the origin of clocks

Posted by susan on November 9th, 2010. Filed under: travel tech.

Last night on my drive home from work NPR covered clocks. According to the story, wristwatch sales were once in decline, due to all the other digital ways we access time, but now they are growing.

It got me thinking about the fact that I don’t own a watch that I feel comfortable wearing everyday, and how that fact that never matters to me until I leave the country.

London's Big Ben

Like the declining trend according to NPR, Mike and I definitely represent a people that can get by on the gadgets around us rather than watches – but only while we’re home.

When signing up for tours and while traveling by bus between cities in Costa Rica, it became increasingly obvious that we needed a watch. By the time we got to Arenal we bought the cheapest one we could find and now it is our little souvenir.

Our honeymoon was no different. We lived in a bubble in Tunis and finally, while sipping cerveza in Costa del Sol, I took a beach-roaming vendor with a suitcase of merchandise up on his offer for a silver, sand infested watch. Now, due to our digital habits at home, getting our hands on the cheapest watch possible when we travel is a tradition.

When you travel, time is more than just scheduling a tour or checking into a hotel. It means different things to different people.

As a Bostonian I find that I’m always racing it – I walk incredibly fast for no reason and I hate long lines. In Ireland, tea time was reserved for tea and tea only and in Rome, it was almost bed time before dinner was served. Spain had probably the best philosophy on time, ensuring that a good portion of it was spent in Siesta.

I think the thing that made last night’s NPR piece stick was a quote from the owner of a clock shop called It’s About Time Shop in Alexandria, Va. Steven Halter enlightened listeners on the origin of clocks and how they impact our schedules. He said that making “appointments on time was not the idea behind the first mechanical clocks in the 1300s…you would just agree to meet someone by mid-morning” for example, rather than selecting something specific.

Halter also told NPR that “we began personalizing time in the late 1800s with the wristwatch.” Before that, “Time was considered a general idea.”

When Mike and I travel, there is a need to be armed physically with time, and not just any time, time that dictates our journey and how we’ll remember our trips.

It’s no wonder that as the clock got smaller and more mobile, time became more personalized – which is what I think is bringing back the wristwatch.

Be Sociable, Share!

3 Comments

(Required)
(Required, will not be published)

CommentLuv badge