Where does Apple’s watch belong?

Apple Watch

While traditional watch folk are manning the ramparts to describe the Apple Watch as more a wrist-appliance than forearm jewel, that might not be the end of it.

Time will tell what the impact of the Apple Watch, due next year, will be, but one thing is certain: there will be an impact. After all it’s a wrist instrument that tells the time, and for that alone it competes with everything else in that category. It’s also a sub-$500 offering, from a brand loved by a group not necessarily wedded to tradition, namely younger tech-heads.

On top of that, and even in pure watch terms, what’s not to like about having the GPS capability of an iPhone at hand? Such functionality is after all the kind of thing that’s helped Tissot’s T-Touch, Seiko’s Astron Citizen’s Satellite Wave and more recently Casio’s monster G-Shock GPW100 hybrid tool. The difference in consumer land could be that the Apple promises to do it for a fraction of the price.

Knowing the time in two or more places is especially pertinent for Australians on the move, given the considerable time differences between here and, say, Europe or the US, and our need to schedule calls, messages and Skype chats.

Watch companies have long catered to this with GMT or dual time models, but they mostly involve fiddly manual adjustment via bezels and buttons; what’s more you have to know the time difference in the first place before you can start the requisite turning and pressing. A small price to pay you may think, except with the above watches you no longer have to pay it – it’s automatically hovered in from satellites, something that’s beyond the capabilities of the beloved mechanical machine.

But if the Apple Watch can score for practicality and ease of use, it doesn’t mean it’s a no-brainer, even as a second watch – well, we do have two wrists.

The deal-breakers won’t be the apps or even the appearance – if the chunky G-Shock can appeal year after year, why wouldn’t the Apple attract admirers? No, and let’s say it here first:  the biggest hurdle for the Apple will be an in-built sense of impermanence.

This is a watch you’ll have to have to charge most nights: too bad if you’re out bush. Unlike the wonderful self-winding watch, not to mention the solar-powered GPS models above, it’s not self-sustaining; ironically for an Apple it’s not “green”. On top of that it’s going to be superseded on a regular basis. There’s no guarantee the model you buy will work at all in a few years time, meaning instead of a potential hand-me-down on your wrist you’ll be sporting potential landfill.

Even when judged on the basis of the “latest thing”, bear in mind the mechanical watch has form: against all odds it’s been a growth story over centuries, triumphing even over the quartz onslaught that threatened to change things forever in the 1970s.

Which leaves us where? Just as with quartz, a likely outcome is that there’s room for all. Why not? Speaking for ourselves, we love cool, but we also value the past; we love progress and design, but we also treasure craft and something that lasts. We also love Apple products, but that doesn’t mean we’d forsake an AP for a handful of apps. Still, when the watch arrives we’ll be there to report on how it feels on the wrist; this after all is where it will live, or die.

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