Watching The Watch

I think an awful lot about wrists.

I watch the spans of wrists and their thickness. I watch the sizes of things people wear, which require sliding over their hands (in which case I also watch their hands) and things, which can be strapped on to wrists.

It is the (jewellery) business, you see.

Cuffs that must be open enough to be slid sideways on to the wrists but not open so big that they slide off unnoticed by the wearer. If a closed bracelet, then how much circumference of wrist should we design for, so that it doesn’t hang off smaller wrists and yet not too tight for bigger wrists? Oddly enough hardly any anthropometric data is available on wrists in the public domain. But Apple chaps researched watchmaking and I am sure somewhere they found this information.

No matter what, the new Apple Watch face (not case, the face) at 38mm for small and 42mm for large is just too big. For dainty wrists, at least.

Steel and gold are not really imaginative choices for “fashion”, and pairing them with coloured rubber straps is meh. Not sure whom Apple visualises as their customer but it cannot have been many who live beyond Silicon Valley, which, let’s face it, is hardly the mecca for fashion. The “modularity” of swapping wrist bands is funky but not necessarily fashionable. No wonder despite bringing fabulous fashion editors — the grand dame Suzy Menkes and Vogue UK’s editor Alexandra Shulman — to California, the commentary is at best lukewarm. As a friend pointed out, it takes chutzpah to ask these editors to fly all the way — and to piss them off — just as they are coming off New York Fashion Week and going to London Fashion Week, which are more crucial to their businesses than the latest gadget.

And there was no Angela (Ahrendts) on stage, which hasn’t won Apple any fans.

Back to wrists. If I want to strap an iPod Nano to my wrist, I will go a step further and buy a Panerai or U-boat or some similar shit. If I want to buy a well-engineered watch, for its engineering, the choices are many.

I have never been able to get excited about digital watches. Nor do I find the prospect of wrist-gazing — is it an upgrade on navel gazing? I wonder! — very exciting. To me, watches are a thing of beauty and precision engineering, and conversation starters. They also show time, and there are plenty of people left on the planet, who can tell the time by looking at watch hands rather than read the numbers off a display, I find.

Jonathan Ive reportedly collects Patek Philippe. Which, as we all know, you “merely look after for the next generation”.

And by “next generation”, Patek doesn’t mean the next Apple product announcement.


The flip side. Naturally.

“My prediction is this will bomb”, said a friend, who is not technology-phobic, nor a random naysayer or Apple-hater.

For what it is worth, and regardless of the Apple Watch’s low fashion cred, worse style cred, I don’t think it will.

It is one of the first to risk its high profile brand and its loyal following by creating a near-fashionable wearable technology product. I mean, one look at Google Glass and the Apple Watch suddenly looks quite low-key, wearable.

But more to the point, Apple leverages its existing platform, to begin with, with a health app. Monitoring one’s heart rate and activity is non-intrusively built in and well, with its chunky appearance, the Apple Watch looks comfortably much like the Polar heart rate monitors that some of us are used to wearing.

I also like the reinvention of some known-knowns, as it were. For instance, the morphing of the watch crown into a digital crown. Those, who don’t wear watches but have experienced the click-wheel (yes, that), will not find it alien. Those, who do wear watches, are already used to twiddling with it and may be delighted with the new uses it can be put to. Then there is the finger movement driven control of things that many iPhone and MacBook users are used to, which has been incorporated into the watch as the tap and the press.

Humans don’t necessarily interact with words alone. The ability to send a pulse to someone you are thinking of is cute (if somewhat limiting because that someone must also own an Apple Watch!). And ironic because one will likely only ever want to send a “pulse” to someone, who makes us skip one. The being is in the not-being (to wax philosophical a bit).

As a platform, the Apple Watch has enormous potential. Between the Apple ecosystem and the possibilities of haptics.


So what about it then?

It is an Apple. It tempts. Sometimes it succeeds.

With my tinkerer hat on, I am curious to buy it and play with it. With my jeweller hat on, I will likely restrict its wearing to my walks and Pilates outings and possibly weekends.

I still maintain that 38mm is too big for my wrist. Then again as enormous watches go, $349 (or whatever it will sell for in the UK) isn’t going to buy me a Breitling.

For now I am watching the Watch.

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