Apple Watch, my two cents

In case you haven’t heard enough opinions on the imminent arrival of the Apple Watch, here’s mine.

I think the Apple Watch is the most comprehensive and impressive digital watch to come along yet. I think it will surprise, delight and sell. But, I don’t think it will find the same initial success as the iPad.

The most well-designed watches are to be enjoyed for generations. Like great art, the these watches defy trends and never go out of style — they last.

First, I’m a newbie watch enthusiast (thanks to @SirBenLee). My collection is relatively small, but fairly eclectic and consists entirely of Swiss and German-made mechanical watches.

I agree with Kevin Rose’s assessment of the Apple Watch Edition, but I’m somewhat schizophrenic when it comes to the standard models.

One one hand, I love the form. Although I’m partial to circular dials, I believe the rectangle screen makes the most practical sense for a digital screen. One of the best innovations here is how (seemingly) simple it is to customize bands. Most Swiss watchmakers offer several band choices, but typically require special tooling to replace, which puts the metals at risk. Switching from a black to a brown leather band effectively changes the entire aesthetic of the watch. Some watchmakers (like Jaeger-LeCoultre) make it easy and I’d love to see others follow suit (although watch collectors are a tricky bunch).

On the other hand, I question the function. It’s awesome to see a device packing so much punch (heart rate sensor, gyroscope, retina display, accelerometer, etc) into a tiny supercomputer on the wrist. But is it enough to warrant managing yet another device in my life? I already have enough trouble keeping my phone charged and on my person.

Quick history lesson[1]: In the 17th century, styles changed and men began to wear time pieces in their pocket (pocket watch), while women continued to wear them as pendants (although, technically women were the first to wear time pieces on their wrist/arm). It wasn’t until the early 20th century, in a time of war, when British soldiers began strapping watches to their wrist, as it was far easier to check at a glance on the battlefield rather than reaching into a pocket. Louis Cartier is credited with officially designing the modern day wristwatch, for Alberto Santos-Dumont, because pocket watches were too difficult for pilots to use during flight. The point is, the wristwatch eventually replaced the pocket watch because it was arguably better along every dimension (form and function).

This bring me to my primary concern with the Apple Watch: it doesn’t replace anything. In fact, it requires the iPhone to function. While I’m certain that it will catch on very quickly in Silicon Valley and among early adopters (I’ll buy one), I think Apple and iOS developers have a lot more work to do to make it stick in a lasting, meaningful way.

To me, the most redeeming value of the Apple Watch is the beauty of the retina screen and the customizability of the bands. The most impressive is the S1 chip design and amount of circuitry packed into the small device. But when it comes to style, I’ll stick to my personal collection.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_watches#Wristwatches

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