Smart Watches, or Nah?

October 9th, 2014

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My good friend Jelani Johnson, as featured here, is a Hollywood producer/manager/agent. He’s in the client services business which means the quicker he responds, the more value he adds to his clients careers (or peace of mind, at least).

That means he’s on the phone a lot; closing deals, discussing scripts, talking shit. To make sure he never misses a beat, he’s been wearing one of those new phone/watch combos. Specifically the Samsung Gear 2.

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While I understand the value of added efficiency, personally I’m not a huge fan of wearable technology (or “hybrid” products in general). Call me old-school, but I almost always default to classic timeless pieces that have a history behind their design.

In my opinion a good timepiece should have a clean, simple and elegant design. It should complement most of your outfits. A great one can complement all of them. It should also be a passive device; it tells you the time of day when you need it. It shouldn’t distract you from your day-to-day interactions.

That’s my main gripe with these tech-y watches (other than the loss of elegance and craftsmanship, of course). They’re outward-facing. Whenever Jelani gets a message, for example, it catches my eye and disrupts our usually very lively and insightful conversations. It seems funny to me to walk around with your text messages and emails on display for everyone to see.

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As a (fairly unfair) point of comparison we swapped Jelani’s Samsung for my Montblanc Timewalker in the same outfit below. It’s  the only watch that I wear – I just swap out the bands depending on my outfit using a spring bar tool.

The look here is an example of how you can dress-up dark grey denim with a charcoal suit jacket, so long as everything fits right. More on that soon.

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In my opinion a simple silver face with a black alligator band is the height of elegance in watches.

But technology continues to become a bigger and bigger part of daily life and wearable “smart devices” are now a part of the menswear conversation. It’s worth discussing.

So what do you think? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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On a side-note; here’s those custom oxfords from yesterday’s custom shoe review again. Looking clean and mean.

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Clear frames by Warby Parker, shirt and jacket by Michael Andrews Bespoke, knit tie by Ralph Lauren Black Label, silver tie bar by WANT, Grey jeans by Red Cotton Denim, Seamless lace-ups by Incedo

Thanks, as always, for reading and special thanks to Jelani for participating!

Yours in style,

Articles of Style

Photography by Alex Crawford

  • Taylor Huston

    I have to disagree. Then again I work in tech, so I always gravitate towards shiny new gadgets. But I love my smartwatch. I got the Asus Zenwatch because I feel it is the classiest of all the smartwatches. Minimal design. Real leather band. Minimalist design. And I love that if I get a call, text or email I can quickly glance at my wrist and dismiss it, rather than having to pull my phone out of my pocket. Which one of those actions is more distracting?

  • John Smith

    Montblanc watches are dogshit. They have absolutely no horological history. They should stick with pens and so should you. Go for Patek, Rolex, Cartier, etc.

  • Nick A

    If you think you’re so important that you have to be incredibly responsive and available to your clients then you, unfortunately, are an ass hole. The constant buzz, nervous glances, and obvious “I have a message” physical mechanisms are quite possibly the most irritating mannerisms in modern times. And with that, I will acquiesce that I am an ass hole…but those watches are still ridiculous. You have a phone in your pocket. Society doesn’t need more distractions.

    • thewallace

      To be fair, this is exactly the argument people in the business world had against the Blackberry almost a decade ago. “What email is so important that you can’t wait to read it until you get out of a meeting?” What I’m saying is the boundaries of what’s acceptable in terms of technological intrusion into our daily lives are being pushed every day.

  • Nick P.

    Disclaimer, I have not read all of the below comments but here is my take:

    I personally am not a big fan of the smart watches currently on the market, or the idea of them in general, but I definitely see a place in the market for them. I think Jelani’s position is a perfect use case for form & function, it functions and forms as a watch, but has additional functions to make his job easier when he needs it to.

    I also think that Dan has a point of it being distracting with texts and emails causing it to be a distraction. If there is a way to set it up so that it only lights-up or what ever for certain calls/emails/texts so that you know it is an “important” distraction.

