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Tempus fugit

16/03/2006 - par Mark Tungate

When I was a kid, I had a wristwatch called a Timex. It seems to me that almost every kid had a Timex watch in the Seventies. I can still see it now : it had a black leather strap and a white face with handsome black Roman numerals. You had to wind it by hand. When you suspected that it had stopped ticking, you held it to your ear. Then digital and quartz watches came along and nobody had to hold their watches to their ears any more.

Until now. That's because Seiko has invented a watch that is also a mobile phone. The Japanese company has just unveiled a prototype that works on the Bluetooth principle : your real mobile phone may be in your breast pocket, but you can communicate using your watch. You can also use your watch to switch off your mobile just before you board a plane - handy.

The product addresses two interesting phenomena at once. The first is our increasing addiction to our mobile phones, to the extent that we now feel unable to leave them out of our sight for even a few seconds. It was inevitable that we would end up wearing them, like jewellery. The second is the seeming inability of the watch industry to innovate. Digital watches just seem ringards now. The most beautiful watches are still hand made, and have dials and hands. Would you choose a digital watch over a Patek Philippe ?

Even a phone watch seems curiously retro. Thanks to spy movies, it seems as though people have been talking to their wrists since the Sixties.

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