RICHARD ORD: Apple invent the watch – really?

editorial image
Have your say

THERE was much excitement amongst the boys in the Ord household this week after it was announced that Apple had invented the watch.

Yes, the watch. Even my suggestion that perhaps the watch had already been invented didn’t dampen their enthusiasm.

“I’ve got to have one,” our Bradley, 13, told me. As with most conversations with the eldest these days, it sounded more like a threat than a request.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of Apple’s new baby.

I doubt Sir Henry Cuckoo received as much press coverage when he unveiled the world’s first clock at about quarter past 12 in 1772 (they couldn’t be precise with the time as the big hand was obscured by a wooden doll emerging from a door carrying a bucket).

The Apple Watch unveiling does have echoes of my youth, however.

I recall the first digital watch heralding the dawn of a new age in the 1970s. Not an age of robots serving you breakfast in tablet form as we’d hoped, but the age of style over substance.

It appeared at Mowbray Junior School, South Shields, circa 1976-ish, on the wrist of schoolmate William Braviner, aged about 11. He was mobbed. I can still see the watch now. To be fair, it was so big you could probably see it from space.

It was a chrome block mounted on an oversized leather strap and featured a black screen that displayed... erm, nothing. At the press of a button, however, the time, in numbers, glowed red.

“I’ve got the have one,” I told my parents.

For the first three weeks, William Braviner was the centre of the universe.

Disorderly queues were formed every playtime to witness this magical wrist-mounted obelisk blink out the time.

It was like the cavemen discovering fire, not too dissimilar to the monkeys in 2001: A Space Odyssey finding that big oblong sticking out of the ground, except we were in short trousers.

Ironically, William Braviner’s much-in-demand digital watch demonstrations resulted in him regularly being late for lessons.

Looking back, there were lessons to be learned.

The digital watch was, to coin a phrase popularised by a jewellery tycoon in the 90s, crap.

Not only were they more cumbersome than the ordinary analogue watch, but they were also more expensive and less efficient.

Instead of being able to tell the time at a glance, as you did with a normal watch, we were paying extra to work harder to find the time! You had to raise the watch to your face and press a button! But we had to have one.

A bit like the Apple Watch.

Admittedly it certainly appears to be dripping with functions.

Apparently it can monitor your heart rate, pay your bills, record TV programmes, call up maps, calendars and a myriad of social networking tools.

As we went to press, however, it was unclear as to whether the Apple Watch could tell you the time, but that seems to be the least of the consumer’s concerns.

It was much the same with William Braviner’s digital watch. We weren’t really interested in the time or, with a second press of a button, the date. We just loved the idea of a digital watch.

I suspect it’s much the same with the Apple Watch.

Technology may not be advancing us as much as we think. Certainly not at my age. When I was 13, you pressed the ‘on’ button to turn on the TV.

Today, I have two remote controls and have press at least three buttons, one of which has to be pressed at least four times, before the TV will spring to life.

That said, I’ve no doubt an Apple Watch will be on the boys’ arms before the year is out (anything for a quiet life).

As for William Braviner and his digital watch, you may have thought he’d grow up to be a high-flying executive in one of the technological industries. Not so. He ended up a vicar!

Perhaps he saw the light earlier than most ...