Besides being a revolutionary hero, Cuban legend Fidel Castro was famously known for wearing two Rolex watches on the same wrist: a GMT and a Submariner. He liked to be punctual was his reply when asked about the practice. Marlon Brando, Hunter Thompson, Johnny Depp, Lady Diana, all followed in his footsteps. In recent times the likes of Drake, Billie Eilish, Chris Pratt, and Justin Beiber have all been photographed ‘double- wristing’. The wrist watch, for these men and women, is more of a piece of jewellery than a timekeeping device. Closer home, Union aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has been photographed in recent times wearing a luxury watch on one wrist, and a smartwatch on the other. He seems to represent a new trend among men who have arrived at a satisfying compromise to the question of what to wear when you love mechanical watches, yet don’t want to miss out on the functionalities of a great smartwatch.
The debate between the mechanical timepiece romantics and smartwatch enthusiasts has raged ever since Apple provided the latter legitimacy with its first wearable device in April 2015. The idea that both parties represent are so diametrically opposed that there was very little chance then of a logical liaison.
One camp wishes watches to be superbly functional, providing all the data and metrics that one can ever wish for, while also reducing the clutter of life by keeping the wearer connected with the universe by simply wrapping it around their wrist. The other group values form before function, wanting precision that is man-made, handmade, and has literally stood the test of time. To them, aesthetics are as important as the function, and the historical connotation of it all tugs too strongly at their heart strings to be coldly swapped for a few accelerometer-based sensors. But, as the likes of Scindia show, it now seems that a middle point may have been reached, one that nature had provided an answer for since, well, time immemorial. Humans have two hands, and therefore, by extension, two wrists. So why limit the number of watches that one can adorn?
The idea of double-wristing refers to the stylish flamboyance of sporting two watches at the same time, one on each wrist, and more contemporarily, it’s usually a smartwatch on one side and a mechanical timepiece on the other. Talk about one for the show, and the other for the know.
But, as the names mentioned earlier indicate, double-wristing is not a new practice. The army personnel have often worn two watches set to home time and location time. Many famous collectors did it to afford their babies more ‘wrist-time’. But the idea of forming the coupling with a smartwatch came about once people realised the plethora of features that one gets used to with a tech device on your wrist, and how it can make one feel stripped naked of all that data, if deprived.
Even this trend, strictly speaking, is not entirely new. Some people, as far back as a decade ago, had already started braving the idea by wearing a fitness band with a mechanical watch. Perhaps it was the nomenclature — a fitness band isn’t a watch — that allowed people to sport them alongside watches, but once people realised just how much more data a smartwatch could throw up (in addition to other functions), the idea was too tempting to resist.
So, wearing both is the new solution. Now, there is still some room for disagreement as to which watch on which wrist, but most people usually wear the mechanical watch on the left wrist (which the majority are used to looking at for the time) while reserving the dominant hand for the smartwatch (which can be calibrated thus) where it can provide all the notifications and also store all the metrics for the day to upload them to an app for later analysis. The trouble is to adapt to the idea of looking at different wrists for different purposes. Sure, one would have time on both sides, but which wrist for when could take some getting used to.
Another way to decide which watch on which hand is by size, wearing the bigger one on the non-dominant wrist. To me, who wears a kadha (step bangle) on my right wrist, the constant clanging would mean that I would have to wear the smartwatch with its rubber guards with it, to cut down on all the clanging and clashing, which, apart from being annoying, could also potentially scratch a precious timepiece.
With the likes of Scindia wearing it, the trend has caught the eye. Suddenly, it feels more acceptable to everyone else, just like when JFK stopped wearing hats in public, and everyone followed suit. Just like that one gesture meant the end of hats, could this mean the start of a whole new culture? Is this the first stage of being a steampunk man, a bionic man with a connected droid personality? Personally, I tried the healthy compromise of wearing my Garmin or Casio G-Shock (connected series) piece through the day, and then shifting to a more dressy old school watch for after-work hours, but I soon realised that this limited me to circulating only my evening watches, while the chronos and sportier ones didn’t get much of an outing.
Another solution could be the hybrid style of watches, which look like regular timepieces but also accommodate some basic connected capabilities of smart watches, but their tribe isn’t growing as fast as one would like it to. So, for the moment, I have shifted to wearing the smartwatch early mornings for workouts and late night before bedtime (to track sleep), and stick to circulating a regular watch for the rest of the day (and evening). But even this doesn’t let me receive my phone notifications, and deprives me of the ability to answer calls remotely or pay at stores just by tapping my wrist against the NFC sensor, maybe this will become the first line of reasoning that will see me double wristing too, in the ‘time’ to come.
That last pun was unintended.