The digital transformation of watchmaking

Where will it all end?


June 2017

Where will it all end?

Talking with a friend recently, I noticed that in addition to the Rolex Deepsea on his right wrist (he’s left-handed), he was wearing a very slim apparatus on his left wrist. It turned out to be a Fitbit activity tracker that tells him the number of steps he’s taken in the day, the distance walked, calories burned and consumed and via Bluetooth when and who is calling his iPhone.


t this point I couldn’t help wondering where all this wrist technology was leading. Many of the so-called ‘connected watches’ tell you all sorts of things that until recently you really didn’t give a damn about like blood pressure and heart rate, calories consumed, the ideal time for you to go to sleep and so on. Whatever happened to annual check-ups with the doctor, reading the back of the packet of cornflakes or Mcdo’s tray liner to discover your calorie count, or Horlicks (a malted milk hot drink developed by James and William Horlick that claimed it helped people to sleep better)?

Much of this information was already available on your mobile phone, but it now seems that the trend is to also have it on your wrist on a watch or some other connected device. But why do we need them, and why are more and more of the so-called apps being developed? Is it simply because manufacturers are trying to attract people away from their mobiles and back to wearing a watch or is because the world is slowly going gadget gaga?

Communication is clearly the world’s buzzword but it’s the apps like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat that have become the means to communicate inanities between hundreds of millions of users. We now use watches and mobiles to communicate weird abbreviated texts instead of using Man’s unique gift of speech or writing. Even one of the so-called world’s leaders uses Twitter to communicate his own vacuous musings – although he also manages to repeat them in news conferences.

Three or four years ago I was in a restaurant with my esteemed Editor in Chief and we witnessed a man and a woman having a non-verbal but aggressive argument by angrily stabbing messages out on their mobiles, waiting for an answer and with a withering look venomously replying in the same manner.

Some years ago, Ira Levin wrote a novel called This Perfect Day, where the world has evolved whereby everything and everyone is controlled by a central computer buried deep in the mountains somewhere near Switzerland. People live like robots, the weather is regulated to provide rain or sunny days just as the population is manipulated via a bracelet that everyone wears. When they’re down or hyper-active they are made to place their wrist in a machine and are instantly cured of ailments and mood swings – until that fateful day when they reach a specific age and simply disappear. There are no sick, curious, rebellious or old people in This Perfect Day. Could it be that’s where all this wrist technology is finally leading us?