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Digital Generation Rediscovers Analog Wristwatches 505

Posted by timothy
from the old-revolvers-are-nice-too dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "As recently as a half-decade ago, time seemed to be running out for the wristwatch; the mechanical device was declared to be going the way of the abacus. But now the NY Times reports that the 'sundial' of the wrist is experiencing an uptick among members of the digital generation, particularly by heritage-macho types in their 20s and 30s who are drawn to the wristwatch's retro appeal, just as they have seized on straight razors, selvedge denim and vintage vinyl. 'A cool machine that is all moving parts has got to be intrinsically interesting to someone born into this generation,' says Mitch Greenblatt, an online retailer of design-forward watches who is seeing a surge in business, 'because there's just nothing like that in their life.'"
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Digital Generation Rediscovers Analog Wristwatches

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  • This really isn't much of a surprise. The Steam-punk genre is quite popular with the 20-40 crowd.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:04PM (#36687680) Homepage Journal

      This really isn't much of a surprise. The Steam-punk genre is quite popular with the 20-40 crowd.

      I'm 37. I've had combo analog/digital watches almost continuously since I was about 10. I source them from exotic boutiques like K-Mart where they sell obscure brands like Timex.

      If the NYT article wasn't behind a registration screen ... maybe something the summary didn't cover would make some sense here.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        I'm still wanting to get one of those really cool, retro looking nixie tube clocks for the living room....

        I love tubes in my stereo amplifiers....I'd like a clock made of tubes too just to make it fun.

        Makes for a nice 'glow' in the living room when I get home in the evenings.

        • by rickb928 (945187)

          Very expensive, but I spent a lot of time with nixie tubes as displays for a lot of test equipment. Pure nostalgia, though I'm not sure these are steampunk.

          For me, a nixi clock is something to build. Not terribly hard, and an Arduino would make it a lot simpler - burn it to ROM and have something interesting.

      • by Moryath (553296)

        And here I thought the only use for Timexes was for shady guys in New York alleys to scratch the name a bit to make it kinda-sorta look right and then claim they were "Genuine Rolex".

        Sorta like the "Oakey" sunglasses sold by the chinese guy with a cart down the street.

      • I'm right there with you, I love the combination mechanical (not really analog) face/hands, with an embedded digital display for date/alarm/etc. In fact, I've never owned a wristwatch with only a digital (LED/LCD) face, nor do I ever intent to. Douglas Adams said it best:

        ...utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea...

      • by gfxguy (98788)

        I always disliked digital watches... ever since High School (graduated in '85), I've used an analog wristwatch.

        I did buy a Timex Expedition digital watch a few years ago because I started doing a lot of grilling, and timing is everything, so I got one with a count down timer, and I admitted to myself that there were some nice benefits; the alarm and stopwatch have come in handy on occasion.

        At a meeting at work last week I noticed I was the ONLY one wearing a watch at all (digital or otherwise). Everyone ha

    • Actually I own a mechanical wrist watch that cost $300 (limited edition 70 piece run custom with a Swiss ETA movement), and I'll only shave with a straight razor (best results). The advantage of a mechanical wrist watch is that it doesn't have a battery to die; whereas a digital watch can include a heart rate monitor and stop watch, among other things. It is, as well, one of the very few ways men can successfully accessorize; gaudy earrings, bracelets, piercings, and the like are not professional, nor are
    • Re:Steam-punk appeal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TerranFury (726743) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:41PM (#36688112)

      This really isn't much of a surprise. The Steam-punk genre is quite popular with the 20-40 crowd.

      Nah, steampunk is a faux-Victorian genre loved almost exclusively by the irredeemably nerdy. This, like the straight-razor comeback, is more "Mad Men" '60s (or even '40s) nostalgia; it's people borrowing symbols from a time when "men were men" -- a way for men to assert their masculinity in a way that they see as intelligent and sophisticated, rather than uncultured or brutish. Since, for a while in the 90s, the latter seemed to be the only conception of masculinity being promulgated, I appreciate the trend, albeit with reservations.

