February 25, 2022
February 25, 2022

The world has become digital. Everything happens through the net: we have learned to work, meet, sell, buy, study, have fun through a computer and this omnipresent cloud of data that surrounds us. And even our tools have begun to interact with it - among many, our watches, giving rise to this new object of desire, the smartwatch, and others that we would never have dreamed of before, the various types of smart and fitness devices. So many kinds that people are wondering what is best to buy. If you are among them, this article will be enlightening!

What is a traditional watch?

The traditional watch is the legitimate heir to watchmaking - a branch of technology that began in the 1500s and continues to be used today. The mechanism used to power watches varies, as timepieces rely on different watch movement types like mechanical, electronic, or hybrid systems.

Still, traditional watches differ from smartwatches because they do not need a connection to a network to exchange data that affects us personally (like e-mails and notifications that are directed to us) and become a sort of portal to what is known today as the metaverse.

This means that models such as radio-controlled watches, which connected to communication networks to exchange data for time-setting, continue to be traditional watches.

what is traditional watch

What is a smartwatch?

A smartwatch is, on the contrary, a kind of device that we wear on our wrist and connects, through different systems, to the internet to transmit and receive messages and notifications that affect us directly. Usually, a smartwatch is paired with a smartphone, and together they allow us to take advantage of their functionality - which goes far beyond any traditional watch.

The qualifying factor determined by the prefix "smart" makes the real difference. A smartwatch becomes a tool that allows us to interact with the digital world around us on our own, using its functions.

 

Will Smartwatches Replace Traditional Watches?

This debate is one of the most heated on the internet. The two factions challenge each other as if they were at a medieval joust, a never-ending duel to proclaim who is better between the two contestants. Without understanding that, in reality, these two fundamentally diverse objects are bought for two very different purposes. And that, therefore, have no way to be directly compared between each other.

Many smartwatch advocates point to the fact that a smartwatch is more accurate, costs less, and performs more functions than a traditional watch, and this is absolutely true. But even quartz watches, launched in the 1970s, had these characteristics: yet conventional mechanical watches are still there. Why?

The reason is mainly one: a traditional watch is so much more than just a timepiece. When an object manages to go beyond its function - that is, to mark time - to the world of expression - that is, of the style with which it keeps time - it becomes clear that this object no longer represents only the satisfaction of a practical need, but the expression of a choice of style.

The traditional watch - throughout its evolution - has always been an object of this type: functional but full of different meanings. It was an accessory that denoted a social class and a style, something that revealed the character of its owner. And this function as a style accessory is still valid today when its primary role - that of telling us that it is now in the most exact way possible - has been surpassed.

So, other considerations aside, smartwatches will never be able to step in these shoes precisely because their nature, tied to the technological rush, makes them ephemeral by definition. Soon technology will discover something else, and smartwatches will be consigned to oblivion precisely as it happened with the telegraph, the gramophone, audio and videotapes, and their players. They will represent an object that our grandchildren will probably smile about.

But other ornamental objects such as traditional clocks and jewelry will continue, in their way, to accompany their everyday lives. Obsolete and inaccurate, but eternal.

traditional watch vs smart watch

Traditional Watch vs. Smartwatch - differences 

Beyond the uses of these two types of time measurement tools, let's examine in detail their qualities - and their defects - to manage to compare and evaluate their similarities and differences.

This process allows us to get to know them better and draw a much more accurate picture of how the smartwatch phenomenon has impacted the watch market in general.

 

1 - Durability/longevity

On this first aspect, traditional watches beat smartwatches. Not for power reserve - automatic watches usually have a two or three days autonomy, while an idle smartwatch can last for a couple weeks - but when in use, smartwatches consume a lot of energy, which implies that they must be recharged regularly, attaching them to a USB charger, even if some work with solar energy, and therefore are "continuous cycle."

However, the problem arises over time. These electronic devices are not made to last: they have an accumulator that makes them work, which, like that of our smartphones, has a well-defined "operational life," not to mention that the natural obsolescence of models leads us to have smartwatches that last for two-three years, and then are replaced because a newer model that offers superior technical features has come out.

A traditional watch, whether mechanical or quartz, doesn't have an expiration date - the typical quartz or automatic watches duration/lifespan is almost eternal (unless something breaks). After an overhaul, a traditional watch will continue to function the same way after ten years as it did ten years before. And perhaps, even gaining value since it has become less common, and therefore, more rare and valuable.

 

2 - Accuracy

Precision - as you'd easily guess - does not favor mechanical watches. The best automatic watches accuracy that you can get is what is called "Superlative Chronometer" performance, amounting to a couple seconds per day. With this kind of deviation, such timepieces are at a distinct disadvantage, unable to compete with the inherent accuracy of electronic watches like smartphones and quartz watches, which by the way, are usually much less expensive as well.

