09/07/2012 09:31 BST | Updated 07/09/2012 06:12 BST

Are Watches Obsolete?

The other day, I saw someone looking at their wrist and then at the speaker, in the time-honored gesture that means "hurry up." Then I realized that the person doing this had no watch on their wrist. The gesture is still there, but the time piece it references is not. From there, I've observed that watches are actually more unusual than usual now. Few people have them anymore.

Instead, we have cell phones, smart phones, tablets, and laptops that tell us the time. We have clocks in our cars, maybe, but not on our wrists. When most people want to know what time it is, they reach for their phone.

The pocket watch gave way to the wrist watch which has given way to a new type of pocket watch.

A friend remarked that this is nothing. A lot of people don't even know how to read a clock anymore, unless it has numbers or a digital display for the time. Which is true. The traditional 12 hour clock face has become a quaint throwback rather than the norm. Most of our clocks are digital numbers in 12 or 24 hour readouts.

He mentioned this and then pointed out that he has a wall clock with no numbers on it, just an hour, minute and second hand. He says people who see it often ask him what time it is, as they can't see the numbers. Being a philosophically cheeky guy, he usually responds with something like "Why does it matter?" or "Time is a construct of human creation and has no meaning to the universe at large."

But the traditional or even non-traditional time readout has not disappeared. Neither has the watch. One Japanese company, TokyoFlash, has taken watch readouts to a whole new level.

They have watches with faces that read in LED dots representing hours and minutes that you have to add up in a way similar to reading an abacus or calculating Roman numerals. Three green dots plus a red one might mean 30-10, translating to 10:30. Or the numbers might be presented as an optical illusion requiring you to unfocus your eyes so you can see through the blizzard and read the time.

Whatever the readout, it's sure to be unique and mind-altering. Like the clock with no numbers, it makes you think. Even something as mundane as telling the time can be an intellectual experience if you let it.

Watches aren't dead. They're evolving.