  • by buback (144189) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:02PM (#36687658)

    The train conductor/robber-baron look is coming back

    • by Kenja (541830)
      Didn't think it ever left. But then I used to dress in victorian garb and play croquet in Golden Gate park back in high-school. So I may just be weird.
    • by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:23PM (#36687938)
      The pocket watch is back and these days it's more popular than the wrist watch. When you ask someone the time, what do they do? They reach into their pocket and pull out a device that has the time on it. The pocket watch is now almost exclusively digital and has a phone built into it but multi-purpose watches are nothing new either. Just ask Dick Tracy...
    • by CCarrot (1562079)

      Heh, you may laugh, but that's exactly what we got our groomsmen as thank you gifts, engraved pocket watches.

      Mind you, the casings had this big glass window in the back, so you could see the gears and clockworks inside ticking along...very cool.

  • I don't understand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eharvill (991859) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:06PM (#36687696)
    I'm 36 and I own an analog wristwatch. I've owned several over my lifetime as well. My 5 year old son is familiar and will continue to be familiar with analog wristwatches as most everyone in his extended family wears one. How is this retro, unique or something terribly interesting because it has moving parts and is not digital? Watches have always been fashionable and (IMHO) will continue to be for all generations for the rest of my life. It's not like we're talking about 8-tracks, cassette tapes and to some extent vinyl for example. Those devices will definitely be retro to my kid as they have never (and probably never will be) a part of his life.
    • by nam37 (517083)
      Completely agree... I'm 37 and I've pretty much always had a watch on my wrist. And both of my kids (6 and 3) have watches that THEY asked for. Don't know, it seems like a (stupid) non-issue to me.
    • I am 43, and I own about a dozen wrist watches.
      I have worn a watch since I was about 7 years old. My grandfather loved watches and bought anything that caught his eye. When they got warn, or he lost interest he passed them down to me. God I wish I had known what some of those would be worth now. I have one of the first digital watches. With an LED display. I reciently decided that I would start collecting watches that I liked.
      It is amazing what you can buy these days, for very little money.
    • by houghi (78078)

      It's not like we're talking about 8-tracks, cassette tapes and to some extent vinyl for example. Those devices will definitely be retro to my kid as they have never (and probably never will be) a part of his life.

      Well, the main reason he won't see any of that is because especially the cassette tapes killed the music industry.

    • To be fair, a dedicated chronometer is a bit of an affectation in the pocket communicator era. Pretty much every pocket/mobile communication device has had a clock on it since they started putting displays on them. Sure you could argue its a backup device or what have you. Personally I'm fine with it being an affectation,its the only piece of jewelry I wear, but lets at least be honest.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by perpenso (1613749)

        Personally I'm fine with it being an affectation,its the only piece of jewelry I wear, but lets at least be honest.

        Some watches are functional, some people need to check/measure time when both hands are otherwise occupied. Some of us go outdoors, even in the rain. Some of us go to places where we can not recharge a phone. Some of us even go into water over our waist, on purpose. :-)

  • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:06PM (#36687700)

    I still think that digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

    (Besides I have some difficulties to read analog watches).

  • The term 'mechanical' would be more appropriate, though I guess mechanical is still analog. I hope TFA is about mechanical watches not watches with a digital core driving mechanical hands. Anyway a good mechanical wristwatch is a masterpiece of precision design and engineering and there's something intrinsically cool about it being able to measure time almost as precisely as you could by simply dividing down the signal from a quartz oscillator. I see nothing wrong with it, plus it doesn't need batteries, wh
    • by lothos (10657)

      I agree. I have two mechanical automatic watches, they never need winding or a new battery. One of them has a see through backing, and it's fun to watch the gears work. A nice mechanical watch really is almost a work of art.

