With all the excitement of smartwatches and wearables of late, I couldn’t help but think about the value and meaning we place on jewellery, objects and knickknacks. Pieces we’ve lived with all our lives, holdding a significant importance, and regarded as absolutely irreplaceable – but probably cost little to nothing to own. But the value they hold isn’t measurable, more often than not, they belonged to someone else before us. Now, some context for the title of this article. I was only a boy; my dad a young man, when he told me
Son, you can have this watch when it stops ticking.
as I admired the Rolex GMT Master II with the black face, and blue and red bezel snug around his wrist. So began my wait. For the next few weeks, when my dad would come home from work, I would conduct a daily inspect, to see if those hands had given up – ‘common, how long could a battery last?!’. Anyone who knows a little about watches, would know that I was going to have to wait more than a few weeks. This particular watch was built with a self-winding mechanism, which harnesses the kinetic energy from moving your arm. A perfect example of my dad and a long prank, it wasn’t the first and certainly not the last. However, as my dad is somewhat of a collector – no hoarder of watches, he did recently gift me a beautiful Tudor watch, he’d owned it for years. I need to take it off for showers and light rain; it’s not a great fit on my wrist; runs a few minutes slow; and needs to be wound on a daily basis. Despite all this, I love that watch, and wear it when I can, weather permitting. So, what is it that makes this watch so good?, I know it’s not it’s ability to keep time. Why did my dad want to share it with me? (I hope it’s not another one of Scott’s pranks), and why do I now cherish it? When I look at the jewellery, objects and knickknacks of today, and wonder if I would feel the need to share or pass them on to the next generation. Would they really want a smartwatch from 10 years previous, with a battery life of 3 minutes, and 257 software updates to install before it will tell them the time. Do you still have an emotional attachment to your smartphones from contracts past? Ask yourself, how would your kids respond if you handed down your mobile phone from 10, 5, 3 even 2 years ago? I am not convinced these ‘things’ are cherish-able beyond the term of their usefulness. They seem designed to NOT create a lasting connection, so that in 12 months time you will be crying ‘I need an upgrade’ for the latest model. But, imagine we did want to create a connection, and make ‘things’ that we keep, cherish and share – how would we go about it? Well, I believe we start by giving ‘things’ meaning, and making them personal. They need to reflect our styles and connect with our lifes. Yes I would like to have the same gadgets and gizmos as everyone else, but I would like mine to be special. A ‘thing’ I consider to be as cherish-able, and sharable as my dad’s old Tudor watch. With todays technologies, it is conceivable that we could personalise and customise the mass produced ‘things’, and make them more than disposable, undesirable remnants of the past. In line with this, I believe the Co-Design work being carried out by BESiDE researchers Sara Nevay and Dr Chris Lim, proposes an interesting approach to how we think about the design of liveable lifelong wearables. By including me, you, the user in question; in the design process, it is possible to create ‘things’ that serve not only the function of their being, but are desirable and pleasing to the beholder. So lets stop trying to making wearables for this purpose and that, and start designing #cherishables that people will someday passdown and share.