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My Watch Story: How A WIS Turned to Wearing a Smart Watch

How a watch nerd found a smart watch as his everyday companion

I had decided to give it another try after it failed yet again. It was a gorgeous late Monday morning and I had a few hours to myself. So, I decided to walk out into my driveway and give my outdoor run with my Polar V800 another try. Just like the last few days, it failed to make a GPS connection. As a result, I went back inside, and changed out of my running clothes.

I had planned on going on one of my long-distance runs. This was the final straw, and I was then to replace the Polar with the new Garmin Descent Mk1. Not only did the Garmin have better GPS performance, but it was also a technical dive computer. It was as if Garmin had decided to make the perfect watch for me.

Braving Weather
Many braved an incoming thunderstorm to pay their respects to the fallen and those affected by the deadly van attack of April the 23rd 2018.

As I drove toward the only dive shop in Toronto that had the Garmin, I had to keep pulling over. Dozens of police vehicles were speeding in the opposite direction. I quickly turned onto a residential side street and turned on the radio.

The day was April 23, 2018. Because of my V800’s GPS failure, I had just narrowly missed being on the sidewalks during the horrific van attack that struck the citizens of Toronto.

Along Yonge Street, many reclaimed their beloved sidewalks by writing messages of love, forgiveness and hope.

So began my relationship with the most disruptive and controversial watch I have ever owned. It began with a constant reminder of our shared mortality. It would continue to do so in the future.

The attack which took place on my home shook our community to its core. We were not attacked by a terrorist group, but rather by a deeply disturbed young man who could not fit in with the rest of us. This young man, who at some point showed promise working in IT, failed at making human connections with others. As a result, he identified with a group who call themselves “incels.” These young men wish to enact revenge on society for not accepting them, and primarily focus their anger towards women, and the men to whom they give their affections.

That afternoon ten truly beautiful people lost their lives, and many more were injured as the 26-year-old drove his rented van onto the sidewalks of Toronto’s most populated street. This trauma continues to impact the daily lives of those who live and work in the immediate area. Unfortunately, every time I look down to check the time on my Garmin, I am transported to that horrific day.

The Descent would then regrettably continue to remind me of how fragile life is as the year carried on. The Garmin Descent Mk1 is also a technical dive watch. Diving is a very safe sport. When one has checked his gear properly and is genuinely focused, accidents rarely happen. Unfortunately, while wearing this Garmin as my backup computer, I have witnessed scenarios where other divers had put themselves in harm’s way and had to act. Generally, most decent humans and divers will not talk about such unfortunate incidents or boast about their dangerous maximum depth levels reached. This is because it not only paints the sport in a bad light, but it is unfair to all of those directly and indirectly involved in the incidents.

As a result, my Garmin has become a constant reminder of how vulnerable all life is, and how quickly it can come to an end. Over time this has a had a calming effect on me. No matter how the day is going, I am repeatedly grounded by this watch. One aspect of the watch that continues to surprise me is the reaction from other watch enthusiasts. Many horology enthusiasts would negatively react at the sight of it on my wrist. They did not react in the same poor and simply dim manner to my Polar, however.

Shipwreck Approach
Approaching a shipwreck with limited visibility.

The Polar V800, which I had initially gotten over a year earlier to aid my training, simply fell short of its training duties. It was an even worse smart watch. This Garmin, however, created quite the stir for me personally. It also did for those around me who considered themselves “watch idiot savants” – WIS. Just as certain animals head to higher ground hours before a tsunami, most WISes sensed the incoming trouble and naturally had a negative reaction to the Garmin. My Polar never received such jeers and negative comments, but the Garmin was different. Their repeated claims that it was not a watch or that it was a piece of garbage were unfortunate, yet laughable.

Polar V800
The Garmin Descent Mk1 beside the Polar V800. Little wonder why the Polar never received the negative attention from horology enthusiasts that the Garmin has.

For a group of individuals to react to a direct threat to what they sadly attach a large portion of their self-identities to is simply sad. Even if their beloved mass-produced mechanical watches are finely manufactured, or in some limited cases handmade, they are fundamentally not something special. Some still, a year afterwards, react poorly towards the Garmin because they have a severely limited range in their sense of humour, and some still genuinely see such devices as a threat to something they hold dear. I fear that this reaction is simply due to how competent of a watch this Garmin is. As an aside, none of these people who are WISes lead an active lifestyle unironically.

Storm Barometer
The barometer warning and in the incoming storm.

Unlike a normal watch, watches such as this Garmin are actively performing a function besides keeping time. They are monitoring your vital signs and your surroundings. These measurements include our heart rate, the outside temperature, and the air pressure, for instance. Its storm alert function, for instance, became very useful one summer afternoon. After a dive in northern Ontario, my Garmin’s storm alert alarm went off. As I looked at the horizon, I could see the small, isolated, yet very intense thunderstorm approach us. We packed and made our way towards shelter as the storm narrowly missed us.

Just a few examples of the straps available for the Descent Mk1 and the Fenix Series of watches by Garmin

Where the Garmin excels unexpectedly is in its brutal yet efficient competency. It is a great watch with fantastic legibility. It is a magnificent training tool for all types of workouts, whether they be yoga, strength training, trail running, or scuba diving. It is a terrific smart watch and relays all the important information from my phone with little fuss. It also looks great with the straps that are available. These resplendent and colourful straps have a quick-change mechanism that makes strap changes easy. I recently purchased the bracelet for the watch made by Garmin. It is quite frankly the third-most-comfortable watch bracelet I have ever worn.

The durable and simple design has allowed me to effortlessly wear it from formal events to the gym. As an aside to those of you who have some insight into fashion: over the last couple of years the most common watch I have seen on people’s wrists during formal events is the Apple Watch. The days of a super-thin dress watch(or no watch at all) being a necessity for such events are a thing of the past.

My Companion
The Descent has easily become my most indispensable tool besides my mobile phone and accompanies me everywhere.

I typically wear my Garmin on my right wrist, while my left wrist has a watch with easy elapsed-timing functions such as a dive bezel. I do this for timing meetings and dynamic events when scuba diving with other divers. As time has gone on, however, I have found myself frequently wearing the Garmin alone.

I did not think that it was possible to forge an emotional attachment to such a watch, but this did indeed happen. I tend to use and carry the most useful tools available to me, and this is not the case for everyone. When it comes to watches, pens, flashlights and pocket knives, most carry which tool has the nicest craftsmanship. Some carry what is most expensive and is identifiable as such. There is nothing wrong with either of these attitudes. I prefer this Garmin, for it accomplishes many tasks with a previously unprecedented level of effectiveness.

Never Forget 2
A year on, we have not forgotten, and we are Toronto Strong

My year with this Garmin has been a humbling one. I have become a healthier human being. I have gained an appreciation for modern tools and all the engineers and user interface designers who make such a watch. It is mostly a constant reminder to me to be grateful to still be alive. Furthermore, it is a constant reminder that others may need help without notice and to be always alert. The world is always changing, and not always for the better. In light of the modern-day horrors that we are always under threat from, letting one’s guard partially down is key. It is essential for having some semblance of a normal life. It is important however to always be prepared, and always seek out those in need. This is what the Garmin Descent Mk1 constantly beckons me to do. It is because of this, that I am eternally grateful for this watch.

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