    • "plus it doesn't need batteries, which can be a plus in a postapocalyptic scenario"

      If I find myself in that situation, knowing the time down to second, or even minute, level of precision is not going to be a big concern.

    • The term 'mechanical' would be more appropriate, though I guess mechanical is still analog.

      Nope. Mechanical is not analog. Mechanical is closer to digital. Analog implies a waveform. Digital implies descrete states. A mechanical gear would be a digital device. Each tooth representing a specific state.

      • Although any watch that displays time with the hands on clock face could technically be called an analog display. The display shows time as continuous. Though having the hands tick from second position to second position would be closer to a digital display.
        • by idontgno (624372)

          I never knew this, but apparently there were mechanical watches in which the movement wasn't "stop-and-go" escapement, but truly continuous-motion and therefore analogue.

          Linky [wikipedia.org]

          Fascinating. Continuous rotation gear trains with "escapement"-modulated braking. Clever. A true "sweep second" movement.

          But obviously, that's a very notable exception. Most "analogue" watches are, in fact, high-frequency discrete motion movements. (Up to 5 steps per second, in the writeups I've read; small enough movements to look l

    • by Ksevio (865461)

      plus it doesn't need batteries, which can be a plus in a postapocalyptic scenario / finding-oneself-stranded-on-a-mountain-with-no-batteries-nearby-just-as-soon-as-they've-run-out-type situation.

      But a solar/dyno watch will work just as well in those rare situations where time is important.

  • by Warhawke (1312723) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:08PM (#36687744)
    Is this news? I'm a mid-twenty-something and everyone I know -- EVERYONE -- wears and has worn true analog watches. Seriously, I know people who would sooner wear tennis shoes with their work clothes than a Casio or Timex watch. Nearly a quarter of my friends wear watches that need to be wound. I would have been more surprised to read that the digital generation was moving back to retro digital LCD watches.
    • by bmo (77928)

      "Is it impolite to give a digital watch to a one-armed man?" - Gallagher

      --
      BMO

    • Oh! Can you put me on the line with 1994? I need to talk to them about some things.

      On a side note, who around here calls the future?
      • by jamesh (87723)

        On a side note, who around here calls the future?

        We used to be able to, but for some reason 2012 and beyond have stopped answering the phone....

    • by lothos (10657)

      I'm 32. A lot of people my age growing up simply used their cellphones and didn't see the need for a watch. Until 3 years ago I hadn't owned a watch since I was about 12. I now own a quartz watch and two mechanical automatics, and have my eye on a couple of others.

      Most of the people I know don't know anything about watches, don't care, and just wear something that looks nice to them. A lot of them think Fossil is a great brand. Some just grab a cheap Casio/Timex and when the battery needs to be changed

    • by gfxguy (98788)

      I used to be an analog snob until I saw an engineer at our company use the calculator on his wristwatch (before everyone one had smart phones) during a meeting to come up with a few figures... at the time I was doing a lot of grilling and timing is crucial... a digital watch worked much better, so I got one. After that, it's been great - I coached a few teams (academic and sports) and had the stop watch; the alarm clock has been great, and lot more convenient than my smart phone when I'm running down the f

  • by rolfwind (528248)

    There are some things I like retro because I believe they are better (like DE safety razors) in some utilitarian way.

    Analog watches aren't exactly one of them. Compared to a digital: they worse at keeping accurate time, most don't update themselves like "atomic" watches do, and some (like Rolex) may need some maintenance after a while. It's like a Japanese vs. German car - Japanese car is more practical overall, and German cars are often overengineered - but they're important to people who care about maki

    • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by KingSkippus (799657) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:33PM (#36688036) Homepage Journal

      In fact, maybe an iWatch wouldn't be a bad idea.

      Oh god, no. You wouldn't be able to share the time with anyone else, and you'd have to use Apple's proprietary software to set it. Not to mention that it would be twice as expensive as any other comparable digital watch, and I'm pretty sure that they would pay a license fee to the RIAA for some weird reason for each one sold, which would then mean that the RIAA would now have enough money to start suing other digital watch manufacturers for infringement because apparently the "beep! beep! beep!" of their alarms is copyrighted.

