My previous watch stopped working when I was in Jamaica in February 2012. Whilst this was a bit of a pain, it had one very definite upside. At the time my favourite question to throw out to unsuspecting mathematics teachers was, "At 9am. the hour hand and minute hand on a traditional clockface are at exactly 90 degrees to each other. When is the next time at which this will happen?" And to be able to lend out a non-working watch, the hands which could be turned manually, was great, I don't think I'd have been happy if the watch had still been working.
So, I get back to the UK, needing a new watch with thousands of choices available. Exactly what did I want? Traditional clockface, with no second hand. Number of reasons: drains the battery, clutters the face, gives information which is superfluous the vast majority of the time - and on the odd occasion I do need to time something to the second I can use my mobile phone. Date is useful, but I can normally remember which day of the week it is, so don't need my watch to tell me that. So, these decisions made, went to Amazon to browse, found a mid range Seiko which fitted the bill, ordered it, and a few days later it arrived. Very pleased with it,it is now 2.5 years later, fascia slightly tarnished and scratched, onto the third strap - although the second wasn't much good, I spent the first few weeks after buying it constantly scrubbing tan coloured stains off my wrist. Still on the original battery, still doing the same fine job of keeping me informed as to the hour, minute and date as when I first bought it. And, let me be very clear, I do not find myself thinking, "What a useless watch! Only able to do three things! Wouldn't life be so much fuller and richer if only it could give me a choice of 20 different clock faces, measure my pulse, temperature, tell me where I am, tap me on the wrist when somebody wants to attract my attention, and a million more things!" No, I don't ever think that.
So, logically, my reaction to hearing about smart watches, and particularly the iWatch due out early next year, should have been indifference - I have the watch I want, why should I need another one? But I find myself intrigued with the concept, have read the text on the website, watched the videos, trying to work out if I want one. Why is this? Well, one answer is contained in the maxim: girls grow up to be women, but boys grow up to be bigger boys (Cox, 2014: 51). And yes, the sparkle, the novelty, the toy aspect of the iWatch is a major pull for me. I'm pretty sure that, if I bought one, I'd get it out of the box with great excitement, try out a range of features for an hour or two, find the clock face that I liked (showing the hour hand, minute hand and date, obviously), put it on my wrist - and then what? Would I find the new features genuinely useful and interesting? Or would I just use it as a normal watch, forget to charge it (I understand they need charging every day) put on my old watch, and then forget about it, leaving it to languish in a drawer along with goodness knows how many abandoned possessions over the years? I genuinely don't know. Am I being manipulated to buy something I don't even want let alone need? Or, like my Kindle, am I going to be genuinely pleased with my acquistion?
Now, where does this speculation fit within a Christian perspective, not least living in a country surrounded by great poverty? Let me try to address this question starting with a different example. I live in a flat way beyond the means of most people who live here - way, way beyond, factors of 100 are no exaggeration. Does being a Christian mean that I should be living in the kind of accommodation available to most local people? No, I don't think it does. Alongside my salary I get paid a housing allowance which covers most of the rent that I pay. This is a recognition that I am being expected to work to the highest international standards of efficiency and accountability in an environment where this is not easy, tropical heat being only one of many reasons why. To be unable to sleep properly and night, to be worried about security, to be unable to deal easily and effectively with cockroaches and rats,would take up time and effort not then available for my day job. And, speaking an assistant boss, if colleagues were turning up day after day looking like death warmed up and it became apparent that they were underspending on their housing allowance, I would be asking some pretty tough questions. From a purely financial point of view, given the price that is put on my time, I have a responsibility to ensure that I can give my job the time and attention it needs, which necessitates having decent living accommodation.
Similarly, if I were to be driving constantly as part of my job, it would be reasonable to suppose that I would be needing a reasonably new, large and reliable car, anything else would be a false economy. And, from my perspective as a former paid church organist, if an organ is being used as an integral part of the life of church in supporting sung worship, then it worth spending money on keeping it running properly.
Does this help me decide whether to buy an iWatch? I think it does a bit. I am happy, before God, to spend money on things which help me live life to the full, doing so responsibly and being mindful of the needs of others. This is, I think, an appropriate Christian position to take. I would be happy to discuss this, either through the comments or private email.
So, coming back to the original question, do I want an iWatch? I don't know. So, until I do decide I want one, I won't. Possibly if I see somebody with one in due course, that will help me decide. Meanwhile, my technological need will have to be met by 2 laptops, 2 smart phones and a Kindle. That is surely enough for any one person.
Cox, J. (2014). Life to the max. Milton Keynes: Authentic Media Ltd.
Jon Cox is the founding director of A+, a Christian outward bounds centre based near Witney, Oxfordshire. This wisdom was imparted to him by a Canadian honorary uncle figure shortly before he got married - although arguably it is women rather than men (or should I say boys) who need to take this on board.