    Again, if the form and function makes your life easier, by all means do it, but things could be better. These are not for me.

  • LouCaves

    One man’s opinion…

    I say “nah” to the smart-watch but I “will defend to the death your right” to wear one.

    Mechanical, automatic, quartz or sun-dial, whatever helps you to respect your time and other’s time, I’m down with it. That’s one of the things a gentleman does.

    Owner: Timex Ironman (shock resistant), Victorinox Base Camp Chronograph, Tag Heuer Aquaracer…all quartz. What can I say? I prefer the accuracy.

    Thanks, TSB.

  • Blake Baxter

    Had a very similar discussion on my blog a few days ago. I’m inclined to side with Dan on this one. Check it out here:

  • JoeFromTexas

    I feel the same way about smart watches as I do on tucking your jeans into your cowboy boots. They’re both fine – provided you’re working in the gym or on the farm (though I think each is better suited to one of those pursuits, I forget which was which though…). Otherwise, Nah.

  • Torsion

    There’s also a smart watch coming up to be produced by HP that’s in collaboration with Michael Bastian:

    The pictures are just concepts at this point, and the watch doesn’t look that elegant anyway, but it’s a step in the right direction imo.

  • Jerimy

    I’ve always felt that putting the aesthetic before practically when it comes to style to be foppish. So, with that being said in Jelani’s case, sure is does not evoke the same feelings that a classic watch would but it has real use and add real value to the whole ensemble. Remember, its not about the clothing itself but how you wear the clothes. If the watch take away the classic elegance but give Jelani the heir of good and efficient business then the watch does its job… 2 fold!

  • Bill

    Are all wrist bands be changed ,even on cheapo watches?

  • JM

    Tbh, grey jacket and grey denim is honestly one of the most casual fits out there. I personally like the look with the smart watch.

  • John B

    I think they can be an amazing gadget to wear during your workout, but I wouldn’t wear them in any other situation, unless their style improves significantly.

  • Trey

    LOL @ “…or nah?”

    Never change, guys.

  • Milton

    At one time, the mechanical wristwatch was the pinnacle of wearable technology. Since then, the mechanical and automatic movements have become widely replaced by the quartz movement – no more than a battery-powered circuit board – due to it’s accuracy, ease of use, and low cost.

    I feel like Jelani’s Gear 2 and my 1956 Longines both fall under the category of wearable technology. One is just more modern than the other. Who knows. In 80 years, smart watches might be the timepiece for those of us who prefer to embrace the “classics”. It makes me ponder how men with pocket watches reacted to the idea of wearing a watch on one’s wrist.

    Personally, I admire the craftsmanship and complication of a watch with a mechanical movement. I do also like the accessibility and visibility of a wristwatch as both an accessory and conversation-starter. Thus, I own and wear several, and refuse to buy into the quartz movement because it’s internal simplicity bores me. That goes for smart watches, as well. Likely the same reason I’m drawn to cars that predate computer-controlled fuel injection and catalytic converters.

    I will agree with other posters in regards to the design of recent smart watches. Motorola seems to be the only one to make a smart watch resembling a timepiece. If only they could make the darn thing smaller… At any rate, I feel that times change, technology advances, and some of us would rather not change with it.

    • Alex Crawford

      Great comment, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Sergio Arteaga

    I’ll make my point simple. I hate when people wear digital watches so the smart watch, I’m not a fan of it. It’s troubling to see people can’t tell time with a old school mechanism.

  • Jefe009

    Soooooo thumbs down. A real gent is not at the beck and call of others, he writes the rules. And pulls out his phone from his pocket when he feels like calling someone. And ignores the tech when he doesn’t feel like it. My 2 cents

    • A True Gentleman

      And what of those who need to work for a living? Can they not be “real” gentlemen?

