Commentary

Like it or not, smartwatch is the future of watches

From time to time, my wife would point to my two boxes of watches and ask me: "Are you an octopus?"

I confess: Watches are one of my few indulgences and I just love having a different watch on every day. But for the past four months, the same timepiece has been on my wrist. It is the Apple Watch.

Apple fanboy, you say? Not so. I have bought and reviewed many smartwatches, from the original Pebble to Motorola Moto 360. I am now waiting for my Kickstarter- backed Pebble Time Steel to arrive.

I am strapping on the Apple Watch and not my hard-earned Tag Heuers or Seikos because it is the best and best-looking smartwatch I have had so far.

I love the convenience of being able to glance at incoming e-mail and WhatsApp messages by just lifting up my wrist. I am answering phone calls like Dick Tracy these days. Last week, I experienced a futuristic moment when I unlocked a hotel room door at the W Singapore Sentosa Cove using my Apple Watch.

There are now cars that use the Apple Watch as keys. Last week, the US space agency Nasa asked the public to develop a smartwatch interface for its astronauts to use on the International Space Station.

It is clear to me smartwatches are way to go for watches.

Sales of traditional watches in the United States saw their steepest drop in seven years - at 14 per cent - this year. According to market research firm NPD Group, the launch of the Apple Watch was a cause for the drop.

Smartwatches have also made it attractive for younger consumers to don timepieces. In the US, more than 60 per cent of those aged 16 to 34 use their smartphones as their primary timepiece, according to international online market research agency YouGov. They are the ones who are most likely to be enticed by smartwatches.

Traditional watchmakers are not ignoring the trend. From Casio to Frederique Constant, they are quickly joining the fray.

Just like how quartz watches took over the market, I think smartwatches will go mainstream in a few years' time, especially when they start to gain more functionalities.

Of course, not many see the point of wearing a smartwatch at the moment. I get questions like "What does it do?" and "Why do you need one?" frequently.

Many do not like having another device to pair with a phone or smartwatches that "merely" display notifications of e-mail and messages and need to be recharged every one or two days.

But I believe we will get used to the smartwatches' quirks and foibles - just like how we have accepted the habit of charging our smartphones every night.

There will always be collectors who prefer their mechanical timepieces, just like how many photographers still trumpet their vintage Leica rangefinder cameras.

Last weekend, I got a surprise when my sister, who had just received an Apple Watch as a birthday gift, sent me a doodle with the Apple Watch app.

I was impressed at how fast she has taken to the watch, given that she has always resisted new technologies. Of course, I replied to her by scrawling "Happy Birthday" with my Apple Watch.

Time is changing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Like it or not, smartwatch is the future of watches'. Print Edition | Subscribe