Should I Buy a Traditional Watch or a Smart Watch?

If you’re among the dwindling number of adults who still wear a wristwatch, congratulations! With the advent of cell phones, iPads, Kindles, and other easy-to-carry tech gadgets, wrist watches are fast becoming a thing of the past. And that’s a shame. Because, despite their seeming redundancy (how many devices do you need that tell time?), there are actually great reasons to wear a wristwatch. They’re convenient. They make it more likely that you will be on time. They make a great fashion statement. And the right watch can say a lot about you, immediately signaling whether you’re a serious businessperson, a playful retiree, a sports enthusiast, or even a watch connoisseur (try on that vintage Rolex, and you’ve got a great conversation piece for your next date).

But, if you’re among those who still see the value in wrist watches, the question remains: should you buy a traditional watch or a smartwatch?

Should I Buy a Traditional Watch or a Smart Watch

Traditional Watch vs. SmartWatch: What’s the Difference?

First, let’s make sure we get our terms straight. A traditional watch is exactly what you might expect: they’re kind that tell time with two oscillating hands. If you grew up in the nineties or before, you learned how to tell time with a traditional watch (hopefully, you also learned how to tell time with a traditional watch even if you grew up in the 2000s or after!). And since smartphones were not yet ubiquitous, you probably owned at least one traditional wristwatch growing up.

For the purposes of this article, a traditional watch includes both mechanical watches and quartz watches. They look pretty much the same, but they work differently. Mechanical watches are usually driven by an internal mechanism like an internal spring that requires physical winding. A quartz watch, on the other hand, uses an electronic oscillator and is usually powered by a small internal battery.

A smartwatch, in contrast, has a touchscreen display and often has similar capabilities to your smartphone. They include Android watches, Apple watches, LG watches, etc. Unlike a traditional wristwatch, whose inner workings depend on a tiny (likely not rechargeable) battery or an internal spring that needs to be wound manually, a smartwatch is fueled by its connection to the Internet. Like your laptop, phone, or iPad, its battery probably lasts anywhere from twelve to thirty-six hours, and you have to plug it into a wall or computer regularly in order to recharge it.

Now that we’ve got our terms straight, which kind of wristwatch should you buy? Here are some pros and cons of each kind.

Should I Buy a Traditional Watch or a Smart Watch

1. Smart Watches Have More Capabilities Than a Traditional Wristwatch

Unlike a traditional wristwatch, smartwatches do more than just tell time. You can often receive text messages on them, check your email, input your calendar and program it to remind you about events, and download myriad other apps similar to the kinds you can download into your smartphone. Almost all of them have an internal fitness tracker (e.g., a pedometer to measure the number of steps you’re taking each day, a sleep tracker that measures the quantity and quality of sleep you get each night, a calorie tracker to measure how many calories you’re burning each day, etc.). With some of the snazzier kinds, you can even take and receive calls or look at pictures you took on your phone (though most smartwatches don’t actually have picture-taking capabilities yet).

Should I Buy a Traditional Watch or a Smart Watch

2. Smart Watches Can Be More Precise Time-Telling Devices, But They Require More Frequent Charging and Probably Have a Much Shorter Lifespan Than a Traditional Watch

Smartwatches get their time from the Internet, meaning that the time they display is almost always correct. Most automatically reset themselves when you enter a different time zone, eliminating the need to manually update your watch when you travel. In contrast, traditional watches require manual upkeep; even the mechanical ones sometimes get “slow” when the battery is running low, so you must check the time displayed against a reliable source every few months (or more) to ensure it’s still running smoothly.

That said, traditional wristwatches often last for years and even generations if you give them the proper upkeep. They also don’t require you to plug them into an outlet on a regular basis. The battery for a mechanical watch can last for years, and a quartz watch needs only manual winding.

Should I Buy a Traditional Watch or a Smart Watch

3. A Traditional Wristwatch Is More Discreet and Makes a Different Kind of Personal Statement Than a Smartwatch

A smart watch’s screen often lights up when you check it, making it difficult to check the time when you’re in a business meeting, at the movie theater, or some other place where time-checking might be deemed rude. A traditional wristwatch is also more often regarded as a treasured piece of jewelry or accessory, as opposed to a smartwatch, which is more of a gadget (e.g., you are much more likely to pass down your Rolex than your Apple watch to your grandchildren).

Whereas a smartwatch may signal that you’re a hip, tech-savvy person, a traditional watch may (perhaps unfairly) indicate that you’re a more traditional and serious person who treasures having a “real” timekeeping device. For what it’s worth, watch aficionados often obsess about the inner workings of a traditional watch while snubbing their noses at the minicomputers inside a smartwatch.

Whether you choose to buy a smartwatch or a traditional wristwatch ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a device that can serve as a stand-in for your phone and will allow you to do a series of different things like tracking your runs and listening to music, go for the smartwatch. If you’re looking for a classy accessory that can accentuate your outfit or be passed down to your children, go for the traditional wristwatch. And if you can’t decide, get both!