The most expensive watch in the world is called the Henry Graves Supercomplication, made in 1933 by Swiss legend Patek Philippe. It is an astonishing mechanism of 900 parts that are able to imitate the bells of Westminster and replicate the New York night sky; it has kept time perfectly since its last winding in 1969. The Supercomplication breaks records every time it goes on sale, most recently in 2014 for $24.4 million.
I feel similarly about the Apple Watch — at least, in the iteration that was unveiled Monday at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. Sure, this is an exquisite thing, as beautiful as smart watches are likely to get. I’d gladly congratulate Tim Cook and give Sir Jony Ive a second knighthood.
That was far from a foregone conclusion. I was willing to be convinced. When it comes to Apple products, I seem to have a bottomless budget. Each of the first three iPads were mine before the first day of sales was out. Never did I think I wanted a desktop machine until the gorgeous iMac Retina 5K came into my life, crushing hopes for any other Christmas present in its wake.
Nobody knows better the feeling of scheming wheels turning in your brain as you convince yourself that you really need that cool new thing to replace the few-years-old new thing. I’m doing it right now with the new gold MacBook, and I swear my Macbook Air is getting ready to slam its screen on my fingers in jealous rage.
Most of this is not Apple’s fault. Watches are great to glance at for a second — Apple has done well to call its brief notifications Glances — but rather annoying to hold to your face for longer. Your wrist gets tired. The screen is tiny. Your phone is beckoning, and it’s right there in your pocket.
Peering at your watch is not cool; culturally, it signifies that you are bored and restless with where you are, and are wondering whether it’s time to go. Talking into your watch is certainly not cool. If someone forced me to use this thing, I’m sure I would find myself unstrapping it from my wrist most of the time, which defeats the purpose.
Sidenote: My wife and I used to own Nabaztag (later Karotz) rabbits before we lived together; the position of the ears on one always matched the ears on another, no matter how far apart. That was a cute novelty, too. Hands up anyone who owns Nabaztags today.
There just isn’t that much opportunity cost in the few seconds it takes to remove a phone from my pocket. No problem is being solved here. Maybe I’d be more interested in the health tracking aspect if I didn’t already own a Fitbit Flex — and know well the hassle of charging that wrist-based device once a week, let alone once a day.
Based on that launch event, I think Apple knows it has a hard sell on its hands. I’ve never seen the company so reliant on gimmicky turns such as wheeling out supermodel Christy Turlington Burns to tell us how she’s the first person to run a marathon wearing one.
This is ridiculous; a boneheaded tin-eared decision that invites derision and the conclusion that Apple is a company for the one percent. If it weren’t Apple we were talking about, the brand could be forever tarnished by such a move. The risk is that any Apple Watch will make you look like a tool now; guilt by association with gilt.
Finally there’s the Apple Watch app, which we’ve now learned will be mandatory on every iPhone. This chips away at the one great advantage of iOS over the Android ecosystem, that you aren’t forced to look at a “skin” of self-serving apps by the company that sold you the phone.
None of which is to say that Apple doesn’t have a hit on its hands. It’s too soon to tell whether the company is going to sell out the five million watches it has apparently ordered up. Maybe I’m in the minority; maybe you’ve all been dying for a tiny iPhone extender on your wrists that you have to recharge every 18 hours. Read more…