This week I was surprised by a report about a reality television show where a 'celebrity' (I use the term loosely) was being shown how to tell the time using a clock face. To someone of my age the idea that a person did not understand the relevance of the 'big' hand and the 'little' hand was incomprehensible.
However, as I read further into the article he explained that if he wanted to tell the time then he would use his mobile. As far as he was concerned his Rolex was a piece of jewellery.
This got me thinking about the entrepreneurial lessons that could be learnt from this story. I remember the days when the top watchmakers were the Swiss until someone in one of the watchmakers discovered the digital watch. However, because it didn't conform to the usual concept of a mechanical watch it was not patented but was put on display at a watch fair rather in the way concept cars are displayed.
The fact that this was picked up by people in the Far East and turned into a highly successful product that hit Swiss watchmakers hard is well known. In doing so it points to a big lesson for businesses that do not create an entrepreneurial culture.
Of course, even the digital watch came under pressure as the smart phone developed. As people turned to the mobile for more and more functions throughout the day then it replaced the watch in the minds of the young. After all, why have a mobile phone that does many things and then replace one function with something on your wrist that only does one thing!
What this does mean, of course, is that time is now displayed in digits rather than as hands on a clock face. Even a lot of public time displays are digital now.
But before we consign the wrist watch to history as an interesting museum piece, we should note the trend for computing to get closer and closer to the body. Already we are seeing watches that link to smart phones and that has functions such as texting. Nike has a wrist attachment that can monitor exercise and that could easily be incorporated as an 'app' on a new style watch.
From here it is but a short step to watches that collect health signs such as pulse and respiration and send them to medical facilities where that can be monitored so that people can take early action. So that while the hands of the clock face may disappear, the watch as a vehicle for delivering its original purpose along with many other functions is far from dead.
What it does mean, if we are to believe reality 'stars', is that the need for the highly engineered inner workings of the analogue watch are no longer a priority for people under 30 years old except as a piece of jewellery. Which means that the fact that the 15 dollar fake Rolex stops working by the time you return from holiday isn't an inhibitor to purchase, or perhaps there is an opportunity for some entrepreneur to design jewellery that looks like a watch but has no inner workings at all!