When you think of digital watches, what do you think of? Does it call to mind images of 80’s geeks, or of the technological leaps that we’ve made in between vintage watches from the Victorian era and the smartwatches of today?
When I think about digital watches, I think about the watches that other kids were wearing when I was in elementary school. I’ve been an analogue watch person since day one, but most of the kids that I went to school with were digital watch wearers. (I received a very cute, white, analogue watch with a cat on it for my sixth birthday. My cat-obsessed self grabbed it up immediately, and my cat lady future was sealed.)
While the bells and whistles of digital watches can be handy, we often fail to consider the possible negative consequences. In my case, I’m referring to a digital alarm that went off every afternoon from grades 4-6, at a completely nonsensical time. It drove my classmates (and our teachers) crazy. My classmate who owned and wore the watch in question had accidentally set a daily alarm when he received the watch, but then lost the instructions and couldn’t remember how to turn it off.
The magic of a digital watch
It’s finally been long enough that I don’t remember exactly what time my old classmate’s watch used to go off at, but I remember distinctly that it was one of those times that you’d never intentionally set an alarm for. It was in the afternoon, at an off-time; something like 2:12 PM. Thankfully, the boy whose watch it was eventually outgrew his need for a watch, and began leaving it at home. I recently heard through a friend of a friend that he’s now an associate at a corporate law firm in Toronto, so I guess his early days of accidental alarm bells didn’t hold him back!
Nowadays, digital watches aren’t rare, but they’re uncommon enough to surprise you just for a second. For someone like myself, that surprise is a momentary blast from the past. Just for a moment, I’m 12 years old again, and someone’s watch is beeping during math. When you’re comparing digital watches and smartwatches, it’s a little more difficult to style a digital watch, but a great digital watch never truly goes out of style.
Digital styling for the modern era
One of the things that I’ve been seeing more of recently is the resurgence of new-vintage pieces. As thrifting becomes more common, more and more style influencers are taking cues from the past. As a result, more brands are re-selling their own used pieces (hello, IKEA) and re-releasing classic designs.
Like a Chanel 2.55 reissue, vintage-inspired watches from brands like Casio and Timex are our connection to the past. When we step into the echo of something that so well-loved as to come back again, I think we have the ability to shape our world; to find that same, magical moment of possibility. We get to sit, just for a breath, in knowing that someone created a wonderful design long ago, and that we can now honour them by refreshing their ideas and introducing them to the world in a new way.
You only have to step into the modern living room to see how popular vintage-inspired designs are right now: items like coffee tables with hairpin legs, Danish-inspired wood sideboards, and everything rattan will take you right into the past. Even in our modern clothing, we love the high-waisted pants of bygone eras, and women’s shoulder pads are back!
So, why shouldn’t we love digital touches in our accessories? What’s stopping us from going for that all-white, mod-inspired watch with the curved lines and flexible wristband, or for that digital chronograph with the campy map of the world on it? (As one of my fellow writers points out, these world map watches are popular with collectors and Bond fans!) Why shouldn’t we look into our hearts and seize the fish-adorned fishing watch of our dreams?
The pros and cons of digital watches and smartwatches
With any kind of accessory, there are pros and cons. Digital watches remain somewhat trapped in the past: most models available today offer little more in terms of functionality than their 90’s counterparts did. They lack the Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone-linked capabilities that smartwatches give you, through advancements in materials and waterproofing are common.
Despite these limitations, we also gain a lot of benefits with digital watches. Today’s digital watch is very low-maintenance when you compare digital watches and smartwatches. Its battery lasts for months rather than hours, and you rarely have to worry about your digital watch breaking if you drop it. It offers style and functionality similar to that of an analog watch. Like other models of non-smart watches, digital watches are a stylish accessory, popular especially with watch enthusiasts.
Digital watches also offer a unique benefit over smartwatches: they don’t keep you tethered to your phone. In a world of constant email checking and app alerts, there’s something to be said about how freeing digital and analogue watches are. They allow you to keep an eye on the time while you go on your morning run, without the physical or mental weight of your smart device.
The perks of a smartwatch
A great smartwatch—one of the best smartwatches, perhaps—may not last for as long as a digital watch would, but it comes with tons of other benefits. Today’s smartwatches are like carrying a digital assistant around on your wrist. They can do everything from track your heart rate variability to wake you up in the morning, and handy apps will allow them to do even more.
If you’re only looking for basic functions, like telling the time and setting a mid-afternoon alarm, then a digital watch is really all you need. But if you want to do it all, a smartwatch is the clear option. Their charging needs make them a little inconvenient, but with their Spotify control and route-tracking abilities, a new smartwatch is a far better running mate than your digital Casio watch.
Smartwatches also give you a very different set of style options. They pair beautifully with both a running t-shirt and a casual business suit. Their interchangeable watch faces and bands give you plenty of options, and each smartwatch is designed to look sleek and modern.
Digital watches and smart watches both have a lot to offer, but they have very little overlap. My recommendation? If you love both of them, there is definitely room in your closet to own both kinds!