The Apple Watch, or iWatch as it was initially baptised by the speculating Press has been in the mouth of fans, reporters and gadget enthusiasts long before it appeared in real as a saleable product. I believe this dates back to the days His Jobness was still alive and kicking. Eventually the watch saw the light under the name Apple Watch, and after being gradually launched into the world markets, it must have sold several million pieces by now, as we speak. Apple won't provide actual volumes shipped, but I saw articles projecting anything between 10 and 50 million pieces to be sold in the first year. A press article last July speculated a billion dollar revenue had already been achieved from sales back then, but this figure was indirectly deduced from known incremental sales of a set of products among which the watch was one. Well, Apple is Apple, and any product it will create will typically sell in the (tens of) millions no matter what, even if it turned out to be a flop. So, for a company with $230B most recent known annual revenue, selling 10 million watches in a first year is not much of a guarantee of future triumphs. So I thought, surprisingly becoming a sceptic for the first time ever about an Apple designed product since the inception of the very company. Indeed.
Contrary to my traditional geek fan (fan as in fanatic) approach vis-à-vis any product designed by Apple, I have not been much of a Watch enthusiast from the very moment it was leaked to the press. I don't know why, but something felt like this thing was never going to cut it for consumers. Not because of lack of design, functionality, robustness or innovation. For sure, all these were going to be Apple-like, that is the best anyone could ever conceive and manufacture. It was the watch's purposefulness I was and still am sceptic about.
By now, we all know that the iPhone and all so-called smartphones are not only about calling people on a phone anymore. Actually, from the start, from the launch of the GSM technology wave, cellphones have been offered with enhanced functionality that went far beyond than merely talking remotely to people. They sought from early on to replace the so-called PDAs of the times, the Personal Digital Assistants. That extra functionality defined the very competitive advantage among the dominant cellphone suppliers back then. Nevertheless cellphones still remain tools for old fashioned telephone communication between human beings, but far beyond than calling grandma and grandpa, they have become a much sought after Swiss knife in a contemporary consumer's daily life. They provide all sorts of information to our finger tips that no generation before ours have ever experienced. The wealth and reach of the information provided has never been equaled by any electronics device ever before. The new mobile phone, the smartphone (actually any phone that mimics and impersonates the iPhone, introduced by Jobs in January 2007) became a disruptive game-changer in the telecom industry for ever. It did to the traditional cellphones what digital photography did to the film.
Is Apple's new wearable, the Apple Watch, going to enjoy the same re-write of the watch history and seriously disrupt and change the industry, as did the iPhone to the traditional cellphone markets? It might somehow, by I have no idea how far reaching this will be in changing our watch wearing habits, culture and beliefs. Does anyone deep in one's heart believe that it is going to push to the corner of irrelevance names like Omega, Rolex, Breitling, Tag Heuer, IWC, Hublot and Panerai? Hmmm... I sincerely doubt this. Here's why.
I always believed that the new generation, the millennials for instance, and those who'll follow, don't/won't wear watches much. Their mom and dad will have probably bought them a smartphone before their wrist developed a size suitable to fit a descent watch's band. If they want to tell the time, a quick look at their smartphone will inform them all they will ever wanna know. As for mature people like myself, who still remember the times of analog landline telephone devices, a watch has never been for just telling the time. It has been a piece of precious jewellery instead, for many of us still hanging around. It's been a statement of persona. Especially to men, who don't typically carry much precious metal jewellery to fit their body parts other than a (wedding) ring and a watch. Well, some might still wear a subtle earring on one lobe. Timepieces, as the Swiss call their world famous brand watches that have been handcrafted with pride for hundreds of years in relatively small workshops many of which still operate in traditional villages high up the Jura mountains, are meant to keep time and make a persona statement. Impeccably, with insane accuracy, almost perpetually. Electronics cannot and will never fit this Timepiece concept.
You must pay a small fortune for such a watch, entirely mechanical, handcrafted by real people, a genuine Timepiece made in Switzerland indeed. I appreciate this approach because it has an element of "the human factor" in it. The knowledge that a real person with outstanding crafting skills has worked the mechanics and put together the miniature components of infinitesimal tolerances to build a celebrity brand watch, this feeling indeed makes you profoundly appreciate the value of such a piece in ways that you will never ever do for a product of contemporary electronics, mass manufactured in China, with its heart and soul run by software, no matter how compelling its functionality can be. Is it then because such Timepieces unfold pages of the past, when craftsmen were still human, and their crafts were universally valued, that we are still prepared to spend even tens of thousands of dollars on such timepieces? Swatch, very much Swiss watchmakers themselves, early on realised they could never be able to challenge the known brands in durability, craftsmanship, and price, and therefore jumped to capture the other market end, offering dead cheap watches of some design that could be worn as prêt-à-porter and be changed like... underwear. In fact Swatch invited consumers to buy not only one watch, but several, and keep collecting them while the company massively supplied new models and designs in unstoppable fashion. And 30 years later they still do this, like the life of the company depended on this. Which it probably does.
Despite my initial scepticism, during moments of severe boredom and for lack of other compelling gadgets to buy, I eventually went out to purchase... an Apple Watch afterall, however, the cheapest model of all. I bought a 42 mm model (and still need my reading glasses to be able to read the screen messages properly), 469 euro's in all, incl. VAT! Among other, I wanted to find out for myself about whether it was going to become another iPhone or a flop Newton PDA instead.
After a week of using it, I found that it deserves some credit after all, and you could own one among your other watches for sure, it's OK looking and all, but it needs an iPhone in the neighbourhood for full functionality, and it will definitely never be anything like a known brand Swiss Timepiece. Despite it's attractive design and functionality. It is also, even for an Apple product, quite expensive. I mean the basic and cheapest model, let alone the insanely priced in the tens of thousands dollars Watch Edition pieces. What were they thinking when they launched those? You could buy a small car instead. Even spoiled Arab peninsula princes won't promptly jump to own any of those, I think. From what I heard, these folks are universally loyal to the most expensive IWC's money can buy. I wonder how many Edition pieces Apple is going to eventually sell. Even those dressed with an Hermes band. A cute combination maybe, but at what a price indeed.
Do I still use mine? Well, yes, for the time being. I will revisit this post in six months and update you. Most likely I will have fallen back to one of my low-end Swiss Timepieces by then, I reckon. Let's wait and see.