Is time up for the wristwatches?

In April 2008 I posted this image of my wristwatch in Flickr with the caption “The watch that kept me punctual for almost five years is dead now.” It was just an unbranded local made, not too costly watch and one of my favorite possessions. Often in hurry I used to forget to wear while going to office or any other outing only to comeback hurriedly grab it from its place and strap it up on the move. I considered my wristwatch so essential than anything else that I just couldn’t go out without it. Soon after it stopped working, for a week or so I was pulling on without any wristwatch and felt as though I lost my lifetime companion. Since I was too busy from morning to night with my work I couldn’t go to a watch shop to get a new one. Also I didn’t want to repair it any more as I knew that it lost its life and had to get a new one. Often I used to raise my bare wrist to check the time only to realize that I don’t wear a wristwatch. Suddenly my eyes searched for another alternate source of timekeeper and found in many places that includes my mobile phone, desktop, laptop and music player and while driving LED lit time flasher came in handy. When these gadgets are not within my vicinity means I am sleeping hence I don’t need to know the time. Another four days gone, still busy and by now within a matter of ten days, I realized that I was in fact much more comfortable without a wristwatch. Its going to be more than two years now, never bought a new watch and my wrist is bare. I am used to it now, comfortable and shed some payload too that I have to carry. I see time wherever I turn around and convinced that I can live without a wristwatch for the rest of my life.

Money was not the concern and doesn’t matter to me and for the spendthrift nature of mine and the money I wasted foolishly on some unworthy products in the last two years, I could have bought at least five watches on my previous wrist watch price range. But I didn’t for my own genuine reasons. In my view wristwatches have only ornamental value now, as you have too many attractive and fashionable options to look for the time. I am quite sure many people World over would have given a thought about my view on wristwatches and as and when the need arises for them to go for a new one. For sure the arrival of new time keeping gadgets would have had some impact on wristwatch business and am sure the watch manufacturers are aware of these implications and must be already researching a new way to retain the market.

I am also sure that young adult and teens won’t be convinced with my view as everyone would love to have one as per their choice at least for the first time in their life. Hence this segment of people will remain as the target customers for the wristwatch manufacturers and given the latest high tech and high end watches that are available in the market would really continue to attract them.

The 2006 Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council survey of some 7,000 consumers, for example, found that 42 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 24) who don’t own a watch and 60 percent of those who do get time from a handheld device or in other words given a choice they preferred to buy a new cell phone than a wristwatch even though the budget is bit high. Japan too had some worst time as the watch market slumped as people preferred other latest gadgets. Around the same year I also remember the news about the French watchmakers and jewelers sued a mobile phone operator to stop TV ads showing watches being tossed into a trash bin. In order to compete with other gadgets the watches need to be more fashionable with some added features, more like jewellery and a status symbol apart from telling time.

In India, in 70s, 80s and 90s Citizen and Seiko were the most popular brands and then came the Government owned HMT watches whose slogan was “Time keepers to the nation”. In fact HMT was very popular and I too had two for well over eight years. So sad to see HMT vanished from market so soon and from their websites I understand that HMT is still in business but no updates on market share in local & abroad. A few days ago I had been to a shopping mall where I entered a TITAN showroom and stunned to see a fabulous collections of modern watches from Rs.1000 to 10,000 and the models and features in look, style were really attractive and meant to target young adults. For a moment I was tempted to go in for one from a few models that I liked most and looked fabulous in the price range of Rs.4000 to 6000 but decided against it wisely as it wasn’t worth it for mere time seeing.

Lastly from the recent trends it looks as though the wristwatch business will survive provided the manufacturers come up with some innovative ideas that include style, fashion and any other features apart from mere time telling. The watch era isn’t ending but needs a change as things change all the time. The watch business is no exception.