What do you call a watch that isn't a smart watch? A dumb watch? Just "a watch"? Something else?

I checked Wiktionary and it didn't have any antonyms.

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    Possible duplicate of Word for the opposite of digital art – jera Jan 19 '16 at 10:41
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    @jera It is not a duplicate. – user140086 Jan 19 '16 at 10:45
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    I should think that 'watch' still has the default sense 'a non-smart watch' in ordinary conversation; it's smartness that needs marking. And jera is morally correct. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 19 '16 at 11:56
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    @jera I wasn't doing a copycat of that question - someone else was talking about watches and it made me wonder about this topic. – Andrew Grimm Jan 19 '16 at 21:50
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    This is like asking what's the opposite of a pancake? Your accepted answer lends itself to have asked what kind of word is smartwatch? It's a duplicate in the sense that just like art, it's just a watch. Actually, it is just a secondary external display; see Fred's answer. – Mazura Jan 20 '16 at 22:31

18 Answers 18


You are looking for the retronym ("a new name for something that differentiates the original from a more recent form or version").

The adoption of a retronym requires two things:

  1. the new version being sufficiently popular
  2. time

In the case of the smart-watch, neither has happened yet.

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    If you require the time, you should get a watch. – user1717828 Jan 19 '16 at 17:41
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    @BleepBloopOverflow -- maybe, but (1) certainly has not. Smartwatches have been a huge misfire, an ugly, expensive solution looking for a problem. – Malvolio Jan 19 '16 at 21:52
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    @spacetyper "There isn't really a word yet" is a valid answer, especially since it's clearly laid out and explained rather than a terse dismissal. – SuperBiasedMan Jan 21 '16 at 11:39
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    Especially if it is the correct answer. :-) – jpaugh Jan 21 '16 at 16:09
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    I suggest POW (Plain Old Watch), along the same lines as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) . – Spehro Pefhany Jan 22 '16 at 18:02

"Conventional watch" seems neutral and descriptive to me. I found several articles that refer to non-smart watches this way, usually in contrast to the Apple watch, as well as some use in forums:

As Malvolio noted, there doesn't seem to be an accepted term in common use yet. I personally like "conventional watch" because it avoids the negative connotations of "dumbwatch" or "legacy watch", doesn't conflate types of watches with the history of types of phones (see "brick watch", "feature watch"), and avoids confusion with existing watch types (such as "analog watch" or "digital watch"). Compare with conventional art, conventional warfare, etc.

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    But do you consider a 'conventional' watch analog or digital? (or, to the woe of some, both)? – Robotnik Jan 20 '16 at 15:15
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    @Robotnik Both, I'm thinking of it as including both analog and digital since neither type is a smartwatch. Digital watches are only a few decades old, but they're common enough (where I live) that the phrase "smart watches vs. conventional watches" would probably get the same idea across as "smart watches vs. watches that don't interact with your phone". – Milo P Jan 20 '16 at 16:41
  • Off topic maybe: I came across this while looking for something else and I get annoyed by the article. It feels like "smart watches" have always been or should be considered as the de facto standard of what a "watch" is and if you don't add "conventional" before the word "watch" people will assume you are talking about a smart watch.Time will tell, I guess. I get the same feeling when Tesla is brought up and the acronym ICE used. As if when talking about "an engine" in the context of cars, it'll be anything else? A Tesla has an electric "motor" so it's not like there will be confusion. /rant – reaper_unique Dec 29 '17 at 10:30

The opposite of smartphone is sometimes called dumbphone, so by analogy you could call a non-smartwatch a dumbwatch if you want to accent the difference.

