Monday, February 11, 2013

I watch for the iWatch

 There’s been a lot of news lately about the supposed new watch from Apple that has been dubbed, obviously, the “iWatch.” Of course, Apple isn’t saying anything, but there is a lot of speculation.

Let me tell you about my love affair with watches. Unlike this modern generation that refers to their cell phone when they want to know the time, I’ve always had a wristwatch. I’d feel naked without it.

I prefer looking at hands rather than digital displays since my eyes are not as good as they used to be. (Nor are my arms, legs, chest, or even my brain … but that’s a story for another time.) I did have one of those early LED watches back in the seventies, but I could not tell the time when I was outside since the sun blotted out the dim display.

I’ve had many watches over the years, and gravitated toward the fine mechanical ones. I’ve spent $300, $400, and even more for my watches. I’ll pay for the quality I desire.

I’m a stickler for accuracy. I want the time on my wrist to be as accurate as the National Bureau of Standards Time Broadcasts. I want to know to the minute, if not the exact second. I used to teach a lot and starting on time was a key goal of mine. I still stress about being late and I set all the clocks in all my cars to the correct time.

I’ve owned Citizen, Seiko, Pulsar, and Bulova. I’ve had electric watches and self-winding watches, and even one that was like a self-winding watch, only the movement of the wrist charged a battery. Some were destroyed by battery corrosion and some just didn’t work as well as I wanted. I was particularly disappointed in the quality of a recent Bulova watch that I paid nearly $500 for, and it lasted about one year.

About five years ago, I bought a nice new Seiko that had the automatic charging stuff. It wasn’t real thin, which is a desirable design characteristic, but it was nice and simple and I thought quite pretty with a silver case and a blue face. Besides the time, it showed the date in a little window by the numeral three. I had just received that watch in the mail, when I was distracted by a new idea. (I shop a lot on the Internet. Lots of choices and good prices.)

I ran across an article about a Casio watch that would automatically update the time to the Atomic Clock at WWV or other time transmissions. Plus this watch had a solar cell built into the face and would automatically charge its battery. Top that off with the small LCD display able to show date and I was sold. In addition, this watch was less than $200. I ordered it right away and ended up gifting my new $400 Seiko to my friend Steve.

(Look close at the picture above. Click on it to make it bigger. See the center part that looks like it has little squares all over it? That's the solar cell. The four buttons are around the sides. One turns on a light for the dark, although the hands do have fluorescent paint. The LCD screen can show time in different time zones or other information. However, no weather report, temperature, heart rate, or any of that "smart" stuff.)

Man I love this Casio watch. I’ve had it now for over five years with no problems. Since we live less than one hundred miles from Ft. Collins, the home of the National Bureau of Standards WWV time transmissions, it reliably sets the time each night at midnight … to the second! It has other functions such as multiple time zones, stop watch, and alarm clock; but I just use the simple date and time function. (I usually know what day of the week, but that shows with the date.)

I’m so happy with this watch. It is quite attractive and came with a good band I’m still using after all these years. Part of the case is plastic and it is fairly thick, and I have to read the manual every time I change time zones because it has four buttons and you have to use a fancy combination of the buttons to change zones, but I’m happy. I just keep a copy of the manual on my iPhone.

Now we read about the iWatch and the current implementations of smart watches in all the news. I’ve heard about these new smart watches and someone at the hockey game the other day had one. It looks like a tiny TV on your wrist. You have to press buttons to see the time, and I doubt it works well in direct sunlight. So I wasn’t impressed. Plus I suspect you have to charge it all the time. I wear my watch to bed in case I wake up in the middle of the night and want to know the time.

Then I read this article by Bruce Tognazzini (or just Tog). He’s a former designer with Apple. He has a lot of good suggestions as well as a good review of the current crop of smart watches.

My son, Mark has one of those Nike sensors in his shoes that record his running and send the data to his iPhone. I've got a Polar watch that communicates with a band on my chest recording heart rate. The treadmills at the club can receive the data from the Polar watch. I haven't used it for a couple of years because the battery is dead. I'm going to have to send it back to Polar to get it replaced since the watch is sealed.

I've also looked at new wrist sensors such as the Nike Fuel Band and Jawbones Up. So I do understand some of the special things a smart device on your wrist could do. Tog has a lot of examples in his article.

With all the talk about Apple using curved glass (they are so good with glass) and Tog’s suggestions, I can hardly wait to see that new iWatch. Whether it will replace my Casio or my Polar is a good question. Tog addresses several disadvantages and good points. But then I do have two arms.

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