I have a problem, a big problem. I don’t own a watch. I actually haven’t owned a watch for years. These days, it’s hard to notice you don’t have a watch, when your iPhone is usually no more than two feet away from you at all times.
Last year when I was getting married, I forced myself to buy a $400 watch from Emporio Armani, just so I would have a watch to wear on my wedding day. Call me old fashioned, but there’s something irresponsible about a man being photographed watch-less on his wedding day.
A week after my wedding, I gave it away. The watch I owned before that was an ESQ Swiss that I bought in 2007 for $650. I gave that away in 2010. So effectively, for the past 4 years I’ve been watch-less. Keep in mind that my old ESQ-Swiss (now ESQ Movado) cost as much as a mid-range iPad, but only told me the time, date, and had a chronograph timer. Nothing else.
Why do I give watches away? It’s my way of reminding myself that people are more important than things. As a Christian, I believe in not being attached to “things” so I make a practice of ditching things every so often, especially if they can make someone else happy. I don’t disclose this to sound self-righteous, but to honestly explain why I’m no longer in possession of two perfectly functional and good quality watches.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21
Let’s be real though. I like nice things, and that’s not going to change regardless of how many watches I give away.
My problem isn’t so much that I don’t own a watch. It’s that all the watches I’d really want to own are far too expensive. Before today, the only two watches I’ve ever really loved are a $7000 Breitling Navtimer and a $6500 Breitling Transocean, neither of which I could buy at the moment without feeling very irresponsible. I’m not going to say how many Breitlings I could’ve bought instead of my wife’s wedding ring.
Wristwatches can be expensive, but it depends on how much you make. I know people who drop $50k on wristwatches without blinking, and those who wouldn’t dare spend more than $200 on a watch.
Even so, if I could afford it, I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t regret my purchase. $7000 is a lot to pay just to tell the date and time, granted that when you spend that much on a timepiece, they’re as much art and prestige as they are function. You’re paying for a status symbol.
To the person who knows nothing of the subculture of watch collectors, I’m only mentioning these prices to get you used to the amounts that a great many people are willing to spend on jewelry that usually has only two functions: date and time.
Four types of potential customers
You got guys out there, they think Rolex is the thing. They think Rollies are like the nicest watch there is. That’s amateur hour. Me, I don’t even own a Rolex. Rolex makes you look like an asshole… This watch thing is really about taste.” – Hamilton Nolan, Why Do Assholes Love Watches?
This is the person who owns a couple Breitlings, maybe a Rolex, or a Tag Heuer. Some could be purchases, others could be a gift from a father or grandfather. This type of person typically owns more than one wristwatch and would also include the person willing to spend $50,000 on a single timepiece.
This is the person who owns anything from a $300 Citizen Eco-Drive, to a $100 battery powered Fossil, and usually wears the same watch every day. He typically doesn’t own more than one watch at a time. It’s for functionality and responsibility, not for style.
This would be people who don’t care about watches at all, or who are disgusted by mid-range watches, but simply can’t afford to be a collector.
Who’s it for?
I think the Apple Watch is marketed more towards the functionalist and the non-owner. These are the groups that can really see the potential in an Apple Watch.
One will notice that their Citizen watch is uglier, more expensive, and doesn’t do 1/100th of what an Apple Watch does, while the other might find their first legitimate reason to own a watch in the first place, so long as they both own an iPhone.
Hit or Miss?
Apple is the first company to make a smart watch that looks like it was made in Switzerland. The Apple Watch doesn’t look like a toy. The only other smart watch to come close is the Moto 360.
Apple’s advantage here is that it made a high quality watch, first and foremost. It looks like a watch. It looks like it was painstakingly hand-crafted in a swiss boutique. It makes a fashion statement and it has it’s own personality.
It’s because of its fashion and personality, and limited operation, that it may just stand the test of time, unlike your smartphone or tablet.
What’s the lifetime of an Apple Watch?
Here’s a question for you:
How many smart watches has Samsung come out with in the past 12 months?
Six. No, I’m not kidding. If you got a Samsung Gear for Christmas last year, it’s was outdated the moment they announced the Gear 2 in February 2014. This isn’t good for the consumer, and along with OS fragmentation, it’s a big reason that I buy Apple.
With tech specs, Apple guarantees a 1 year product cycle. With style, Apple guarantees a 2 year product cycle.
Analyst Brian White of Cantor Fitzerald called Samsung’s recent offerings “rushed” and “half-baked”. I couldn’t agree more. Samsung is quickly becoming the Casio of the smart watch industry.