      Don't get me started on how you can't replace your iWatch's battery when it runs out...

    • by lothos (10657)

      They need an Apple-like brand in terms of design that gets in there and promotes nice materials like a sapphire crystal face, clean lines, and minimalism. A digital watch almost always has ugly styling or just has too much going and is too busy looking. In fact, maybe an iWatch wouldn't be a bad idea.

      I think you just described Movado watches [movado.com]. Clean, simple elegant designs. Almost all of their watches are quartz, and expensive. They're almost like the Apple of the watch world, IMHO.

      I own one, and like it, but I also have some mechanical automatic watches as well that I like better.

  • by Spad (470073)

    As a rule, digital watches tend to look cheap and tacky, I've had analog watches of one sort or another for most of the last 15 years (nothing too fancy, all sub-£100) and they just look better.

  • Digital wristwatches, which are rarely stylish, are being replaced by cell phones and the litany of other devices with clocks built into them. I don't wear a watch namely because I have no need. If I need to know the time I look at my phone. Analog watches are used for stylistic purposes nowadays, thats pretty much it.
  • by Lev13than (581686) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:15PM (#36687828) Homepage

    I inherited a lightly-worn 1962-ish Omega Speedmaster [wikipedia.org] a few years ago and quite enjoy wearing it (though not every day, b/c it's so damn heavy). The Speedmaster is now marketed as the "moon watch" because it was worn by the Apollo astronauts. The Speedmaster was a good choice because of the plastic crystal that wouldn't shatter and cause problems in zero-G. It cost me a few hundred $ to get a new main spring and pushers, and works as well today as it did 50 years ago.

    I like it because it's a good reminder of what you can accomplish without the latest and greatest technology. Sure you have to wind it every day or so, and sure your $5 Casio keeps better time, but it was good enough to help get people to the moon. Astronauts literally trusted their lives with this thing - the watch was used to sequence maneuvers, estimate oxygen levels and time spacewalks walks. And all this was done with a spring, some gears and highly-precise engineering. If anything, it's a reminder that if you are going to build something, build it right.

    • Astronauts literally trusted their lives with this thing - the watch was used to sequence maneuvers, estimate oxygen levels and time spacewalks walks. And all this was done with a spring, some gears and highly-precise engineering.

      The Russians just used a pencil.

      (Yes, I know it's a non sequitur and that's not how the joke goes, but it still sounded like a funny punchline to me.)

    • your $5 Casio keeps better time

      This is a misconception. Your $5 Casio will be off by a tiny fraction; e.g. 1/2 a second per day. But, it will *always* be off by the same amount, so that the error will accumulate - it will be ~3 minutes off after a year.

      An analog/mechanical watch such as a Speedmaster - particularly those that are "Certified Chronometers", which are individually tested to a fairly tough standard - will drift. In hot weather they will tend to gain time, in colder weather they will tend to lose (the lubricant changes vis

    • I like it because it's a good reminder of what you can accomplish without the latest and greatest technology. Sure you have to wind it every day or so, and sure your $5 Casio keeps better time, but it was good enough to help get people to the moon.

      Not really. For serious timing and timekeeping they used the electronic and electromechanical clocks built into the spacecraft.

      Astronauts literally trusted their lives with this thing - the watch was used to sequence maneuvers, estimate oxygen levels and

  • by Nimey (114278) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:16PM (#36687836) Homepage Journal

    Hipsters have discovered analog wristwatches.