      • Jefe009

        How does needing to work for a living translate into having your tech on display? To me smart watches are the sartorial equivalent of displaying your phone on your belt. Goes well with a polo shirt with a Qualcomm logo on the chest. =)

        • Rt1583

          Possibly this sentence? “A real gent is not at the beck and call of others, he writes the rules.”

          A real gentleman comes in many stripes from all walks of life. From your comment, you have constrained the idea of what a gentleman is to your seemingly limited point view.

          As far as being at the beck and call of others, that is too broad a statement to apply to anyone for everybody is, ultimately, at the beck and call of others in some form or fashion. As far as writing the rules, there are far too many people who write the rules that are far from gentleman like and there are far more people who don’t write the rules who have gentleman nailed.
          Ultimately, what constitutes a gentleman is based entirely on ones opinion and everybody knows the old adage about opinons.

  • Olami

    M a bit of conservative when it comes to watch……the more traditional it is the better for me!

  • Eric

    Call me old fashioned, but a hard or nah here.

    Looks like a watch my pops would wear on a Saturday run.

  • Miguel

    I don’t go out without a watch, I have a few, I’m into smart watches but not the Gear 2, I prefer the Moto360 design since it looks more like a normal watch, it comes with leather bands in different colors and it’s made out of metal.

  • Nick J.

    With watches being one of the few pieces of Jewelry that I wear, I do not want some piece of Tech on my wrist. I prefer my Movado any day.

    • AdamE

      I have high tech running watches that I wear while I’m running, and sometimes in the office elevator when I’m going to meet co-workers for a lunch-time run… Otherwise, it’s a proper watch. I too am in the minimal jewelry category, watch and wedding band and that’s it (could include a tie bar, since I wear them regularly, and the odd time cufflinks, but wear them rarely since most of my shirts I wear them with are convertible cuffs, so I only add the links for certain events). I just added a Movado museum watch (with the bracelet) to the arsenal, I love the minimalism of it.

  • Steve O

    Check out the Moto 360. It is a circular watch face that you can change the bands on as well as the background to which ever watch you want….Rolex Submariner, Yacht Master, Montblanc, Patec Philippe, etc. Plus you would probably never know that it was a smart watch unless you told them

    • cam

      You’re clearly not serious right? “Never know that it was a smart watch”???!!!

      • Miguel

        Cam, if you look a the Moto360 and you’ve never seen it you’ll think it’s a normal watch.

        • cam

          Oh so by normal you meant ugly, hideous, oversized tech watch. Yes it’s completely normal.

          • Loscv29

            woooo… someones’s extra catty today.

            • cam

              Nah, I just don’t want Miguel to be surprised when he gets a call on that Moto360 from Flavor Flav wanting his necklace back.

              • Miguel

                Cam, have you seen the Moto360, it’s not as big as you’re making it sound.


                • Alex Crawford

                  That’s pretty fly.

                • Steve O


                • tommyjohn_45

                  No reply? Cam must have run off to go buy one… A clean look for sure. This is actually a great looking option, thanks for sharing Miguel. Had no desire to even consider a smart watch (and I’m a tech junkie), but if this is the direction they head I may change my opinion.

                  • Guest

                    Yeah I think I’m good..

          • Presidential Mother of Pearl

            just stick with your fossil watch then…

  • Nick_L

    Thumbs down on wearable tech. When I wear a watch I prefer my grandpa’s very old hand-me-down.

    • tommyjohn_45

      What about one of those classic hand-me-down calculator watches? haha

  • Jeff P.

    Count me in the group who’s also not a fan of wearable tech. Especially watches. The Montblanc is just so beautiful.

  • Malcolm

    Nope. Not yet at least; the technology has to catch up to the style. Maybe this would be less out of place in SF/Silicon Valley. That Montblanc is just so incredibly elegant.

  • cam

    Will go back and read the article but saw the title and just had to comment a definitive ‘or nah’…oh, and add Bluetooth headsets to this as well

  • Andrei

    Smart watches aren’t my cup of tea .