Apple's iWatch May Find Silicon Valley a Tough Sell

Photograph by Pete Gardner/Getty Images

While tech industry media and analysts salivate at the prospect of an Apple iWatch, in the company’s backyard I’m seeing many of my high-tech friends decide that an analog mechanical watch is their must-have luxury. They appreciate putting the smartphone away for a minute. They are celebrating the trusty old-school timepiece, filled with tiny interlocking components, as an engineering marvel.

Luxury goods, especially watches, have weathered the economic downturn and are part of a subtle push out here toward “quality crafted” tools, clothing, and accessories. Silicon Valley may have helped make the watch functionally obsolete, but it hasn’t managed to eradicate appreciation for the mechanical, the analog. While the general population looks forward to the latest in futuristic status symbols, tech’s futurists are going retro.

That’s not to say an iWatch or similar device won’t succeed. It’s annoying to have to take your phone out of your pocket to check the time, and it’s far more annoying when someone else uses timekeeping as an in-meeting excuse to check their e-mail. Having a mini-computer on your wrist can streamline fitness and gaming tasks, as well as time-checking. In tech we tend to celebrate general-purpose tools that are capable of a broad range of tasks. Yet the analog watch is a wonderful, complex physical product that does one thing well. It’s appealing in its simplicity.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I succumbed to the latest Silicon Valley trend a few weeks back while traveling: I purchased a swanky watch. (I’m still fighting the ridiculous socks.) A strengthening dollar—coupled with a sale—made the purchase impossible to resist.

The benefits are immeasurable. My new watch makes me younger and better-looking. It’s also adaptive camouflage at golf courses and yacht clubs, even for those of us who don’t play golf or know anything about sailing. If and when you’re ready to pull the double-clasp, here are some handy excuses:

• It stops me from looking at my phone and then checking e-mail, so it’s actually an anti-distraction device
• It’s a flight to quality, identifying me as deeper and more stylish than my plastic running watch
• Most men can’t pull off much jewelry (there goes my pinky ring), but I feel the need to express myself that way
• It inspires jealousy in those who don’t have one
• Some guy online said it was cool

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