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    And, going back a few years, terminals like the vt100 were called "smart terminals" because they were capable of such amazing feats as moving the cursor up, down, left, and right, allowing games like packman to be played on them. Less capable terminals (more suitable for zork) were then retronamed "dumb terminals". – Theodore Norvell Jan 19 '16 at 12:52
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    No, obviously you'd call it a "flip-watch". – Hot Licks Jan 19 '16 at 13:26
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    @TheodoreNorvell The "smart" feature of a VT100 was the ability to scroll arbitrary regions, and insert and delete lines and characters (and automatically scroll the rest of the line/screen). Cursor positioning was a feature of "dumb" terminals (VT52, LSi ADM3a, etc) - By the time anyone even thought to implement a pacman game, CRT terminals with cursor positioning were well-established. – Random832 Jan 19 '16 at 16:46
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    The mobile, non-smart phones are often known as "feature phones", perhaps to highlight that the functionality beyond simple phone calls is provided by features hard-coded into the firmware rather than apps installable on a smart phone. No such name has yet surfaced for non-smart watches. – Monty Harder Jan 19 '16 at 18:30
  • @TheodoreNorvell And these days a VT100 might be called a dumb terminal. – user253751 Jan 23 '16 at 7:12

You could consider using a non-smart watch, but it has not been broadly used yet.

Actual usage:

Swatch introduces Bellamy, the non-smart watch for payments on the Chinese market.

[Apex Tribune article]

...This Zulu inspired smart watch strap is designed to perfectly fit smart watches like Apple Watch and Pebble Smartwatch as well as a non smart watch...

[Advertisement for a smart watch strap]

Other candidates:

An analogue watch:

A watch that displays time by means of a dial and hands, in contradistinction to a digital watch.

A digital watch:

A watch, usually electronic, that displays time in the form of numbers, rather than by a dial and hands.


I think a smart watch is a type of a digital watch under its definition. But, traditionally a digital watch meant a watch with numbers displayed before a smart watch appeared.

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    Future question on ELU: "hypernym of digital and analogue watches". – Andrew Grimm Jan 19 '16 at 11:14
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    Perhaps include the term "mechanical watch". Although these days most analog watches will use quartz. – LukStorms Jan 19 '16 at 14:39
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    @LukStorms I think analogue watches include both mechanical and quartz watches. – user140086 Jan 19 '16 at 14:41
  • Indeed. It was just a suggestion for completeness sake. – LukStorms Jan 19 '16 at 16:12
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    "Bellamy" (!that's the name of a watch??) certainly isn't a conventional watch (it lets you make contactless payments, so it's jammed full of processing, communications & software). So when Swatch describe it as a non-smart watch they are being disingenuous / arty / markety. – AAT Jan 20 '16 at 9:52

Analog watch is used to refer to traditional, non digital watches. For specific reference to a "smart watch" I think you may simply use "digital non smart watch".

  • (sometimes spelled analogue watch) is an example of a retronym. It was coined to distinguish analog watches, which had simply been called "watches", from newer digital watches;

  • The name refers to the design of the display, regardless of the timekeeping technology used within the watch.


  • I think that "digital non-smart watch" might be overkill; "digital watch" would be good enough. It displays digits. If it did a bit more, then it might be a "calculator watch". It would be a bit surprising to classify an Apple Watch as a "digital watch". – 200_success Jan 19 '16 at 20:34
  • @200_success digital watches are not called "digital" because they display digits—almost all watches display digits of some sort. they're called "digital" becaue they are digital (as opposed to analog/mechanical). a smartwatch is absolutely a digital watch. – user428517 Jan 19 '16 at 20:54
  • @sgroves That's a fair observation. For example, most people seem to describe the Timex Illusion watch as a digital watch with an analog display. The rest of my comment is still valid, though, I think. – 200_success Jan 19 '16 at 21:02
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    @sgroves: Absolutely not. From their inception (and I remember the first ones) digitial watches (and clocks) were "digital" precisely because they displayed the numbers as digits (using red LEDs at first) as digits, rather than by moving hands. There were certainly "quartz" watches which had entirely electronic timekeeping which controlled the movement of the hands. Likewise, it should be perfectly possible for a smart watch to be programmed to show an analog display, like just about every other computer clock display. – jamesqf Jan 20 '16 at 5:46
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    @sgroves: But "digital" refers to the format in which the time is displayed, not the underlying technology that creates the display. Thus for instance in the man page for xclock, we find "The xclock program displays the time in analog or digital form." even though the computer running the program is obviously digital. – jamesqf Jan 21 '16 at 6:12

I like the description wristwatch. I've never heard anyone refer to a smart watch as a wristwatch, so the two meanings won't overlap. Wristwatch is also slightly antiquated, and I think an older word suits an older technology.

