Trends come and go (does anyone remember Livestrong bracelets?) but something you are likely to always see adorning people’s wrists is a watch. Since their invention in the 17th century, wristwatches have been an essential part of everyday life. However, as cell phones have slowly become an omnipresent force in our lives, watches have become less about necessity and more about style—in fact, they have transformed from a stylish utility into a fashion accessory expressing the wearer’s personal aesthetic.
Whether it be cereal box prize worn with a sense of nostalgia or a vintage heirloom passed down through generations, especially in a style-conscious place like Wesleyan, a watch can represent a lot about an individual.
Hadas Werman ’14 particularly loves the fact that a watch can accurately reflect the wearer’s personality, perhaps even more so than a new outfit or hair style.
“I do think it’s pretty neat that so many people with uniquely-colored personalities can find watches that they absolutely love,” Werman said. “There are so many out there—you can’t possibly search and not find one that fits you.”
Yet watches are not merely accessories. Since people (usually) own fewer watches than they do other items of clothing or accessories, choosing a watch is a significant event, and often holds greater meaning.
Adam Rashkoff ’13 originally bought his watch, a maroon-colored Swatch with a minimalist aesthetic, simply as a stylistic accoutrement. However, the watch has since given him back something that he had lost in today’s constantly-connected world.
“I like wearing a watch because it frees me up to leave my cell phone at home,” Rashkoff said. “Sometimes I do this because I find there’s something stressful about being perpetually accessible to others.”
Werman feels similarly about the peace of mind her watch affords her.
“My watch allows me to be somewhat removed from my devices—cell phone, laptop, what have you,” Werman said. “Freshman year, I didn’t really wear a watch, and I drove myself insane not being able to know the time at my convenience. I feel more like a responsible human being now.”
Although Alex Ginsberg ’14 had no say in the style of his watch—it was given to him by his mother because he was late to a cousin’s Bat-Mitzvah—he does feel that the watch has granted him some advantages.
“If someone asks for they time, I have about a half-second jump on non-watch wearers,” Ginsberg said.
Watches also often carry deep-seated memories with them. Shannon Welch ’14 doesn’t wear wristwatches, but owns a plethora of pocket watches that once belonged to her grandfather, a now-deceased, WWII veteran.
“I have a bunch of pocket watches at home,” Welch said. “They were my grandfather’s, who was in the Air Force—he has them from San Francisco, the Philippines, Japan. My dad has kept one of them going since the day [my grandfather] died. But now they are more like memory and art than function. I don’t use them to tell the time.”
Rashkoff agrees with Welch’s sentiment. Watches become imbued with memory as they age, acquiring significance beyond the device’s simple function as time keeper.
“I studied abroad in Bavaria and bought my watch while on a trip to Berlin,” Rashkoff said. “My buddy Joe and I were killing time in a mall and the Swatch store caught our eye. We each ended up buying a watch. While Joe is someone I consider one of my best friends, he goes to Vanderbilt. There’s sentimentality involved there. He may be all the way down in Nashville, but every morning when I put on my watch, I’m reminded of all the good times we had together living in and traveling through Europe.”
Francesca Moree ’14 also referenced a personal history behind her men’s Omega watch, which her father gave her. Hers is particularly unique amid a majority of battery-powered timepieces.
“It serves as a constant reminder of timeliness, speeding through life, and living in the moment—my watch isn’t battery-powered but a wind-up,” Moree said. “If I don’t wear it for at least two days, the lack of movement causes the cogs to stop working, and my watch stops. I always have to rewind it and check that I have the correct time, and this constant action helps me remember to slow down and try to not worry about the time too much. Because, after all, this moment only lasts now, and I have another one coming right after it. For this reason, I frequently wear it when it’s stopped (and also because I’m too lazy to rewind it).”
Though Werman agreed that her watch made her feel more grounded, she pointed out that watches, just like phones, can take over one’s life—sometimes it’s nice to separate oneself from an ever-present reminder of the time.
“Once in a while it’s nice to take [my watch] off and not be bound by deadlines and appointments and rehearsals,” Werman said.
However, in the end, watches persevere and time telling remains a requirement in the fast-paced lives of Wesleyan students.
“We’re always running from place to place at Wes, so on most occasions, it’s quite necessary,” Werman said. “I think more people would be open to the idea of wearing a watch every day if they experimented for a few days and realized how comforting it can be.”