The Microsoft Surface Adventure
In a fit of madness, last Christmas I bought a Microsoft Surface 2. Microsoft had been doing a pretty big advertisement push during the holidays, and I could feel myself getting brainwashed. I even told my wife about two weeks before the purchase, that if I keep seeing these signs every day, I won’t be able to hold out much longer.
I was frustrated at Apple purposely not keeping up in the tablet market. They always leave out a necessary upgrade, so they have something for next year’s model. After waiting a good four years for a decent stylus from Apple to no avail, I wanted to reward Microsoft for it’s initiative.
I returned my iPad Air I’d just bought less than a month earlier, and got myself a Surface Pro 2. After taking it home, I opened it and tried to download all my typical apps, and set it up for work.
12 hours later, I was back at the Microsoft Store getting a refund. I embarked on the walk of shame back to the Apple store, hoping no one would recognize the guy who returned his iPad Air 24 hours earlier, and I bought a new iPad Air. I held it close and whispered, “I’ll never wander again.”
It just wasn’t the same, and despite the missing stylus and desktop apps, Apple was still much more intuitive, stylish, useful, mobile, and light. It was near impossible to setup my work’s Exchange email on Windows 8 (Exchange is a Microsoft product), while it only took me about 2 minutes on iOS. Fail to get the inputs right the first time on Microsoft Outlook and you’ll be forced to edit the Windows Registry, and Control Panel trying to make it reset to allow you to re-enter your credentials and domain. I wanted to pull my hair out.
Had I stuck with the Surface 2, I’d have been eating crow no more than 6 months later. Fast forward to May 2014, and Microsoft has come out with a new Surface. The Surface Pro 3, had a 12 inch screen, and was much thinner, lighter, and faster. I laughed! So they’d have screwed me over just like that, by drastically redesigning their tablet/laptop hybrid after only just releasing their tablet 7 months earlier?
Apple can’t go the way of Samsung and Microsoft
When it comes to a smart watch, this is where Apple can make or break this new product line! If they follow their competitors, they’ll have a fragmented ecosystem and unsatisfied customers because consumers will have device envy every 6 months.
So what does Apple’s guaranteed two year product cycle look like? It means that the moment you buy an iPhone 6, you’ll have another two years before they come out with a different body style for your iPhone. Yes, they’ll release an iPhone 6S the same time next year, but it’ll look exactly the same as your iPhone 6, except for some more powerful guts, and some superficial new feature.
The best example of this was iPhone 4 vs iPhone 4S. They look EXACTLY the same, and the main selling point for a 4S was Siri. If you bought an iPhone 4, you were looking up to date with Apple’s technology for a good two years! Likewise, the iPad 2, 3, and 4 looked exactly the same, with the 3 and 4 actually being a tad thicker and heavier.
Part of customer satisfaction is not having new phone envy, and buyers remorse after only 6 months. Apple knows this. I don’t know why its competitors haven’t figured it out. Aversion to quick product cycles is one of Apple’s virtues.
Apple’s Watch cycle
We have nothing to go on here, besides Apple’s product release history. History would tell us that if we wait exactly one year from the time the Apple Watch comes out, that there’ll be something akin to an “Apple Watch S”, that looks exactly the same as the current watch, more or less. One more year, and there’ll be an Apple Watch 2.
Apple could do this, but I don’t think they will, and here’s why:
How’re you going to upgrade a smart watch who’s main functions are tied into your smartphone? Will giving the Apple Watch a faster processor really do anything? What, do you want the hour hand to turn faster? More horsepower isn’t going to make the watch work better.
What new sensors are you going to add? A bone density scanner? Blood sugar tester? Is there enough room for a sensor that isn’t useful to a large part of your customer base?
Are you going to upgrade Siri? Siri is tied to your iPhone, not the Apple Watch.
Will you add a camera? Of what use is a camera on a watch when you have an iPhone with a better camera and a ginormous screen?
You want to make the watch thinner every two years like an iPad or iPhone? Have you ever seen a Tag Heuer, or say, any watch over $3000. The bigger the better. Watches haven’t shrunk in 50 years for a reason. People like big watches. If you’re wearing a status symbol, you want people to see it from far away, right?
I hope you see what I’m getting at by now. An Apple Watch is not a smartphone, it’s not a toy watch like much of the competition, and it’s not going to follow Moore’s law in the way you’re used to. By making such a loud fashion statement, and tying the Watch’s abilities to your iPhone, Apple’s designed their smart watch to be somewhat upgrade-proof.
