The common narrative that has been floated in recent years is that consumers have been increasingly reliant on their smartphones to keep track of time, with a growing market for smartwatches. To put things into perspective, the estimated shipping figure for smartwatches leapt by an almighty 48% in the first quarter of 2019.
The technical functionality of smartwatches have been improving at Mach speeds, and they have advanced very far from where they once came. Not only can you use them for voice time, but you can also tether them to gadgets and devices throughout your home or place of work, allowing you to control a multitude of appliances from a single, interconnected source - one that just so happens to be wrapped around your wrist! How convenient!
So, does this added convenience spell death for the traditional timepiece? The short answer? It depends. But we both know that’s not the kind of answer you are looking for.
Even though we are living in an era where instant gratification is beginning to reign king, there are more reasons to buy a luxury mechanical watch than just convenience alone. Sure, there is a growing market for the convenience that technology can bring into our lives, and even though smartwatches satisfy this new-found need for being able to interact with many digital devices at once, the commonly held concern that the traditional watch market will be eclipsed by technological wearables is easily dispelled.
Even though there will always be a market for smartwatches, there is an incredibly deep and rich history that accompanies the technological feats that go into creating mechanical watches, and this is not a craft that can easily be threatened by the dawn of newer high-tech wearables. The craftsmanship behind watchmaking is one of the main factors that give mechanical watches their timeless appeal, and the techniques behind their construction have been developed over centuries.
The inner workings of a mechanical watch are an illustration of the detailed, precise, and meticulous efforts that are poured into their creation. Every single component housed inside the case of a mechanical watch serves a specific function. They all work together in perfect harmony, seamlessly synchronising like the pistons on a steam train, producing a beautifully orchestrated horological work of art. By buying a mechanical watch, you are essentially investing in the time, effort, and the painstaking attention to detail that it took to create it, as well as the passion that goes into assembling the movement of each watch made.
Not to mention, mechanical watches also offer a variety of functional uses that smartwatches cannot compete with as of yet. These functions are not only limited to the luxury bracket either, as something as simple as a Seiko SKX007/009 diving watch, which is considered by many to be the go-to entry-level mechanical timepiece, can withstand daily wear and tear, as well as depths of up to 200m, all for a price of roughly £300.
Left: Seiko SKX007
Right: Seiko SKX009
Moving into the luxury mechanical watch bracket, you will start to see watches with moon phase displays that are accurate for over 100 years or more, as well as perpetual calendars, multiple time zones, and even the ability to calculate speed or distance. Bremont timepieces are a shining example of pilot watches that can fight magnetism and its effect on accuracy, and are a common choice amongst pilots and mechanical watch enthusiasts alike.
Left: University of Cambridge Bremont Airco Mach 2
Right: University of Oxford Bremont Airco Mach 2
Well made mechanical watches are works of art in one way or another. They are all very well considered in terms of their design and functionality, and their longevity is a testament to their expertly crafted nature. Watches can be passed down from generation to generation, and their build quality and internal movements can transcend lifetimes, whereas smartwatches often get replaced, usually whenever manufacturers decide to release a newer version that renders the previous model obsolete. For this reason, mechanical watches tend to hold their value over smartwatches. Simply stated, the smartwatch market is definitely growing, but it poses little to no threat to traditional mechanical watches in the long term.