I oppose calling it a "conventional" or "standard" watch. The reason is that, if smart watches one day come to dominate, the word will be inappropriate. We currently have that problem with manual transmissions (driving with paddle or stick shift). In North America, a manual transmission is often called a "standard" transmission, and yet something like 95-99% of cars have an automatic transmission. So a stick shift isn't standard at all.

  • Standard transmission because marketing: at one time automatic meant something special that cost more; you could get the plain boring base-price standard version or the $pecial version. Not "it's the established standard" but standard vs enhanced feature set. – Tom Hundt Jan 22 '16 at 2:09
  • @TomHundt - Then shouldn't the "dumb" watch be referred to as a "stick watch"? – Hot Licks Jan 22 '16 at 22:08
  • @AshleyZ, Exactly the same problem when people name their stuff, "the Modern..." or "the New Modern.." – Pacerier Aug 2 '16 at 3:58

Following smart phones - from which smart watches were inspired - it would be appropriate to call it a feature watch or a basic watch In the mobile phone industry, non-smart phones are sold as feature phones or basic phones.

Verizon Wireless - 'Basic Phones'
AT&T Wireless - 'Basic Feature Phones'
Phone Arena - 'Feature Phones'

Cell phones and watches have had similar transitions:

Cell Phone
- Originally designed to communicate directly to another phone, via call or text
- Evolved into a miniature computing device, with the ability to provide an array of graphic and audio information to the user from a variety of networks and wireless sources

- Originally designed to keep time of day and other self-computing chronological or timing functions
- Evolved into a miniature computing device, with the ability to provide an array of graphic and audio information to the user from a variety of networks and wireless sources

In addition to the links provided - from the four years I spent selling wireless phones - I can personally attest that both device manufacturers and service providers regularly use the terms feature phone and basic phone to refer to non-smart phones.

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    I think "feature phone" refers specifically to phones that would have been considered advanced before smartphones existed - i.e. with web browser, J2ME apps, etc. – Random832 Jan 19 '16 at 16:43
  • Yeah, @Random832 is totally correct on this - a feature phone is a step above the basic cell phone, in that it has capabilities beyond those directly related to phone service or SMS/MMS. Nothing like that has really existed in the watch space - almost all traditional watch features are directly related to telling time, with the exception of calculator watches :) – recognizer Jan 19 '16 at 17:12
  • Both valid points--I agree that feature phone was created to identify "tweener" phones that could do more than basic phones but less than smartphones. I suppose I used the terms together because in my practical experience in the industry, "feature phone" and "basic phone" were used interchangeably to identify non-smart phones, regardless of whether the phone was geared towards multi-media or an ultra-basic flip phone. – Trevor D Jan 19 '16 at 17:44
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    @TrevorD Well, do they even make "ultra-basic" ones anymore, i.e. no web, no ability to play audio files, etc? Even if they're not "geared towards multi-media", even the cheapest phones these days seem to have these features. – Random832 Jan 19 '16 at 17:56
  • @Random832 Technically yes--Jitterbug, or other MVNO low-cost options. My point was that while "basic" phones usually do have some means to connect to the web, they are not typically marketed as such. "Feature" phones usually have QWERTY keyboards and larger, landscape-oriented screens, while "basic" phones typically have smaller portrait-style screens and a standard 1-9 keypad. They may both be able to connect to the web, but one is better suited for it and therefore differentiated as a feature phone vs. a basic phone. – Trevor D Jan 19 '16 at 18:15

The term"smart watch" is just a marketing label.

When the so called smart phone associated with a so called smart watch either stops working or the link between the two fails, what does the so called smart watch do?

The so called smart watch is just a secondary, external, display for a so called smart phone; it's just a dumb display unit that shows pretty pictures which gives the false impression that it's smart.

As for a non smart watches, they've always been called watches. They are machines. The first generation watches used springs to power the watches and geared mechanisms to ensure time was kept as accurately as possible. The second generation of watches used quartz systems to improve the accuracy of time keeping and they used electrical sources of energy such as batteries or solar cells.

When the second generation watches emerged they were still called watches, albeit, sometimes, quartz or battery powered watches because like the previous generation of spring powered watches they were machines that performed the same functions. They are chronometers.

