Zach Ware

Relative Luxury: My $10 Watch

I wear a $10 watch. It’s a Casio. It tells time. It doesn’t display the date. It has a scratch on it from a recent surfing crash in Ventura…the same crash almost destroyed my surf board. Somehow it didn’t destroy me.

I bought the first Apple Watch the day it launched. Quickly I was overwhelmed by the notifications.

Over the past year or so I’ve put a lot of effort into minimizing the ingestion of undistilled information. The Apple Watch conflicted with that. I turned off most notifications and was left with a watch that tracked fitness poorly and needed to be charged every day.

With infinite options come increased cognitive load. The ROI on the Apple Watch was negative. So I got rid of it.

When I distilled my desire for a watch down to the essence of my need I realized I wanted to know the time and, more often, the date, without needing to break out my iPhone.

I wanted to be stylish so I tried a few hip $500 watches. I tried the Apple Watch 2. I tried a Garmin Fenix 3. I found all of them to be either too huge to be comfortable or lacking in basic features (e.g. what time is it) to accomplish the primary goal.

So I bought a $10 Casio at Walmart.

Laughably, it took a few tries to get it right. I tried the terrorist watch and found it laughably small. I tried a Timex Indiglo and found it too technical. I landed on this Casio even though it doesn’t display the date. But it is the perfect size for my wrist both in terms of width and depth.

I had to buy it in-store because it was otherwise impossible to predict how large it would be on my wrist. This turned out to be a harder thing to nail than I anticipated.

The oddest thing about this watch is how often I get complements on it. I’ve worn big, expensive watches for a couple of weeks at a time and generally no one noticed. I average a complement about my $10 watch about once every two days.

People ask me what it is. They comment on how neat it is. People ask me where I got it. I usually just say I don’t remember so as to avoid the vitriol of the Walmart haters.

I love my watch. I’ve been looking for a new band to make it feel slightly less utilitarian (the band is rubbery plastic and makes my wrist sweat).

Some consumers buy luxury brands because of the status those purchases convey to others. As we get older we tend to care about this less.

There’s a philosophical post in here somewhere. In fact in my first draft I had a long bit about multiplicative systems and the relationship between perceived luxury and scarcity.

My view boils down to this: for some people a watch is a status symbol. For others it’s an extension of their information consumption devices. For some it’s a time piece. For some it’s a reflection of a passion for watches.

For me, it helps me know where I need to be. I still haven’t solved the problem of knowing the date. In fact if you ask me the date on any day that isn’t my birthday or a national holiday, there’s a 90% probability I will not know. I’ll find a new $10 watch to solve that problem one of these days.

I love this watch because it represents one of the few times I’ve made a purchase decision based purely on my needs and not the perception the purchase will create. On my journey towards internal orientation, it’s a true win.

First published on November 30, 2016