“Apple got more details right on their watch than the vast majority of Swiss and Asian brands do with similarly priced watches, and those details add up to a really impressive piece of design.”
So writes Benjamin Clymer, the former UBS consultant who founded and edits the respected horological website Hodinkee.
In the Apple Watch’s most detailed review yet, he offers his perspective on what the company got right and where the jury is still out.
What he liked: (I quote)
- The overall level of design in the Apple Watch simply blows away anything – digital or analog – in the watch space at $350… The Apple Watch feels like a lot of thought went into it, and no doubt it did. It feels expensive.
- I’m sure there was much discussion about making it larger – how could there not be? It would’ve made the entire interface bigger, bolder, more recognizable from afar and easier to use. The fact that they chose to actually make the thing wearable shows a great deal of restraint.
- The fact that Apple chose to develop two faces dedicated to the cosmos shows they are, at the very least, aware of the origins and importance of the earliest timekeeping machines, and the governing body of all time and space – the universe.
- Further, they kept the crown. Okay, so it’s a “digital crown” on the Apple Watch, but for a company founded by a man known for his distaste of buttons and switches, the fact that they kept the original horological control center says something.
- No watch from Switzerland comes with this many choices of finishes, and in a world where every industry is splitting hairs…, it only makes sense to offer the chance for people to obsess of the details.
- Apple absolutely, positively, indisputably NAILED its straps and bracelets. In addition to offering a bevy of options from leather to fluoroelastomer to link bracelets to Milanese, it is here that you really see how much attention Apple was paying to the way people wear watches, and the how bad existing options were.
What he didn’t like:
- Emotion, or lack thereof: What makes the millions of us that would never trade a Rolex in for an Apple is the emotion brought about by our watches – the fact that they are so timeless, so lasting, so personal… My watches will last for generations, this Apple Watch will last for five years, if we’re lucky.
- The cuff test: The Apple Watch doesn’t fit under my shirt cuff without serious effort, if at all. I believe that great design should not disrupt daily life, and a watch that doesn’t fit under a shirt sleeve is missing something.
- Digital watches are for nerds: The Apple Watch is an incredible piece of engineering, no doubt. It is still not as cool as a mechanical watch, to real people. This might change with time, but my feeling is that not any time soon will a digital wristwatch, no matter what it’s capable of, be considered “cool…” At the end of the day, I don’t see people that love beautiful things wearing this with any great regularity.
- Unproven autonomy: The biggest concern those in the mainstream press have with the actual functionality of the Apple Watch is that it must be tethered to an iPhone. Does that mean, if you were to go for a jog, that the iPhone has to come with? During yesterday’s hands-on session we asked that directly to Apple PR, and they didn’t have an answer at that moment.
- Market leader in a category no one really asked for: The Apple Watch is absolutely the best smart watch on the planet. That much I’m sure of. But are we sure that wearable technology is something we really want?
WATCH: How Apple’s watch stacks up
Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple
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