  • That's really good news. i was starting to worry that there would soon be no way to explain which way things turn. In a digital world, which way is "clock-wise"?
  • Watches are, for me, completely useless, as I have a damn phone to get the time, weather and ... Pretty much all I need to know on everyday life. Analog or not, it's not useful for me (and I don't need/like jevelry)

  • by Kittenman (971447) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:20PM (#36687888)
    where digital watches first came in. I remember LCD watches on washing machines, TVs, pens... and of course wrists. But you always knew who had a digital when you asked them the time. They'd reply '8:58' or '6:11' rather than 'Almost nine' or 'Ten past'. I used to convert in my head when telling people, back when I had a digital.

    And right now, I have my Dad's old analog on my wrist.

    And ok, get off ... etc etc...

  • With smart phones becoming cheaper and larger more people have phones that are difficult to pull out from your pocket and have less than reliable battery life.
    This makes having the time on your wrist much more convenient to a potentially time consuming task of getting the time from your smart phone.

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:24PM (#36687942)

    "Digital Generation Rediscovers Analog Wristwatches"

    It was on my wrist this whole time!

  • Sadly... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pongo000 (97357) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:26PM (#36687966)

    ...reading an analog clock is a lost art with many of our young people. I often find my high-school students asking me "Mister, what time is it?" while staring directly at the analog clock in my room. It took me a while to figure out that they do not know how to read time on a clock with hands. So now, at the start of the year, we have a clock-reading activity that I stole from a 3rd-grade workbook.

    Seriously.

    • Re:Sadly... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:30PM (#36688016)

      'Arts' get lost as progress happens. I'm sure most people don't know how to make a fire, because we don't need to anymore (not unless we like camping or whatever and don't carry matches).

      I dunno, maybe in a few years' time, people who know how to read analogue will be the 'weirdos who hold onto outdated stuff', as opposed to 'everyone except these young 'uns'

    • Re:Sadly... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:34PM (#36688046)

      I find that when I look at my analog watch it is easier for me to inherently know what time it is than it is for me to articulate the actual time when someone asks for it.

    • by gfxguy (98788)

      ...reading an analog clock is a lost art with many of our young people. I often find my high-school students asking me "Mister, what time is it?" while staring directly at the analog clock in my room. It took me a while to figure out that they do not know how to read time on a clock with hands. So now, at the start of the year, we have a clock-reading activity that I stole from a 3rd-grade workbook.

      That's pretty pathetic, seeing as my kids actually learned it in third grade! I guess it's not really surpris

    • by jamesh (87723)

      It is sad, but I think it's a matter of what they are exposed to. I don't think I can remember not being able to tell the time on an analogue clock. My three older kids all have analogue watches. The clock in the lounge room is analogue. The clock on the VCR was digital but the VCR is in a box somewhere now, and was always flashing 0:00 anyway. Our alarm clocks are digital but that's more a size thing. The clocks on the various computers in the house are digital but that's expected if they are to take up 12

  • by boguslinks (1117203) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:29PM (#36688000)
    This story feels a bit like one of those "suits are making a comeback!" [paulgraham.com] stories.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How in the hell are you suppose to load Linux on one?

  • Did Rolex ever make a digital watch?

  • by willoughby (1367773) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:47PM (#36688174)

    When I look at a timepiece it's rare that I want to know what time it is. Much more often I want to know "how long since" or "how long until" something. An analog display gives me this info much more quickly than digital.

  • heritage-macho types in their 20s and 30s

    It's not so much that these "heritage-macho" types are using straight razors so much as they don't really have a lot to shave.

    They might own a straight razor, and have it placed just so on their dresser next to a bone-handled shaving brush, but they are certainly not using them.

    Wristwatches never went out of style. It's much easier to tell time with a device on your wrist than with a device in your pocket or on your belt.

    I'll bet that wristwatches were much less popular in the 60's than they have been since 2000.

    • by jockeys (753885) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @06:42PM (#36688682) Journal
      There are at least two demographics at work here: the hipsters you describe, and another group sometimes referred to as "young fogeys." The latter group tends to be interested in things of yore because they were better, and not just because they are old, e.g. writing calligraphy with a good fountain pen on nice paper, mowing the lawn with a reel mower because it leaves nicer edges, and yes, shaving with a straight razor because it gives a better shave.