Yes, your phone will continue to be upgraded on the normal product cycles, but as your phone improves, those functionality upgrades can be passed onto your Apple Watch with a simple software update. The stuff the Apple Watch does without your phone’s assistance aren’t things that can be improved upon with faster guts and more memory.
We know the Apple Watch starts at $349, but it’s safe to assume that the 18 karat gold version will be quite a bit more. What incentive do you have to buy an 18 karat gold Apple Watch, if your watch will basically become junk in 2 years? Do you just give it away?
Then there’s the accessories market. You know that third parties will be making their own custom bands for the Apple Watch. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada will be itching to get their logos on some bands before long. Someone’s going to make an entirely 18 karat gold band to complete the Apple Watch Edition, that will probably cost much more than the watch itself.
Is anyone really going to be willing to spend $5000, and risk looking like an idiot in 2 years when their custom band doesn’t fit on the Apple Watch 2, and no one wants to buy their outdated generation one tech?
Part of the reason people are willing to pay so much for quality wristwatches, is because the technology isn’t really changing. You can buy that self-winding automatic Breitling and wear it the rest of your life. You can give it to your children or grandchildren. A Rolex from 50 years ago is still using the same self-winding technology as today.
I’m not saying a quality smart watch will have or need this level of longevity, but it makes sense that it would be on a much longer product cycle than an iPhone or an iPad.
Owning an Apple product is definitely something of a status symbol, as you’re paying a premium, but rich people aren’t stupid. If you’re going to ask them to pay $1500 for an 18 karat Apple Watch that will be outdated in 2 years, they’d rather spend that money on a Rado, or a Tag Heuer that will last their lifetime.
Ok, maybe I’m being too generous to the rich. There is a subset of that class that are more than willing to throw money away. Ever heard of Vertu Luxury Phones, or a Dodge Viper, or a Plymouth Prowler?
In my opinion, though, in order for Apple’s watch line to succeed, they need to give an assurance of longevity. The battery needs to be replaceable, at the very least by taking it to the Apple Store so they can install a new one.
Apple needs to assure anyone purchasing an 18 karat Watch and matching third party band – assuming it’ll be as expensive as I predicted – that their watch could stylishly and comfortably last 5 years or more before they’d even be tempted at an upgrade.
If I know Apple like I think I do, having been a customer since 2007, they’ll make the bands compatible for quite a few years, like the Apple 40 pin USB connector.
My faith in Apple leads me to believe they’ve already put thought into all this, and I have a hunch that a first-gen Apple Watch will be stylish for many years to come. Creating a stand-alone smart watch like the critics want, is the surest way to make it outdated every 12 months. If you don’t want to upgrade your smart watch every 6-12 months, it needs to be a phone accessory, not a phone.
If Apple wants to do right by its customers, and bolster its fashion statement alongside its technological prowess, it will allow it’s first generation Watch to adapt alongside the ever more powerful future iPhones, using nothing but software updates.
So if two years from now, Siri gets some crazy new feature, you’d see that reflected on your Watch because it’s using Siri on your phone, not in its own memory.
Why so many features?
I’m honestly not going to use a lot of the features on my Apple Watch. I’ll use it to control my Apple TV, track my health and fitness, dismiss phone calls, and pay for groceries. What I won’t be doing is looking at photos on it, or tweeting, or answering phone calls.
The beauty of so many features, is that it lets you customize your Watch to suit your needs. Any watch app you don’t use can simply be deleted. Every person will have a very different device depending on their needs. They’ll choose what they want to do on their iPhone, and what they want to do on their Watch.
I hate having to pull out my iPhone to check the time, or check weather, or use Siri, or set a timer. I love the idea that rather than hearing a phone ring, I can get taps on my wrist.
As for me and my house
The Apple Watch is a definite buy! I need a wristwatch. If I bought one, it’d be more expensive than the Apple Watch anyways, so why not buy one that can substitute for my wallet, and I can give voice commands to, while surreptitiously communicating sweet nothings to my wife?
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Update 05/07/2015: Despite my original excitement, I’ve decided not to get the Apple Watch. As many reviewers have said, it feels like a “solution in search of a problem”. After reading many reviews and going into the store to take a look at the watch in person, I found the device wasn’t as great at health monitoring as I’d hoped, and the battery didn’t cut it either. I was hoping to be able to customize the home screen to remove the myriad of baked-in applications I’d never use (most of the apps – even third party ones – are useless), but they don’t allow you to do that. Overall, I feel that I don’t want to pay $1000 to beta test their watch for them. I’ll wait and see what the next model has in store. I’m currently using a Fitbit Surge, as that at least has a 5 day battery, GPS, and a myriad of health tracking features missing in the Apple Watch.