August 25, 2006
Watch Out – Cell Phones Taking Over as Timepieces
NEW YORK -- Ask graphic designer Parker Weintz the time and he doesn't look to his wrist, he pulls a cell phone out of his pocket -- and he's not alone.
The proliferation of cell phones, with their list of extra features, has had the knock-on effect of eliminating the need to wear a wristwatch unless it is to make a fashion statement.
"The time is right there," said Connecticut-based Weintz as he drew a palm-sized cell phone from his shorts pocket. "And it's all around us in this digital age. Plus, if I see a chick I like on the street, I can ask her the time (with no watch on his wrist)."
U.S. watch sales, which have been on the decline since 2001, fell 4.9 percent in 2005, according to a new market research study.
Men especially have taken to abandoning watches as cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) become increasingly commonplace, said Tim Dowd, an analyst at market research firm Packaged Facts and author of a report titled "Watches and Clocks in the U.S."
Women have emerged as the more loyal wearers as watches have become more decorative. Of the 69.9 million U.S. adults who bought watches last year, 40.3 million were women, according to Dowd.
"Women are expected to accessorize more," he said.
Dowd said watchmakers were starting to exploit the accessory angle by seeking the endorsements of popular figures such as rock stars or snowboarders.
Swatch Group, the world's biggest watchmaker that has Omega and Tissot among its brands, posted a higher first-half profit on Thursday, boosted by demand for expensive watches.
The Swiss-based watchmaker has shifted its product mix toward luxury watches.
Weintz's business partner, Chris Kelly, with whom he runs graphic design company ignition13, said he continues to wear a watch, a chunky $3,500 Omega, but only as a fashion statement.
Kelly, 36, said he also owns a $7,000 watch and is eyeing another that would set him back about $2,000.
Dowd's report found that men purchase more luxury watches than women, who buy only 30 percent of the top-priced watches.
"The personal statement a watch makes is just as relevant as ever," said Josh Rubin, editor-in-chief of coolhunting.com, a blog that tracks trends in design and technology.
"Whether it's a GPS-enabled watch that helps you find your way and tells people you're techy, or a vintage '70s LED that says you're digital old school, a watch can make a specific statement."