It's Time: The Wristwatch Makes A Comeback A growing popularity in digital gadgets with built-in clocks might have caused a decline in wristwatch sales in the past few years. But market analysts say consumers are giving the centuries-old timepiece another chance.
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It's Time: The Wristwatch Makes A Comeback

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It's Time: The Wristwatch Makes A Comeback

It's Time: The Wristwatch Makes A Comeback

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Melissa Block, and it's time for ALL TECH CONSIDERED.

(Soundbite of music)

Over the weekend we were turning back the clock on our bedside tables, also on the microwave, the oven, the car. Good thing cell phones can adjust to daylight saving time on their own. We are surrounded by clocks. It seems they're built into every digital gadget and machine, and that has led to a decline in wristwatch sales.

But at NPR's Sarah Gonzalez reports, the centuries-old time-telling tool is making a comeback.

SARAH GONZALEZ: Walking into the It's About Time Shop in Alexandria, Virginia, is a little like stepping into the past into Geppetto's workshop - a small crammed space completely filled with clocks and clock tools, grandfather clocks, cuckoo clocks, watches from World War II. The hour strikes and...

(Soundbite of clocks)

GONZALEZ: It's not a common sound anymore, but the melodies in here are easier on the ears than some of today's time indicators.

(Soundbite of alarm)

GONZALEZ: That noise may make you feel like you need to just get up and be somewhere, but making your appointments on time wasn't the idea behind the first mechanical clocks in the 1300s.

Steven Halter is the owner of the clock shop. He says back then you'd just agree to meet someone by mid-morning.

Mr. STEVEN HALTER (Owner, It's About Time): You didn't have to be some place at 10 a.m. exactly or you'd be fired. Time was considered a general idea.

GONZALEZ: Halter says we began personalizing time in the late 1800s with the wristwatch. And that little trinket led to a society that works and lives around the strictures of a clock, says Bob Price. He's a sociology professor at Texas State University where he teaches the course Technology and Society.

Professor BOB PRICE (Professor, Texas State University): I often start by saying, okay, examine your physical person. What machines have you strapped to your body? The clock is the only device so culturally central that we treat it that way - that we strap it onto our wrist.

GONZALEZ: And why we now embed time into every machine, he says.

Prof PRICE: I walk into the kitchen, and there's a clock in the oven and the microwave. They're everywhere. I get into the car, and there's a clock. I'm listening to NPR on the way in, and they're telling me the time repeatedly. You can't get away from it.

GONZALEZ: The novelty of tech accessories is starting to wear off, and the fashion watch buyer from Macy's, June Rhee, says wristwatch sales are actually on the rise.

Ms. JUNE RHEE (Macy's): The overall watch business, and the watch industry has been experiencing an unusual growth. It's explosive. People who have been in this industry for 20, 30 years, have never seem numbers like this.

GONZALEZ: Ray says the old-time telling technology is the It accessory of the year. Seventeen-year-old Arrya Brown and a crowd of friends are at Pentagon City Mall in Washington, D.C. Brown says teens are only going for one type of watch.

Ms. ARRYA BROWN: The big bulky waterproof watch in all colors - clear, pink blue, yellow, orange, black...

GONZALEZ: With a thick band and a large face plate. She says it's the style right now, but that alone doesn't really make her buy watches.

Ms. BROWN: It would have to be a really, really cute watch, because it's a waste of money when I really have my cell phone already.

GONZALEZ: The wristwatch isn't just about fashion, but it isn't just about time anymore either. Fashion and luxury watch makers are having to update their technology to compete with all the new gadgets. They're adding new functions like GPS capabilities and moving to solar powered batteries to give the old wristwatch that modern edge.

Sarah Gonzalez, NPR News.

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