If you’re new to the watch world, you’ve probably read or heard the word “analog watch” a lot, and if you don’t know what that is, that can lead to a lot of confusion, but don’t worry the answer is much simpler than you think.
An analog watch is any watch that doesn’t have a digital display. Most of the time, this would also mean that the watch has a classic, traditional watch face.
For the longest time, the term analog watch didn’t exist because it was the only type of watch out there. However, sometime around the ’70s, electric digital watches started rising in popularity, and in affordability.
When that happened, all of a sudden, people needed a term to distinguish the classic watches from these new, digital and electronic watches, from there, the term analog watch was born.
The term analog, however, refers strictly to the display of the watch only, so the technology or movement that keeps the watch ticking holds no bearing on whether a watch is analog or digital.
Since the term only came along when there was a need for a term to separate watches from the new digital watches, the term “analog watch” is actually a retronym.
These are new terms or names for existing things to differentiate the original form from a newer one. Retronyms are very common in the technology world, another example being the term “Gameboy Classic” to refer to the original Gameboy.
The term came about because the newer version, the “Gameboy Color” was released, and calling the original simple a Gameboy would lead to confusion, hence the term Gameboy Classic which we’re all familiar with now.
Watch technology doesn’t change much. The old-school mechanical watches of before are still held in high regard and are definitely sought after to this day.
However, the digital watch was one of the first true re-imaginations of the classic watch that lead us to today’s smartwatches.
The term analog came about because of progress and technological advancement, which makes me curious if we’ll ever need to come up with another retronym for watches any time soon.