Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

New Watch

I had to order a new watch this week.  It was one of those annoyances in my schedule that was burning up my free cycles, that I just needed to get over with.  Another one of those is buying a new laptop – I think my current one’s days are numbered, but I don’t know which Mac laptop to get, and I think that obsessively googling every model will somehow return an oddball combination that has every feature of the highest end model at like $800 less because I don’t get iWork installed from the factory or some shit.

(There’s a reason this programming in my brain is broken.  Back in 1988 and 1989, Chevy used to produce the IROC-Z Camaro, and they added a “hidden” option level, the “0-level” 1LE.  If you picked a specific engine and differential and deleted the air conditioning, they would build a race-only configuration that had a true dual exhaust, a bunch of steel parts replaced with aluminum, lighter rims, dual-caliper brakes, and a beefed up suspension.  There’s probably some part of me that thinks if I order a specific MacBook Pro custom configuration, it will magically get a ten-petabyte SSD drive and a terabyte of RAM or something.)

I hate shopping for watches, because I have specific wants, and watches are one of those things where 90% of the population says “WTF just use your cell phone” and 9% want something that costs more than my car and looks like something out of Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  I don’t want an analog watch, and I want something waterproof and with a light.  That pretty much leaves Timex and Casio, who basically release the same watches every year, except slowly changing the design to make them 4% more annoying.  And their constant redesign means that if you bought a Timex in 2008, good luck on buying a replacement band now.

Watches are one of those things like soda cans that slowly change design so you can’t tell it’s happening, until you look back five or ten years.  If you told me the design of a Coke Zero can had changed in the last six months, I wouldn’t know, even though there’s one open on my desk at pretty much all points in time.  But if you showed me a picture of my desk from 2009 and there was a Coke Zero can there, it would look so completely different, it would more closely resemble one of those fake brand-scrubbed cans you see in a movie where they didn’t get clearance from Coke to use their trademarked design.

I was digging around the other day trying to find something, and I found a Timex watch I had in 1989.  I very clearly remember buying it at the College Mall, and thinking that the design looked futuristic and neat-o.  It was mostly square, and probably ripped off Star Trek: The Next Generation somewhat.  I think it lasted about a year before the band broke, and I threw it in a dresser drawer.  Anyway, I found it the other day, and size-wise, this watch that seemed gigantic at the time is about 40% the size of a modern Timex watch.  It doesn’t have 40% less functionality; it’s just that the modern design is much bigger, or we’ve become accustomed to carrying much larger chunks of plastic on our wrists.

I was almost on the verge of pre-ordering one of these Pebble watches, which is a PDA on a wrist band, maybe the size of an iPod nano.  But they claim it has a one-week battery, which probably means a three-day battery, and since I wear a watch day and night, the idea of taking it off every few days to charge it seems like a pain in the ass.  I also did the Timex DataLink thing before, and found it to be a huge pain in the ass for various reasons. I don’t want to be the guinea pig while they hash out the next generation of PDA-like watches.

One prediction, though: I think the Android size war will go to the wrist.  Just like people are carrying around these Android phones the size of a small TV, I think people will start to wear watches with screens bigger than an iPad Mini, along with an appropriate amount of smugness about how their screen is so much bigger than yours.