A similar thing is happening with cars. The first generation of cars were powered by fossil fuelled internal combustion engines. A second generation of electrically powered cars are now being developed. Should self driving cars become fully developed will they be known as smart cars and if so do we then call internal combustion powered or electrically powered cars dumb cars, or conventional cars, or just cars?

A non smart watch, a small mechanical chronometer that can be worn on person's wrist or pinned to their top (as nurses once did), is simply a watch.

  • Op's question? : What's the opposite of a "secondary, external, display for a so called smart phone"? Plus one. – Mazura Jan 20 '16 at 19:44
  • In a lot of countries, passing off a quartz watch as a chronometer will get you in legal trouble. Not related to that, IIRC 'car' is contracted from 'horseless carriage' and we still call the things pulled by animals 'carriages', so if the wrist-display becomes enough of a thing in itself it might evolve a different name. – Pete Kirkham Jan 22 '16 at 12:51
  • @PeteKirkham I'm not a watchmaker, so I'm a rookie in that subject and I have to ask: Why? How do a quartz watch and a chronometer distinguish for you? Do you define a chronometer to be 100% mechanical, i. e. no batteries? – syntaxerror Jan 24 '16 at 14:34
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    @syntaxerror it's certification by institutions such as COSC in Switzerland against ISO standards which determine whether a watch can be sold as a chronometer watch in many countries. Otherwise it's just a watch which happens to be accurate. As far as I know, there is no ISO standard to test quartz watches, so no quartz watch can be a chronometer. – Pete Kirkham Jan 25 '16 at 12:24
  • @PeteKirkmam Most interesting insights, thanks. As I said: I'm a rookie in that subject. But I guess asking in public here was also useful for the others too, who likewise might have wondered what the difference is. – syntaxerror Jan 25 '16 at 17:23

I would call it a regular/normal watch.

A smartwatch is a rarer, more recent version of a watch. Both analog and digital watches are fairly commonplace.

When drawing a distinction between the rare and the common, people tend to refer to the rare version by its designated term, while referring to the common one as regular, or normal (eg, sports cars => normal cars; famous people => regular people; smartwatch => regular watch).

  • Or ordinary watch which means the same in some way. (Would be a little overkill to create an extra answer for that). It would even be a better English antonym to "famous people": "ordinary people" (people like you and me). "Regular" sounds somewhat odd with "people" - but maybe that's just me. :) – syntaxerror Jan 24 '16 at 14:17

There are not so many occurences in the case of watches, but "plain vanilla" describes the simplest version of an object, basic or ordinary. However, one finds instances of "plain vanilla phones". So, i'll go for a plain vanilla watch.

  • "(plain) vanilla" must have originated from techie nerdspeak, I guess. :) Because a "vanilla installation" of an operating system means that it's installed without any bells or whistles - not even games. And a plain vanilla cellphone means as if it just came from the factory, i. e. a former Symbian Nokia one that only came with its butt-ugly web browser, but no Opera Mini installed on it. Had the latter been available on that phone, it'd have lost its "vanilla" badge because of it's 3rd-party software. – syntaxerror Jan 24 '16 at 14:25

From the perspective of data structures; 'smartwatch' is a subcategory while 'watch' is the general category.

A non-smart watch would be anything that falls outside of that category. Which can be many things: -digital -analog -electronic -spring (either manual or automatically wound) -stopwatch Some of these are exclusionary of eachother, some are overlapping like a venn-diagram.

So if you want to mention a specific type, there are plenty of words for that. But there's no word for an 'all-except-one' category.

What's the word for a car that isn't a sportscar?

Eventually there will be a specific category for non-smart watch, but there are currently several contenders and we need some time to see which grows most popular: -dumb watch -plain watch -traditional watch -basic watch


Legacy Watch..when used as an adjective, legacy denotes software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use.

  • But so-called smart watches are hardly in wide use, are they? – jamesqf Jan 19 '16 at 18:18
  • This is a pretty good term, but for the wrong reasons. Can you do a bit of research on what watchmakers call their traditional watches? – ab2 Jan 19 '16 at 18:55
  • Clockwork watches have hardly been superseded. 'Legacy' may become a more valid term in a decade or so. – Chenmunka Jan 19 '16 at 19:04
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    But watches have been easy to replace - with mobile phones. – Andrew Grimm Jan 19 '16 at 20:37

At the risk of coining a phrase, I would say simple watch.

