Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is your tool watch decreasing your mental agility?

Occasionally, it's nice to wear a high-quality vintage watch. It tells the time and nothing else. So any activities to do with time required some mental effort, maybe even a little mental arithmetic in the form of base 60 addition or subtraction. Such effort is good exercise for the mind, thereby keeping it in good condition.

The other day, I was wearing this beautiful watch:

1920's Elgin
(more pictures here).

Suddenly, my dear wife wanted to be reminded of something in 55 minutes' time. Without thinking. I rushed to my collection, strapped this one on and set the count-down timer accordingly. Didn't even have to think about it. 55 minutes later, sure enough it beeped. "Why is this watch beeping?", I asked. Duh!

2004 Citizen Wingman
(see more tool watches here).

When I think back to my youth, "55 minutes" was about an hour, something easily handled by the mind and confirmed by a couple of glances at the Elgin or whatever. The seconds hand's main duty was to confirm that your watch was running. At school, we learned our multiplication tables by rote up to 12x and we also learned how to do long division on the back of a fag packet. Those were the days when shopkeepers and counter clerks added up long columns of figures on sales receipts and general ledgers with nary a calculator in sight. Discounts or markups were figured mentally.

I would say that progress in the tools of mankind, not just watches, has reduced our mental agility quite considerably. What say you?

Best regards,


1 comment:

John F. Opie said...

Hi -

There are tool watches and there are tool watches. Sinn, Guinand, to a certain extent IWC are tool watches that don't detract: they're instruments that measure that most elusive of things, time.

Electronic watches are a different story. They're tools in a different way and manner, and I used to wear them so that I wouldn't have to remember telephone numbers and the like, as well as deadlines and when to meet people. I had a great Seiko - still do, somewhere - memory bank watch that would also associate names with alarms.

That worked great until one girlfriend, while I was in the shower, grabbed my watch and started looking through the phone numbers. She then wanted to know why I only had telephone numbers with women's names. And why was there an alarm associated with Helen the next day?

I've only worn mechanical watches since, and we've been married 19 years...