An exercise in existentialism
“I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire… you will use it to
gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your
individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father’s. I give
it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it
now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to
– William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
A wristwatch is an essential tool that shapes the way its wearer experiences and perceives time. Watches can also serve as a fashion statement, a symbol of wealth, or a grim reminder of impending appointments throughout the up-and-coming day. There are multiple functions of a watch, and, throughout the years, a variety of factors have contributed to the growth of the watch as a necessary tool of everyday experience. Specifically through technological developments, the perception of a watch and its capability to measure, display, and record time for an individual, remains a unique realm of human experience.
Whether you are wearing a dollar store Timex, a Suunto Core, or a limited edition Tag Heuer Monaco, famously worn by Steve McQueen and Walter White, the wristwatch as we know it is forever changing – becoming an accessory and consequence of technology in the developing world.
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way.” – Pink Floyd, “Time”
Despite the various reasons one might decide to wear a watch, there are multiple underlying philosophical ideas that illustrate what a watch does. How does a watch perform its duty? The watch, as previously alluded to in Faulkner’s quote from The Sound and the Fury, is a reminder that humans are inseparable from time. With each passing movement of a ticking hand, we are forced to confront our situation as human beings, completely and irrevocably immersed in a domain of decision-making. The watch, in a fascinating way, provides humans with the ability to “carry time” and become physically accompanied by it. The idea of time being something that we are choosing to carry is particularly captivating – it demonstrates the basic human desire to be alive. By situating ourselves in time, the recognition of oneself existing is possible.
“I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal…two years. Then, after seven
years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the
watch to you.” – Pulp Fiction
For many, however, watches are not nearly as philosophical as this article suggests. Simply put, watches perform the function of telling time. Watches display the time to you in an accessible and convenient way, without having to measure the movements of the sun and the shadows it casts. In different contexts, however, it becomes apparent that the need for a watch can range between anything from waiting for a work shift to be over, or a precise military operation. Having access to the precise knowledge of hours, minutes, and seconds influences and guides us towards different purposes and situations. For those who wear watches daily, they become an integral part of who they are. Certainly not in all cases, but the kind of watch you wear can definitely be indicative of your identity – or how you wish to be identified by others. A man showing up to a job interview wearing a Rolex, or a woman with a Cartier, would definitely cast a different impression that someone wearing a military watch. The power of a wristwatch is apparent through the image it conveys of its wearer.
“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” – Steve Jobs
With the introduction of the Apple Watch this past September, the way individuals view and perceive watches has forever changed. As technology grows and continues to develop, the need for a watch becomes seemingly unnecessary. In a generation where, a vast majority of the population reach into their pocket for their cell phone instead of rolling their sleeve back when asked for the time, it is evident that the idea of the common wristwatch is being revolutionized. With the Apple Watch, or any smartwatch for that matter, the demographic of individuals who wear watches is diversifying. Not only will newer generations be able to tell the time, but people can also monitor their heartbeat, receive text messages, and ultimately, immerse themselves in the world of technology. The connection between humans and technology is becoming increasingly intimate, and, through the introduction of the smartwatch, we are forced to confront our situation as beings in an entirely different and unique way. Now, on our wrists, we are carrying time, but along with it, the burden of technology remains prevalent and just as accessible.
On Apple’s company website, the Apple Watch is advertised as a way “…to make powerful technology more accessible – more relevant – and, ultimately – more personal. Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship people have with technology. It’s the most personal product we’ve ever made, because it’s the first one designed to be worn.”
The Apple Watch is meant to be personal – it engages with your social relationships and provides you with an unprecedented connection to the vast world of technological experience. For some, this intimacy may be welcomed and embraced. For others, the pervasive nature of technology may be too overwhelming. In any case, the way a smartwatch engages with your daily life cannot be ignored.
Although both devices are different in a variety of ways, wristwatches and smartwatches provide a unique insight towards the way we live our daily lives. Watches hold a unique relationship and significance to the basic fundamental experience of what it means to be human. The reminder of our own personal existence, caught between the time we have and the time we don’t have, situates us as beings who have the ability to prevail when confronted by our ability to make decisions.