We live in a stressful world where we’re expected to be ‘on’ and online all the time – and in such a world, wearing a mechanical watch is a quiet act of rebellion and an underrated mindfulness hack.
There’s never been a better time to be into watches. Watchmaking might be a centuries-old art form but in 2022, leaps and bounds continue to be made and watchmakers continue to push the boundaries with what you can do with mechanical timekeeping. Interest in watches is at an all-time high: as tools, as status symbols, as alternative asset classes… It’s rather amazing.
At the same time, smartwatches continue to carve out more and more of the watch market. Smartwatches now represent around 15% of all watch sales, with that trend only likely to increase. Smartwatches have never been more capable, comfortable or socially acceptable.
Indeed, if we’re talking about mindfulness, one of the major selling points of many modern smartwatches is how many health-related apps and functions they have. They can track your heart rate to monitor your stress levels or guide you through yoga or meditation routines… You could also argue that because they’re so convenient; so functional, they make your life easier and therefore are inherently good for your health.
However, I’d like to make the case that wearing a mechanical watch over a smartwatch is actually much better for one’s health – or at the very least, better for one’s mental health.
I recently decided to swap my mechanical watch for a smartwatch for a month, just to see ‘how the other half live’. I’d never previously been much of a fan of smartwatches (I find having to charge and update a smartwatch far more of a hassle than winding a watch, but that’s because I’m weird) but I actually rather enjoyed my smartwatch sea change.
There are undoubtedly myriad reasons why smartwatches are superior to mechanical watches. Just as even the most precise mechanical watches are nowhere near as accurate as most quartz watches, any smartwatch (or phone) will be more accurate than a quartz watch – so if time-telling accuracy is your goal, smartwatches are the clear winner.
That’s before we start going into all the things a smartwatch can do that a mechanical watch cannot even try to replicate, like answering phone calls, tracking your heart rate, summoning virtual assistants… Mechanical watches are not really ‘functional’ in the same way that a smartwatch is.
Yet mechanical watches also have their advantages, and I’ll always prefer wearing a mechanical watch to a smartwatch. As alluded to above, you don’t need to worry about running out of charge with a mechanical watch – just wind it. Or, if it’s automatic and you wear it frequently, you’ve got essentially perpetual charge.
There’s also something to be said about the subtlety of a mechanical watch. Something I find frustrating with my smartwatch is that if I want to check the time, the screen goes from black to lit up – meaning there’s no hiding when you’re looking at your watch. It makes it hard for you to check the time subtlety, which isn’t a problem when you’ve got a mechanical watch.
While being able to receive alerts and notifications through your smartwatch is one of the main reasons people wear them, I also find that sometimes it’s a bit of a bother; one you won’t get with a mechanical watch.
The modern expectation to be always online can be pretty toxic to one’s mental health. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to switch off, and mechanical watches, in some small way, let you do that – whereas smartwatches only enable and worsen that always online problem.
Approaching real wanker territory here: I suppose my biggest problem with smartwatches is that they’re simply just products. They’re disposable: just as you upgrade your phone after a few years, you upgrade your smartwatch.
Whereas when you wear a mechanical watch – especially a nice one – you’re wearing a piece of art. Perhaps that’s what’s so ‘mindful’ about mechanical watches: in a world where technology and tools are increasingly disposable, watches stand out as things to be cherished, maintained and looked after.
Or maybe I’m just a Luddite whose monkey brain just likes ticking clocks. Either way.