I didn’t believe Apple would show the watch until they actually did. I thought it would be more of a fitness focussed device, like a Nike FuelBand. I did consider the former, but believed Apple would choose a different path. I did not think they would try to go after the high-end watch market though.
We’ve been discussing the Apple Watch with my wife since the keynote. I have specific tastes when it comes to things that go on my wrist and actually have both occupied — my left one with an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean which I absolutely love and my right one with a Jawbone UP24 and a Garmin Vivofit. The former is mine while the latter is a review unit that Garmin still hasn’t collected. I use the fitness trackers with Jawbone’s UP app, My Fitness Pal (which has actually helped me a lot with my motivation to keep moving), Garmin Connect (to download data from the Vivofit) and Withings Health Mate (to control my Withings Wireless Scale). They’re all interconnected in some form or another but it’s so convoluted that HealthKit can’t come soon enough. My wife recently started wearing a Mujji watch for sentimental reasons, but upon seeing her reaction to the keynote, I have no doubt what her birthday present will have to be…
I like watches. Unfortunately, the one’s that I fancy are obnoxiously expensive. They’re also pretty large, even for a man’s watch and rather thick, clocking in at close to 15 millimetres. When Apple’s foray into the market was unveiled I immediately thought that they’ were going to go after the fashion industry, in their own typical (pun unintended) fashion. I’m not a fan of its looks — I prefer more conservative designs — but I took great care to talk to my wife and her female friends about it. They simply love it. They love it as a fashion accessory and their only worry is that they will never be able to use even a fraction of its functionality. Or understand it. And all of this without even having touched it. I remember showing them various Android Wear smartwatches a while back and they were not impressed in the least, calling them miniaturised smartphones.
I have a few quibbles with Apple Watch. The first one is the UI consisting of tiny circles which represent apps. They seem rather small and I’m pretty sure there will be at least a few times when I miss the intended target. This will naturally have to be verified.
The second one concerns its water resistance or lack thereof. Every single watch that I have ever had, perhaps excluding some when I was still a kid, has been waterproof to a depth of at least fifty metres. I never take them off, even to sleep. I wear them all day and every day with one exception — I leave them at home when travelling to less safe countries. I wear them in the shower, swimming pool, when I wash my hands and when I go diving. I truly hope Apple addresses this issue before their market debut, because I am certain, were I to buy one for myself, that I would inadvertently dunk it where I shouldn’t.
The last issue is our biggest current technological nightmare — battery life. When travelling I do not wish to carry yet another charger and cable.
Swiss vs. Smart
The thing with expensive Swiss watches is that they are meticulously handcrafted, often sold in limited editions and built to last. Patek Philippe’s slogan states:
“You never actually own a Patek Phillipe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
That’s the thing — a Rolex, for example, can be handed down from generation to generation, from grandfather to father, to son, to grandson. Will you be able to do that with an Apple Watch? When I first asked that question the immediate response was “Who cares?! It’s only $350.” It’s not. That’s just where the prices start for the Sport version, which includes a glass screen (it will get scratched) and an aluminium body (this will too). I’m willing to bet that the stainless steel version will go for at least $500 while the Edition with a solid gold case for at least a few thousand dollars. My initial though on the latter was $999 as soon as I saw it during the keynote, but I’ve reevaluated my stance on the subject — $5000 will not be a ridiculous price if you compare it to other classic solid gold watches. A 37 millimetre female Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean starts at around that, while an 18 kt rose gold IWC retails at 25 grand. Those are “serious” watches though, but what about more fashion oriented models? A quartz (!) Bvlgari 22 millimetre B.zero1 retails at over 2 grand in steel and close to four and half in gold. And I’ve seen people where this exact piece on their wrists in person.
The thing is that an Apple Watch will probably be obsolete in five years, while any of the above will keep on telling them time for generations to come. Will people pay that amount of money for the latest and greatest? I’m more than certain that many will — there are a lot of rich people, especially in Asia. What’s more pressing is will they upgrade in a year or two to the next generation model? What will Apple’s upgrade schedule be? Will this be a temporary fad or a legitimate and popular fashion accessory? Will they introduce further models in different styles? More questions than answers — only time will tell. I am however certain that the third-party band market will be insanely huge.
I do not like the look of the Apple Watch — not my cup of tea. I do however admire the work that went into its design — I’m sure people who had a chance to see them in person would have mentioned if anything felt cheap. It looks expensive (even the $350 model) and I’m sure that it feels like that too.
Apple really captured my interest with only three functions though and I’m sure everyone has a different set. My wife, for example, loves the butterfly and Mickey Mouse watch faces, the premium look and amazing Milanese Loop. I am completely besotted with the messaging system, as demoed by Kevin Lynch — the ability to send taps, heartbeats and drawings between people, which can in time evolve into a primitive language, the secret key to which is known only to the people who use it. I’m guessing this will be extremely popular with couples of all ages. The fitness aspect is something I could definitely get into and finally, the ability to use it as a remote control with HomeKit. Tim Cook already mentioned he’s using it as an Apple TV remote control. This could and most probably will evolve.
There are many features I could care less about in Apple Watch, but the multitude of functions will allow close to everyone to find something that resonates with them. Not all need to be used after all.
Apple is seriously going after the premium brands and its Watch is going to be huge.