The (Apple) Watch
Listener Article by Shaun McGill (@stmcgill)
Why do you and I love watches?
If I had to guess I would say that it is because of all or some of the following reasons-
The workmanship and sheer quality of design.
The history of the brand and/or the watch model in question.
What the watch says about you.
The usefulness it offers as a tool that is always with you.
All of the above, to varying degrees and when merged together, can make the end product compelling.
Most of the above will bypass the vast majority of people who simply want a product that tells the time and which does not look ridiculous, but for those of us who have fallen down this expensive and fun rabbit hole, all of the above matter immensely.
So, when you consider the above factors that lead us to enjoy watches so much, how many of them apply to the Apple Watch?
I would argue that none of them apply to the Apple Watch, or any smartwatch for that matter, apart from the last point which is the usefulness it offers as a tool that is always with you. And it is this point that likely matters most to the majority.
For all of the nods to traditional watchmaking that Apple tries to add to the Apple Watch, it doesn’t really matter because those nods mean nothing to most people. The crown feels odd to those who are used to doing everything through a touch screen and the faces that are designed to mimic legendary watch dials are rarely connected to the aesthetics that inspired them.
People look at the Apple Watch for what it is; a mini computer that duplicates a lot of what the iPhone does, but one which can offer a myriad of uses not available in a traditional watch. From fitness to health tracking to notifications to phones calls to text communication, you name it and the Apple Watch can do it. When you throw in third party apps the whole experience feels endless and to those who care little for watches, the difference is night and day.
I am not someone who should be exposed to the Apple Watch because I love watches as much as the next man (or woman!), but I write for a couple of Apple focussed magazines where an Apple Watch is required alongside an iPhone, Mac and an iPad to complete commissioned articles. This has meant that I have owned every Apple Watch from the original right up to the series 5, but none of them have stayed on my wrist for any length of time because I prefer to wear one of my ‘real’ watches for the top 4 reasons at the beginning of this article.
At the start of the experience I kind of enjoy the novelty of never missing a notification. I like that I pick up my phone less and the fitness capabilities have grown over time to actually inspire me to move more each day. Changing faces is a sweet touch and one that can trick the mind into wondering how you can live with a traditional watch with just one organic face, but that novelty does not last long once you realise that you use the same one every day.
Charging the watch every night quickly becomes an inconvenience that makes you appreciate the simple pleasure of not having to do anything to keep your automatic watch running, or at the very least a simple daily twist on your hand wound timepiece. These simple pleasures extend to the feeling of wearing the same watch every day and the growing attachment you feel as it travels with you through the events in your life that matter. You simply do not get that feeling with a small square slab of pixels.
The watch world could learn from Apple though. For those who have only known the Apple Watch the thought of having to remove and insert a pin using a tool to change a watch strap must seem archaic. For all of the tradition that makes up the watch world there are times when moving forward is a good idea, and losing strap pins is one of them, unless you consider beautifully made integrated bracelets etc.
Apple has also managed to persuade millions of people that it is perfectly acceptable to wear the same watch on their wrists as everyone else and to not feel awkward about it. Even I don’t feel bad about wearing the Apple Watch because it is deemed acceptable, but I wouldn’t feel the same if I was wearing a £10 Casio (because I am at heart a watch snob).
And this brings me to the series 5 Apple Watch which is the most typically Apple product in years. With so few changes from the previous series it could easily be viewed as a money grab with little innovation, but the one new feature it has makes a huge difference to someone who is obsessed by watches. If I ignore the lesser battery performance, and it really does struggle at times to cope, the always on screen makes wearing the series 5 actually feel like wearing a watch.
No longer do you need to do the twitchy arm thing to see the time. You can subtly glance at your watch in a social situation and check the time as you would with any other watch, and this makes all of the difference in the world. It’s almost imperceptible at first, but over time you start to appreciate just wearing it and not really thinking about what it does until it notifies you, tracks your movements and enables you to do things that you could not do with a normal watch.
I hate to say this, but it is almost starting to feel like a watch.
There are many who feel that the Apple Watch is not worthy of their wrist, that it is a temporary product with no history and no reason to love. I kind of get what they are saying and could argue that an Apple Watch to a Tudor is akin to a Fitbit replacing an heirloom bracelet. They are completely different objects with different aspirations. A decent watch is designed to feel special and to exemplify you as a person whereas an Apple Watch is designed to help you get through the day and to not feel special over many years, despite Apple’s attempts to make it feel more special with ceramic cases and stupidly expensive straps.
What bothers me, however, is that the newest Apple Watch is starting to give me that ‘watchy’ feeling so I had better put it back on the shelf quick!