By April Lamm
What could be sexier than sporting an accessoire still spotted on the wrists of Hungarian businessmen in mauve? I’m talking about the digital watch. Trendsetters could be seen sporting them years ago –see Prada’s brown Bakelite version, Spring 2005 -- but we have yet to witness the blockbuster comeback of the digital watch.
In the era of the handheld databank gizmo and its accompanying motion – the two-finger swoop – wearing a watch is like wearing a monocle. But the digital watch is what makes others watch you. It sets you apart from the complicated crowd of swoopers with apps. You know where the next bookstore is because a friend told you. Leave your handy cell behind. It will only make you late. And let this be a plea for the importance of being on time.
I remember the heyday of the digital watch, how awed we were that we could tell time, the exact time, in the dark. The favored form was a flattened octagon, quasi-Buck Minister Fuller prêt-a-porter, solar powered, and if you were lucky it was equipped with a melody to sound the alarm. It was shock resistant and perhaps even featured a world map (!). Even the names were sexy: G-shock sounded like an overheated G-spot; Texas Instruments, like a handsome nerdy scientist; Citizen bore an air of timeless cosmopolitanism, and Seiko was the least sexy of the lot, but also unknowingly my very first Japanese word – which translates into either “exquisite,” “minute,” or “success.” Knowing that now makes the phrase “I like your Seiko” a very nice one indeed.
Three thirty-three. The digital watch era also marked the time when we began to speak outside of the rounded 10s or more exact 5s, the squareness of a half past, quarter past, quarter til. Four twelve: time began to sound like a hotel room. Digital time made us sound anal to be sure, brutally truthful, seemingly less subjective, at times, conveying the feeling of being right (and at worst besserwisserisch).
I happened upon a Tiffany ad in an old issue of The New Yorker featuring their line of digital watches from 1975 called the Concord. The watches had been arranged on the page in a Boogie-Woogie Mondrian grid against an all red background. A Bermuda triangle of speed, London, Paris, New York, the Concord, the digital Concord, let it comeback, please.