How to Look at the Wrist Watch

© Copyright 2018 Nikki Shapiro, Ryerson University.

The wrist watch is possibly the most mundane form of accessory, but to many, as essential as the shoes on their feet. In the abstract, Time is among the most valuable commodity in life, and in Western-culture specifically, the tracking, keeping, and saving of time has never been more valuable.

As participants in any functioning society, we all follow some sort of schedule or cycle. Our daily lives follow a pattern; we wake up at a certain time, eat at a certain time, go to work, eat again, etc. All of this follows a pattern that is directly connected to the passing of time. We allow the small circle on our wrists to tell us what to do and when to do it.

“wristwatch”. Feb 5, 2016.

Our actions are controlled by time and while we can never escape it, we are choosing to physically tie ourselves to Time’s envoy in an attempt to gain control. Often fastened with a leather strap and buckle, or a metal clasp and chain, like handcuffs, chaining us to the restricting rule of time. The circular face and common metal chain of a wrist watch may occasionally be encrusted with diamonds or made of real gold, but the circular face and strap seems to resemble a ball and chain. Especially while considering the wrist watch as a derivative of the pocket watch, a literal ball and chain. Forever followed by the nothing that time is simultaneously fleeting and constant.

While trends, customs, and cultural assumptions are ever-changing, the wrist watches we wear and how we are them are also indicators of certain personal traits. While the flourish and materials of your wrist watch can be an indicator of class and wealth, there is much to be said about the physical type of watch we wear and even what wrist we wear them on. Typically, wrist watches are worn on the non-dominant hand, therefore by spotting which hand bears the wrist watch, assumptions and even judgments can be made about the wearer based on the cultural beliefs of the relevant surrounding society. Historically, beliefs surrounding left-hand dominant people have ranged from having ties to the devil, being more likely to suffer from mental disorders, to having strong leadership skills. Whether or not there is merit to these beliefs, something as simple as the wrist we wear our watches on has a fluctuating impact on our acceptance into society.

“smart-watch”. June 26, 2015.

Finally, with growing digital and technological advancements, the faces of these wrist watches have been changing dramatically. As children, learning to tell time is an important and often difficult milestone to pass. Once, being unable to tell time was an indicator of poor education and low intelligence, digital watches were considered “easy” or “tacky”. While in previous decades, the analog watch represented high intelligence and class, digital watches have become increasingly popular as there has been a shift in our society and most digital watches are becoming more than just keepers of time, but keepers of life, expanding their control over us.

Works Cited

Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.

“Free Image on Pixabay – Smart Watch, Apple, Technology.” Free photo: Smart Watch, Apple, Technology – Free Image on Pixabay – 821559, 26 June 2015,

“Free Image on Pixabay – Wristwatch, Pocket, Hand, Time.” Free photo: Wristwatch, Pocket, Hand, Time – Free Image on Pixabay – 1149669, 5 Feb. 2016,

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.