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The Nation

Wristwatches Get the Back of the Hand

Young consumers tend to see the time-honored timepiece as irrelevant. The up-to-the-minute accessory now is the ubiquitous cellphone.

April 16, 2006|Leslie Earnest | Times Staff Writer

Some watchmakers are responding with "jigged up" styles that appeal to young people, said Paula Correri, accessories editor for the Tobe Report, published by a retail consulting and trend forecasting firm in New York. They're light-years beyond the first wristwatch, made by Patek Philippe in 1868.

Microsoft has teamed up with Fossil, Swatch Group and another watchmaker to create what it calls the Smart Watch. Wearers pay a monthly fee to get up-to-date information including news headlines, stock quotes and weather reports.

About 84% of adults have cellphones. And manufacturers are counting on both seniors and youngsters to expand future sales, experts note.

Targeting older consumers who are "a little techno-phobic," said analyst David Chamberlain of the high-tech consulting firm In-Stat, at least one company has a stripped-down cellphone (no camera, video, text messaging or wireless connection) that sports larger numbers and a bigger screen.

You might think the cellphone's race against the most time-honored device would be troubling to the National Assn. of Watch and Clock Collectors in Pennsylvania, which boasts a museum with about 12,000 timepieces and a school of horology -- the study of timekeeping.

But spokeswoman Kim Craven didn't blanch.

"It seems from what we've seen ... watches are more of a fashion statement," she said.

"Why use both?" she asked, echoing shoppers at the Lab. "The watch doesn't do anything that a cellphone can't."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Time out

Fewer teenagers are wearing watches, according to a survey of about 2,000 high school students.

Q. How often do you wear a watch?

Spring 2006

Never -- 59%

Sometimes -- 28%

Every day -- 13%

Fall 2005

Never -- 48%

Sometimes -- 34%

Every day -- 18%

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Sources: Piper Jaffray & Co.

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