Guess who is ahead of their time

Got the time? Arthur Black watches the history of time keepers

Got the time?

Queen Elizabeth had the first one. Elizabeth the First, that is.  She strapped hers (a gift from a loyal admirer) onto her royal wrist back in 1571.

The Queen’s watch was probably not wafer thin or accurate and she declined to wear it much so as a fad it didn’t really catch on.

By the early twentieth century, however, the advantages of the “wristlet watch” began to appear obvious — particularly in battle. Its usefulness when it came to coordinating troop movements and synchronizing bombardments not only made the wristwatch indispensable for army officers, it also made the device “manly’.’ By the time WWI rolled around the British War Department was handing out wristwatches to all soldiers.  By 1930 the popularity of the device outshone pocket watches by a ratio of fifty to one. The wristwatch was here to stay.

Well, not “stay” exactly. Aside from the fact that they ride on the  human forearm, the wristwatches of today would hardly be confused with the leather-strapped, stem-winding utilitarian models British Tommies wore when they leapt from their trenches and charged toward the Hun. Most modern watches are self-winding, for starters — and digital.  My wristwatch features an alarm, a calendar and a backlight plus a bunch of stuff I don’t use (or understand — what the hell do I need a “bezel” for?).

But when it comes to keeping up with the times, my wristwatch might as well be powered by steam pistons. The world’s largest maker of smart phones, Samsung, is poised to release what it calls “the watch phone’” — a gizmo that can make or receive phone calls without being connected to a mobile phone. Dick Tracy, eat your heart out. The new phone takes photographs, sends and receives e-mail and comes equipped with a heart monitor giving you advance warning when this tsunami of data will overwhelm your ticker and send you into cardiac arrest.

Then there’s Romain Jerome, a Swiss watchmaking firm which recently unveiled the “Day&Night” watch.  No hour or minute or second hand on this baby.  No digital readout either.  What it does do, through a sophisticated and complex measurement of the earth’s gravity, is tell you whether it is daytime. Or nighttime. Ingenious, no?  And so much easier than say, looking up at the sky.  But here’s the kicker: the Day&Night watch costs $300,000.

Yvan Arpa, CEO of Romain Jerome, is unapologetic about the price tag or the lack of features on the watch. “Anyone can buy a watch that tells time,” he sniffs. “Only a truly discerning client will buy one that doesn’t.”

Which begs the question: “Does anybody know what time it is?  Does anybody really care?” Good old Guess Who — a group clearly ahead of its time.

— This column appears every Tuesday in The NEWS. E-mail: arblack43@shaw.ca

Just Posted

Multi-use village green space proposed for Qualicum Beach

Early development plans see a gathering space at the old bus garage site

UPDATE: City of Parksville buys 222 Corfield site

With the purchase, the city will not facilitate cold-weather shelter on property

Thirty trees destroyed in Parksville’s Cedar Ridge Estates

Damage estimated at $30K; city says vandals intended to permanently ruin the trees

Canadian Music Hall of Famer Steven Page to play Parksville

Barenaked Ladies co-founder performs at Knox United Church on June 1

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

UPDATED: B.C. man says he’ll take People’s Party lawsuit as far as he can

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Most Read