding mechanical Longines watch that cost ridiculously more than any watch I had previously owned (but still a pittance when compared to other mechanical timepieces). I wore it on my wrist every day for about eight years and never lost my infatuation with the pure engineering brilliance of it, even though it never quite kept an exact time.
When I turned forty little over two years ago my wife gave me a long sought-after smartwatch, an Apple Watch series 2. I immediately paired it with my iPhone and started exploring all the cool new things this would add to my life. The Apple Watch is a wonderful gadget, but life with it soon turned out to be a life interrupted. I found it almost impossible to ignore the gentle taps on my arm informing me that someone said something on Facebook or Instagram, or that I was awarded some sort of imaginary kindergarten award for having walked a distance. I frankly grew shockingly annoyed over the constant notifications and soon turned most of them off. The very premise of having a piece of technology constantly collecting metrics about my activity and trying to gamify my life felt utterly unappealing to me.
It also turned out that the thing I most needed a watch for—telling time—was the thing this smartwatch did not do very well. You could not just glance at it and expect to see what time it was. To save battery you had to activate the display by raising your arm, or by touching it. This meant a whole lot of awkward arm-shaking whenever I wanted to know if I was late for a meeting.
I started switching in my old Longines on the weekends, in an attempt to disconnect at least a little from the constant flow of digital nudges. Then I stopped using my Apple Watch as a timepiece altogether. Instead it got relegated to being used only as a music player when I went for runs. Now, when I do not run as much, I just keep it in a drawer—cold, dark and lifeless. These days I alternate between my Longines and a newly bought Tusenö (a very nice quartz watch) and I never miss having a computer on my wrist.
It I were to still use the Apple Watch every day, I would most likely have to trade it in for a newer, faster model. That would be yet another device I would have to keep on a two-year update cycle. I would much rather spend that money on regular services for my Longines and have it last the rest of my life.