Where simple is the opposite of smart/wise.


“Smartwatch” just means a computerized watch. The “smart” refers to a built-in computer. Same as with a smartphone or smart TV — that just says there is a computer inside.

Other kinds of watches are not opposites to a smartwatch, they are just other kinds of watches. There are mechanical watches, electronic watches, diving watches. None of these are necessarily obsoleted by smartwatches.

I would’t refer to any of them as “dumb” because that implies they lack functionality and/or sophistication, which is not the case. In fact, in spite of the computer, many smartwatches are much “dumber” than other kinds of watches.

  • Dumbphones also have a computer inside. – Andrew Grimm Jan 22 '16 at 8:51
  • @AndrewGrimm not a computer in this sense. Smartness indicates a general-purpose computer. – loa_in_ Jan 24 '16 at 22:29

Has anyone thought of analog watch? I would think it wouldn't be immediately understood, but I think it should be the correct retronym, although whether it's adopted is in question.

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    But many non-smart watches are digital - that is, they display the time as digits, rather than hands pointing to numbers on a dial. – jamesqf Jan 21 '16 at 6:13
  • Has anyone thought of analog watch? Yes, quite a few actually: Rathony; Josh61; Hugher; and PixelSnader; – Mari-Lou A Jan 23 '16 at 12:29

normal watch, which can only show the time and maybe, the date.


I was going to jokingly suggest "dumbwatch" as a comment, but let's be more serious and take a synonym which reduces "watch" to what it really is before it becomes an abomination of a smartphone with feature creep...

  • chronometer (which measures time, similarly to a tachometer/speedometer measuring speed)
  • (portably/wearable) timepiece
  • (small) clock

But for now I agree with Malvolio's answer, no one will mistake the meaning of "watch" for a smartwatch these days.

  • So, why would you say that "chronometer" or "clock" are better answers than, say, wristwatch, or conventional / analogue / plain /plain vanilla / normal / regular / simple / basic / legacy / digital/ feature watch, or even "dumb watch" (which has already been suggested)? – Mari-Lou A Jan 22 '16 at 12:37
  • Please someone suggest "grandfather clock" or "hourglass" while we're at it. – Mari-Lou A Jan 22 '16 at 12:38
  • @Mari-LouA My main suggestion was a synonym which obviously means a small device on your arm which allows telling the time. Wristwatch might indeed be better, but that still doesn't clarify the time-reading aspect. Concerning your second comment, we both know that's too big a clock, don't we? Though, I think some TV show had a really nice hourglass-expanding-from-wrist thingie... – Tobias Kienzler Jan 22 '16 at 12:49
  • @Mari-LouA Because these names are not as ambiguous as "watch" might one day become (as mentioned, I agree with Malvolio that this is not the case today). Chronometer measures time like a tachometer/speedometer measures speed etc., while a timepiece is obviously a piece for time. – Tobias Kienzler Jan 22 '16 at 13:05
  • So in the future, perhaps people will refer to their traditional, classic old-fashioned watches as chronometers? Hmm... – Mari-Lou A Jan 22 '16 at 13:22

In the tradition of transferring names from professions to objects that obsolete them (computer, calculator), how about timekeeper?

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    Do you mean a smart watch doesn't have time-keeping function? – user140086 Jan 19 '16 at 14:39
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    Most dumb cell phones have a calculator function and are computers, but most people understand "calculator" to mean a device (or, perhaps, software) whose primary function is calculating directly for the user (vs the general calculation/computation a phone does to act as a phone, etc). Similary, any time-keeping function is only one of many on a smart watch, and (one might argue) not the primary one. – Extrarius Jan 19 '16 at 14:50
  • I don't recall a specific example at the moment, but some mechanical watch makers have used "timekeeper" as an element of their branding in the past. So it's not unheard of to identify a fine watch with this term, but it's not in common usage either. – recognizer Jan 19 '16 at 17:14
  • I like this. It adds some specificity, designating the main/only function of that object. – PixelSnader Jan 20 '16 at 14:12

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