Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Watch this

The challenge for the Apple Watch is actually more than one.

Here’s what’s on my wrist right now:

It seems like it would be really easy to convince me to consolidate into an Apple Watch, but that’s actually not true.  

The Apple Watch doesn’t really remind me of a watch that I would wear.  I like Franck Muller-style blocky, rectangular watches, and I’m sure someone will come up with an Apple Watch theme that can make the face look like one, but I don’t wear a tank watch and it’s not what I think about when I think about owning and wearing something on a daily basis.  My vision of the watch that I wear is something classically round and refined and that’s not what the Apple Watch looks or feels like to me.

There are only 3 Apple Watches.  Sure, they can (and will) be customized with not only the straps made by Apple, but those that are made by other Apple accessory makers.  Frankly, I would imagine that there will be a market created to do cool things to the exterior of the watch casing — if you don’t believe me, just Google about Rolexes and PVD coating; the industry already exists, you just don’t know about it yet.  For that matter, take a look at all the companies that sell customized versions of high-end watches that have jewels embedded into the casing, etc.

The watch that you wear is and has been a badge.  I don’t need a watch that is submersible to 4,000ft below sea level with a helium release valve any more than anyone needs a Mont Blanc pen to sign documents.  In my opinion, at least until the point that this changes, the watch has been as much a piece of visible jewelry as it has been functional.  Watches are extremely visible badges and ways to allow people to label you and you to label yourself.  If you buy into the Apple Watch and try to fit it to that mold, the reality is that you will be badging yourself with one of only three (for now) models … no matter how much you sink into customizing it.  Consider the fact that there are 8.7 million results on Google when you input “unique engagement ring” — visible jewelry has always seemed to have a need to feel unique.

Luxury wristwatches are all about the story that you tell yourself when you buy and wear the watch.  The story I tell myself about my watch is that it is tough and timeless and recognizable and functional when a SCUBA dive.  Of course, I can SCUBA dive with a sub-$50 watch and achieve the same result, but it’s the rest of the story that makes me wear my watch and that made me invest in it to begin with.  From the time that I was in high school, my yardstick of success was getting to a point where I could afford my watch without it being a major budgetary issue.  I also tell myself that my watch is portable wealth: it’s immediately recognizable anywhere in the word and exchangeable for local currency and even if the value placed on it isn’t the same as the value I place on it, I know that I’ll be walking away with more than I would wearing a generic G-shock.

One thing about luxury wristwatches that people that don’t care about luxury wristwatches don’t know about is the mechanism.  For the most part, while you do have to get a nice watch serviced, you do not have to plug it in or get a battery replaced — the mechanism inside the watch stores energy when you wear it and basically will allow it to run perpetually (that’s the reason why luxury watch brands such as Rolex call their mechanisms “perpetual”).  Typically when I’ve worn watches that have required battery replacement, I basically throw them in a drawer when they stop working.  Having an everyday wear piece of jewelry that actually has to be plugged in an charged, no matter how cool the charging mechanism might be, it potentially problematic for how I envision my watch to work.

I did not start out with a Fitbit Flex, but now I wear it pretty religiously.  The funny part is that I have no issue wearing it on exactly the same wrist as my watch — I actually like the story that I tell when I have both on the same wrist because it’s an interesting juxtaposition of wearable fitness technology and classic design and function.  Also, I have the ability to detach one from the other: I can choose to not wear the watch, not wear the Fitbit or not wear either one or switch either one to an opposite wrist.  Note that I’ve definitely had issues keeping my Flex charged and remembering to put it back on my wrist when I take it off to charge it.

What Apple is going to have to do is make the Apple Watch something that I cannot live without.  Make the watch so much a part of the ecosystem that it becomes a tool that I absolutely have to use because it improves my workflow and becomes a part of my life.

PS — I’ve found the silent alarm feature of my Fitbit Flex to be hard to live without, especially when I’m on a tour bus or sharing a room with people on different schedules.

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