Traditional electronic watches are competing on an equal footing with smartwatches in this field. Of course, smartwatches have on their side an absolute control of the time that derives from their automatic synchronization with atomic reference clocks. Still, compared with the latest generation of quartz watches, such as the modern Precisionist movement from Bulova, which is accredited with accuracy with deviations in the order of ten seconds per year, you can understand that performance - in this case - is almost equivalent.

 

3 - Price

Today's smartwatches and smart devices are priced similarly to smartphones, while traditional watches have a significantly wider price spectrum, ranging from a few dollars to several million dollars. So, when we ask ourselves why are watches so expensive, we should always remember that they can be really affordable as well without being crappy.

Statistics tell us that the distribution of smartwatch models is concentrated mainly in the most attack sectors of the range of traditional watches, tending to be occupied by those who are known by the name of "fashion watches": watches that rather than fulfilling that principle of durability, conform to the dictates of the so-called "fast fashion," fast fashion that offers very trendy clothes, but certainly not made to last long.

This means that the real contention between traditional watches and smartwatches takes place in this area and has a relatively limited impact on "real" collector's watches, which continue to be in high demand. So, in conclusion, mid- to high-end traditional watches - the ones that last - typically cost more than smartwatches.

traditional watch design

4 - Design and Style

The style of a typical smartwatch is modern and clean, especially since it must, by its very nature, offer a screen as large as possible to facilitate operations. But aside from its "physical" design, the smartwatch has a fun feature that makes it enjoyable and versatile: the software can download a myriad of different interfaces created to mimic famous timepieces, and you can change the electronic dials to give the watch a fresh face whenever you want.

On the contrary, traditional watches have a well-defined style - and if you don't like it, the only way to change it is to work on the strap. This feature makes smartwatches infinitely more versatile than traditional watches, even if their aesthetic is, by necessity, ephemeral. But if you want to wear a Nautilus for lunch and a Daytona for dinner, you can do it without too much financial effort.

 

5 - Technology

Undoubtedly, a smartwatch incorporates the latest electronic technology. But for that very same reason, technology is advancing in leaps and bounds - and that same smartwatch that today represents top-of-the-line technology will be mid-range in a year, low-end in two, and then obsolete. Although the basics of watchmaking have remained unchanged more or less since 1650, traditional watchmaking continues to introduce substantial innovations, not just in electronic watches. The discovery of new materials and processes, impossible until a few years ago, opens up incredible worlds to a technique that seemed to have nothing left to discover.

For example, new systems and elements created with silicon are revolutionizing mechanical watchmaking in unimaginable ways. Among others, we would like to mention the system based on a large oscillator printed in monocrystalline silicon created by Zenith for its Defy Lab, which replaces the entire pallet and balance system (saving about 30 different parts), and vibrates at 15 Hz, against the 4 Hz of standard mechanical watches.

 

6 - Fashion and character

A watch is worn on the wrist nowadays, and it becomes an element of attention for its design and aesthetics, just like a ring, a tattoo, a suit, a tie, a haircut, and any other item we choose to wear during our social life. People who meet us for the first time evaluate us by our appearance and the message we convey to them through the way we carry ourselves. Compare someone wearing a dress watch with someone wearing a diver's watch - they might cost similarly, yet they give you a different image.

Both smartwatches and traditional watches are part of this theme. And given the substantial difference that exists within all of these elements, it becomes impossible to state what exactly it means to wear a watch rather than a smartwatch. Some traditional watches are so sophisticated and out of the box that they put any smartwatch to shame, while others communicate a typical steampunk trend. In short: the only rule is that in this field, there are no hard-and-fast rules.

But already, the choice of wanting to wear something on your wrist - many people now do not wear watches of any kind - is an important indication of our attention to detail and our desire to use a timepiece. A choice is usually made for personal pleasure and has little to do with showing off an object.

smartwatch vs traditional watch

Main takeaways

In our opinion, the use of watches and smartwatches is complementary and not alternative, also because particular functions cannot be offered by a simple traditional watch, such as monitoring one's physical condition, which is very useful for athletes and people who suffer from different pathologies and need to keep themselves under control.

But also for work, the smartwatch allows you to transfer part of the functions of your phone on a smaller and portable object, which offers a high degree of usability. In the same way, however, the traditional watch provides a range of expressive potential. It represents an object of value, which lasts over the years and becomes an important legacy for others.

In short, they are two different objects that complement each other. And since we have two wrists, why not use them both? When you start a watch collection, you might add a smartwatch in there - it won't hurt.

February 25, 2022 — GYRAX LTD

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