You can check the time on your cellphone, your camera and other high-tech devices. Why, then, watch a watch?
This spring, around the country and in Buffalo, people will find themselves pondering that question as they decide whether to buy the newest incarnation of the wristwatch – the smart watch.
The question may arise this weekend in particular. After all, this is the weekend when millions of people adjust their gadgets and timepieces – both manually and digitally – to “spring forward” with the change to daylight saving time, which arrives Sunday.
Now, makers including Pebble, which is putting out a new smart-watch product, are trying to get average consumers to fork out money once again for, yes, wristwatches.
We’ll pause a moment while you clear images of Cary Grant and Fred Astaire from your minds.
In recent years, watches have taken a hit, the ripple effect of many people realizing they could check the time by simply grabbing their phones.
In the Buffalo area, jewelry and wristwatch buyers and sellers noticed the effect of that change in their own merchandise cases and cash registers.
“It’s cellphones,” said Richard Shiner, who with his wife, Barbara, owns a shop selling jewelry, watches and antiques on Ridge Road in Lackawanna.
“People don’t even buy navigation systems anymore. You don’t even need a laptop anymore,” Shiner said.
Wristwatches have been no different, he said, though women have been slower to surrender their timepieces than men, in his opinion.
The new smart watch is intended to lure people back to the habit of having a useful device on their wrists.
That’s why the new watches are more like minicomputers than the standard wristwatch of old, which told the time and little else.
The Pebble watch lets you check your email and text messages, look at Facebook and Twitter accounts, and more. It connects without wires to a smartphone.
The Pebble devices cost about $150, according to published reports.
Other versions of the smart watch currently on the market include the Cookoo, the MetaWatch and the Sony SmartWatch.
Casio has released a G-Shock watch that has some smart functions as well.
However, not everybody who is shopping for watches these days is considering the high-tech factor first and foremost.
Maybe it’s the “Mad Men” effect – or maybe Western New Yorkers are just more classic in their tastes.
But at Shiner’s Lackawanna shop, the watches selling well are the higher-end, famous-maker versions that can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.
“If you bought it new, it would cost you $4,500,” Shiner said, holding up one of the subtly glittering Rolexes and Tag Heuers he keeps in a plastic bin in his shop. “I’d want about $3,000 for this one.”
And who would buy something like that, in Buffalo and its suburbs?
“Most businessmen wear watches,” said Shiner, who has been in the Lackawanna location for about 13 years. “A good watch you can always sell. A Rolex, they’re in high demand, no matter what.”
At the other end of the spectrum, a purveyor who sells watches and other jewelry in Blasdell said he thinks younger buyers, in their teens and 20s, want the top-of-the-line watches they see in advertisements featuring professional athletes and Hollywood celebrities.
To a teen or 20-something, said Ryan J. Spears at the Western New York Jewelry Exchange on Lake Shore Road, fashion and trendiness top high-tech capabilities – even today, in a smart-everything world.
“They’re interested in flashy watches, the G-Shock, it’s like a stainless watch with a rubber band to it,” said Spears, 19, a graduate of Lake Shore High School who now is co-owner of the Blasdell jewelry business. “It’s more so just to have the look of the watch on.”
Spears said, in his experience, that people in his age group are interested in luxury watches, like Rolexes and Patek Philippes, more than smart models – at least for now.
“I’ve noticed a lot of people are asking for those watches,” said Spears, who is a registered gemologist. “A lot of the commercials – they have commercials with professional athletes, they’re always wearing the watches.”
Overall, more younger people seem to be into wristwatches these days, Spears said. That could be a positive sign for those who sell the items.
And such customers may be interested in the high-tech smart watches, when they start to more fully pervade the Western New York landscape, Spears said.
But Spears said that with this group, it’s more about the look they are trying to achieve.
“The idea [of a smart watch] sounds pretty cool,” said Spears. “But how would it look? It just depends on the appearance of the watch.”
“Appearance takes a big part of it,” he said.
At the Lackawanna jewelry and collectible shop, Shiner said that one thing is certain about the market in things like watches and fine jewelry:
Everything is cyclical.
“Women want big ones now,” Shiner said of wristwatches. “Nobody wears the small ones anymore. Trends change all the time. Nobody wants a marquis diamond anymore. Five years ago, everybody wanted a marquis cut. Now it’s only princess cut.”
Shiner said he’s adamant in his own tastes, even where watches are concerned.
“I’d be lost without my watch,” he said, gesturing at the black-strapped Dakota on his wrist.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. email: email@example.com