The Pros and Cons of Watches

Wristwatches are the new VCRs. Does anyone still wear them?

Not an issue in China, it seems. Hublot, the Swiss watch brand that timed the World Cup, has set in motion plans to more than double its number of stores in China. This initially struck me as odd. Why would China, of all places, still be holding on to technological and fashionably dead relics such as wristwatches?

It turns out that in Asia, wristwatches are considered vehicles for people to communicate their social status. When people are making a lot of money, they like to show it off in some way. Much like how the rich and famous here in America use Lambhorginis or Ferraris (or the luscious 2010 Lotus Evora, he mentions while drooling) as displays for their success in life, so do the Chinese and Asians use wallet-bleeding wristwatches to exhibit their own status. In America and Europe, we still see successful individuals wearing watches. But if you were to ask Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot’s CEO, chances are that those watches, compared to the luxury watches the Chinese covet, are “rubbish … because [Europeans and Americans] just don’t care” about the quality of wristwatches. Biver is right on the dot: Americans don’t care about the quality of their wristwatches because, quite frankly, they are dead technology.

With new knickknacks and doodads hitting store shelves on an almost weekly basis, hunting down a travel-size electronic that tells the time has become as simple as hunting down beer (or beer wenches) at Oktoberfest. Most people our age just use their cell phones nowadays. Cameras and iPods carry the same feature and I wouldn’t be surprised if eyeglasses were next. All of this new technology has defeated the purpose of the wristwatch. And, really, the thing was kind of ugly to begin with unless you have a James Bond persona going for you. It seems the only people who still wear them are primarily girls and guys who look like they could put “Dungeon Master” on their resume. As a fashion statement, however, the wristwatch still lives on.

If you want to appear a little more “olde-world” when you check the time, it’s not a bad idea to pick up a pocketwatch. First, because who the hell else owns a pocket watch? Second, you can find some really snazzy luxury ones for under $100 – under $200 if you want to get into genuine gold and sterling silver. The base price of most quality luxury wristwatches, though, sits at a couple hundred dollars and can run into the thousands.

If you, like me, grew up completely deprived of attention and now need it with every action you make, you might want to look into steampunk watches. Steampunk is an art style where appliances and gadgets are made to look like they have no front cover, so that you can see all the cogs and gears that make the device tick. The difference is that steampunkers deck their gadgets out in such a way as to turns the gears, cogs and mechanical doohickeys into incredibly lavish designs. Seriously, these things will turn heads as you walk down Ring Road. You can find a lot of steampunk watches for as low as $30; as you travel up the price range, though, the designs get wilder and wilder.

There are, of course, the cutesy Hello Kitty watches some girls wear. There are also the diamond-encrusted Breitligs worn by too many jocks in basketball jerseys (which really defeats the purpose of buying a watch for fashion because they might as well carry a sign around advertising the size of their penis). And if you really, truly don’t give a damn about fashion, then you can go to your local Chuck-E-Cheese, win 200 tickets and buy the cool glow-in-the-dark Timex in the display window.

I never was able to win enough tickets for that watch.

AE Anteater is a fifth-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.