Daylight Savings Time vs Traditional Watches


Daylight Savings Time

Readers of this site think about watches way more than the average watch wearer. Most non-horophiles pay their watch no more mind than they do a microwave oven. And that’s the way they like it. A quartz watch that you never have to wind or reset? Yes! Power reserve? Huh? Twice a year, when Daylight Savings Time (DST) comes to pass, their quartz watch and the microwave will be given at least a few seconds of undivided attention . . .

Resetting the time is a minor inconvenience, which is something people hate. I know: first world problem. An infrequent one at that. But there’s no getting around the fact that Daylight Savings Time draws attention to a “defect” in the traditional watch that draws attention towards the smartwatch.

Daylight Savings Time automatic set on iPhone

The contrast between the traditional watch and a smartwatch is highlighted by the ubiquitous presence of the smartphone and computer. The question “why do I have to change my watch when I don’t have to change my phone?” may not occupy the average traditional watch wearer’s mind on a conscious level, but it’s another subconscious nail in the traditional watch’s coffin.

GW-7900 Daylight Savings Time

That said, digital watches require little effort to set an hour in either direction without any effect on the minute or seconds setting. Some have an explicit DST on/off toggle that should be foolproof even if one mixes up the fall back mnemonic.

I can’t be the only one that’s gone to adjust the time, taken glee in seeing that there’s a quick DST change feature, then realized that it was on the wrong setting and moved the hour in the wrong direction. Both the DST setting and the actual hour now must be corrected, after which the convenience factor returns.

Daylight Savings Time world map

Maybe I’m overstating this “problem.” More people are enervated by the concept of Daylight Savings Time than its implementation. Even bitches about it:

DST clock shifts sometimes complicate timekeeping and can disrupt travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment, and sleep patterns. Computer software often adjusts clocks automatically, but policy changes by various jurisdictions of DST dates and timings may be confusing.

We also learn that the United States adopted daylight saving in 1918. Interestingly, that’s one year after the Hamilton Watch Company introduced their first wristwatch for men, aimed at Americans heading to Europe to end The War to End All Wars.

Harwood self-winding watch

It wasn’t, and if you think resetting the time is a pain-in-the-ass now, remember that all mass produced wristwatches were once manual wind – prone to malfunction from dust and moisture – until 1926.

That’s when FORTIS released the the first affordable automatic wristwatch at the Basel Trade Fair. Named after the self-winding watch’s inventor, the Harwood was a hit.

Meistersinger movement

Ninety-four years later, the self-setting smartwatch dominates the world wristwatch market, sweeping away traditional watches just as self-winding watches swept away manual wind watches, and quartz watches swept away mechanical watches. But . . .

In the same way there are enthusiasts who still prefer a manual wind watch, there are buyers who will cling to self-winding and quartz watches – despite the “hassle” of DST.

Be that as it is, the wristwatch market is springing forward to the smartwatch, consigning the twice annual ritual of resetting a traditional watch to the dustbin of history. And there’s no falling back.


  1. I failed to make the deadline on this, so thanks to Mr. Farago for wrapping it up. I’d intended to squelch the errant belief that Benjamin Franklin was behind Daylight Saving Time. He was joking, literally. It was satire about saving candles.

    “Third. Let guards also be posted to stop all the coaches, &c. that would pass the streets after sun-set, except those of physicians, surgeons, and midwives.

    Fourth. Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient, let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.”

    Let’s see if I can sneak a link past the blocker…

  2. Ah, but you don’t need a “smart watch” to make this effortless.

    Many of the Casio G-Shock “clever watches” feature nightly radio or BlueTooth synchronization with the atomic clock and put this DST matter on auto-pilot. All of my “atomic” Casios (G-Shock and Oceanus) automatically updated to Standard Time last night.

    Smart watch, schmart watch! I’ve got clever watches that don’t have to be charged every night, don’t need firmware or software updates, and won’t be obsolete in a couple of years.

  3. Going from an annual calendar to perpetual currently doesn’t mean moving from one adjustment to zero, it actually only takes it from 3 down to 2 because of the daylight savings adjustments needed.

    This opens the question – what would a mechanical daylight savings mechanism look like? It seems like it would be incredibly difficult to do – maybe would need to be some combination of a date-of-easter calculation triggering a column wheel, and a split seconds like mechanism to shift the hour hand when in daylight savings mode? Fun to consider.

  4. My head hurts trying to think of a Rube Goldberg mechanism that can determine the Xth Sunday in of one month, but it sounds like something feasible given enough room. If I knew how they did the leap year trick, it would probably be along those lines.

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