      In addition to the superior performance (at the admitted cost of vastly increased hassle) there is a sense of pride in learning to do something inherently difficult and potentially dangerous. For more information check out my tutorial videos on youtube, username = jockeys41

      I'll also add that it's easy to spot a strait razor poser as he/she will only have one razor, whereas someone who actually shaves with them every day (as I do) will have at least half a dozen in rotation to reduce the honing burden.
      • by Duradin (1261418) on Friday July 08, 2011 @12:27AM (#36690884)

        "I'll also add that it's easy to spot a strait razor poser as he/she will only have one razor, whereas someone who actually shaves with them every day (as I do) will have at least half a dozen in rotation to reduce the honing burden."

        You should be touching up the razor before each use (and during use as necessary) so having multiple razors doesn't reduce the "honing burden". If you can't tell a freshly honed and stropped blade from one a few shaves old I dare say you shouldn't accuse anyone of being a straight razor poser.

        • by jockeys (753885) on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:25AM (#36693034) Journal
          You should be STROPPING the razor every time you use it. If you have to hone it every time, you are doing something wrong. A properly honed razor will not need to be honed again until it has given months of shaves. If the blade does not maintain it's edge with only stropping to freshen it, across multiple shaves, the blade is inferior steel. You should not need to strop during use either, having to do so indicates an improper blade/skin angle or a blade with inferior steel.

          I have 8 razors I cycle through and although whichever blade I shave with must be stropped each morning, collectively I only have to hone them (with japanese water stones, barber hones, and finally paddle strops pasted with chromium oxide) about twice a year. When I was first starting out I only used one razor and it had to be re-honed after three dozen shaves or so, a little over a month. Even then, the honing is more of a minor blade refresh (start out on a 15000 grit stone and move up) than a proper honing. Once the razor is sharp it is inclined to stay that way unless misused.

          Stropping, strictly speaking, isn't honing at all (unless a pasted strop is used, and that's still more akin to deburring than actual honing) it's more a straightening of the edge; the steel along the edge can become wavy after use, this is amplified by poor shaving technique. Myself and several of the others on Straight Razor Place have undertaken many studies of razor's edges via microscopy and there is a general consensus as to what makes a razor sharp and what makes it dull. I'd invite you to head on over to the website and learn and ask questions. From the sound of your experience it sounds as if you've been given one of the metallurgically deficient blades from China, perhaps a Double Arrow or similar, and have erroneously concluded that razors have to be honed every time they are used, which is very much not the case with a correctly tempered and hardened blade (over 60 rockwell) that will hold it's edge.

          If you have any further questions or misconceptions please ask, I'm happy to evangelize on the subject :)
    • heritage-macho types in their 20s and 30s

      It's not so much that these "heritage-macho" types are using straight razors so much as they don't really have a lot to shave.

      They might own a straight razor, and have it placed just so on their dresser next to a bone-handled shaving brush, but they are certainly not using them.

      Check out the shaving forums (yes, there are such things!) Plenty of guys actually use straight razors on a daily basis. Many more have gone the Double Edge route though.

  • by rworne (538610) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:54PM (#36688272) Homepage

    Just by coincidence I am wearing my "Flintstone" watch instead of one of my analogs. Well actually this one *is* truly analog:

    A Fossil sundial watch [amazon.com].

  • HEY SLASHDOT (Score:5, Informative)

    by Osgeld (1900440) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:57PM (#36688306)

    why do you dipshits keep posting stories that are behind a pay wall, what is the NY Times stroking your junk?

  • by Doofus (43075) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @07:14PM (#36688952)
    Analog watches will always succeed as time pieces because the picture conveys the "meaning" of time(keeping).

    Analog watches convey information more efficiently than digital watches, just as a picture of, say, the bison in Yellowstone, conveys more meaning than a descriptive paragraph of the scene.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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