Are Men's Watches Still Practical?

Close up of unrecognizable man in blue checked shirt using smart watch

60 years ago, a nice watch said a lot more. The status, power, and style that came with a high-end watch helped define a man’s sense of self. Cut to the mid-late 2000’s: Cellphones emerge in the mainstream, changing the watch industry forever. With the ability to check the time on your phone, who needs a watch to tell time anymore?

Many of those watches sit still as family heirlooms, stuck in a time when men’s fashion when accessories carried a greater weight. The 2010’s race to increase smartphone screen size between iPhone and Samsung only made it easier to tell time at a quick glance.

This change continued to send shockwaves down a once stable time-piece industry.

To stay relevant, watchmakers started to differentiate on style to make up for their inability to innovate. Traditional watchmakers couldn’t compete on innovation versus smartwatch brands like Pebble and Apple. On the one hand, watches got more ridiculous in an attempt to stay relevant.

This fake moon rock watch got substantially press taking advantage of this tendency. On the other hand, companies began to offer more hyper-minimalist watch styles. This change made watches increasingly hard to read. Black faces and black hands got smaller and smaller.

Men’s watches started to emphasize the look over the actual ability to tell time. And it makes sense. People don’t need to rely on their watches to tell time anymore because their phone will do just fine, so the look of a watch gets increasingly important.

Do you love the way ultra-minimalist watches look? I love the look too – the style of minimalist watches is great. The Long Distance Classic and the Classic Nato are two suave-looking examples.

But I think they fall one step short: my problem is the uselessness of their time-telling capabilities. Keep in mind that a minimalist watch will own your outfit, mood, and style for that day.

The right modern, sleek watch for today’s age will make you feel effective, productive, and ambitious. The top minimalist watches do a great job simplifying design, but they are still hard to read and not really used to tell time. Still, there’s nothing wrong from wearing a great designer look.

What can we do about the minimalism that dominates the watch market today? I argue that perhaps the market didn’t go far enough. The age of watches that tell time may as well be coming to an end due to smartphones so perhaps the best idea is to remove time-telling abilities from the watch altogether.

Perhaps that would make the ultra-minimalist statement.

What? That might sound crazy yes, but I prefer to think of it as a call for revolution. I want a movement that preserves the tradition and quality craftsmanship that’s gone into watchmaking for hundreds and hundreds of years, but shifting the entire focus of the watch is on the design and how it looks on the wearer’s wrist.

Perhaps the face could be left blank, or wearers could design their own replacement to the watch face, or photos could be placed in the watch, with ease. There are countless ways to turn the 20th century ideal of the watch into a 21st century fashion staple. Start thinking, the advent of the watch revolution is upon us.

I’m telling you, ask your friends who don’t wear watches what they think about starting to wear one for themselves. You’ll hear plenty of “I don’t have time to teach myself to rely on my watch,” (really, I’ve heard this one before, and yes, they didn’t pick up on the pun) or “I love the look of watches, but I couldn’t even imagine having to look at those tiny hard-to-read hands to figure out if it’s 5:04 or 5:05.”

When you think about it, watches have a tough road ahead of them thanks to these pesky smartphones.

Are there any watches that are pushing the boundaries now?

There’s one. Check out the Jesper. It’s a completely down to earth watch that has sleek, sturdy, sexy looks and does away with time-keeping altogether. From the PR:

“There’s nothing better than being in a meeting when someone catches sight of Jesper. First the double-take. Then the thinking starts – that’s a sleek watch. It is a watch, right? Why is he wearing watch that doesn’t tell time? I guess I don’t use my watch to tell time…and so it goes. I never take mine off. You won’t either. Jesper makes a statement. Join the revolution.” I couldn’t agree more.


  1. I got a watch and I got a phone. I think that people wearing watch not because they wanted to know the time, but more that they wanted to show their status. Just like cars, there are lower end cars and there are higher end cars. People buy higher end cars for status and to reward themselves for their hard work. Same goes for watches. A phone can tell you the time, but a watch can give you the status and luxury feel.


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