One might fairly wonder what the upside of this approach is, over, say, a perfectly stable bookshelf. To echo Jonah Berger’s point in the column, regarding watches that do a less-than-optimal job of telling you what time it is, this seems like another object whose main value is that it “provides more information” about the owner. And part of that value is that not many others will swarm in to buy the thing and water down its identity value, because most people will want a shelf that doesn’t move.
Speaking of that line about counterfunctional watches “providing information” about those who wear them, Marginal Utility has this amusing reaction: “Exactly, it screams loud and clear that you are an idiot.”
The watches mentioned are "hand-less watches" (no, not digital) that are being sold now – and, apparently, bought:
Consider, for instance, the Uno, from Botta, the German watch brand. It has only one hand. This item, which sort of suggests what time it is, can cost almost $1,000. Another example is the 900 Abacus watch, a $150 object featuring a tiny ball that rolls around a completely blank face; if you stand still and position the watch horizontally, the ball supposedly moves to the appropriate spot on the edge of the face where the numbers would be. Then there’s the NOW Watch, which has no hands or numbers, just the word “Now” where the time should be. Or the Timeless Bracelet, designed by Ina Seifart: a link-style watchband with a traditional foldover clasp, it has no face at all, just an open spot where you would expect to see one…
Counterfunctionality is precisely what makes such things effective identity markers. Berger hit upon the category’s appeal while looking into “product abandonment” — that is, the way that certain consumers drop trends when certain others pick up on them. Those particularly interested in expressing difference might be drawn to something the masses are less likely to “poach” — even if that’s because it’s annoying or inconvenient. “Most people want a watch that tells time, and they want to be able to see indoors,” Berger continues. “So to do the opposite is a good way to separate yourself from the masses.” In other words, it’s not that a watch with one hand, or no hands, has no value. It’s that the value it has is unrelated to the telling of time.
I want you to hit me as hard as you can.