Monday, April 13, 2015

Why the Apple Watch is a Non-Starter for Me

Judging by the press it received on the Internet this past week, apparently Jesus is delivering Apple Watches to people one at a time, along with a bit of salvation.  But for all of the hoopla and my fervent devotion to Apple (I am a happy owner of an iMac, Apple TV, iPad, and an iPhone; my wife is an academic and well, they get such good discounts its hard to buy something else), the Apple Watch is just a non-starter for me.  It is the exact opposite of what I want in a watch, and right now I am on a serious watch hunt.

Andrew of 555 Gear and new cohost on GGL put it best--you buy a watch so that you can get to know it and it will serve you for the rest of your life.  A good mechanical watch, in a way, is not just an anachronism in the modern marketplace filled with quartz, it is also a consumer good anachronism.  It is already obsolete and that, in a way, makes it impossible for a mechanical watch to fall into the mill of planned obsolescence that is the beating heart of modern consumer goods (and Apple's long term growth strategy...I am on my THIRD iPhone).  You aren't buying a mechanical watch because it is the latest and greatest, you are buying it because it offers an experience that is the opposite of seeking the bleeding edge (though of course there is a lot of good tech in watches...).  

At this point I want a watch I can wear and beat up and count on.  I want a watch that doesn't need a firmwear update or a charging cord.  I want a watch that I can glance at and see the time, and nothing else.  I want at watch that keeps me on schedule, not distract me from a task at hand with Instagram, Twitter, and email notifications.  I have a phone that does all that.  And when I am in a situation that calls for me to look at my watch, it is the exact opposite situation of one where I can look at my phone.  

This is not to say that the Apple Watch is a bad product or even something that I would never buy.  If I were in the market for a FitBit or a G-Shock, I'd prefer an Apple Watch.  But given what I am looking for right now--a simple, robust, mechanical watch, the Apple Watch holds no sway over me.  This does:

Image courtesy of Sinn Watches
In a way, the Apple Watch has helped crystalize what I want in a watch.  I don't want it to do everything, I want it to do one thing, tell time, and an automatic watch does that very well, even without (or perhaps because it is lacking) an LED screen and a Wi-Fi connection.  I want something that is off the grid, something that works as well in the woods as it does in the rest of the world.  

But also want something that won't appear on the wrist of every human on earth within three years.  This isn't (solely) a desire to be different or a trend busting drive.  It just happens to be that I don't like the look of the Apple Watch more than I do the clean clear face of something like the Sinn 556 (the watch above).  I have enough sqaure, rounded over, bubble things in my daily existence. I want a bit of the real, and something that feels and looks substantial, as oppose to something that looks like a tin for breath mints.  

You might be happy lining up at the Apple Store, but for me, I'm hoping the Damasko DA36 goes on sale (sure, not going to happen, I know).

26 comments:

  1. One has to buy an iphone (or any smartphone really) every four or five years. Buttons wear out (and can't be fixed) firmware exceeds the capabilities of the hardware, etc. The same for laptops, tablets, etc. We've sacrificed repair-ability for portability. I feel ok with that tradeoff - a laptop with user replaceable parts can never be as compact and power efficient as my Macbook.

    But any watch that isn't digital and costs more than fifty bucks (the minimum price of a digital watch approved for use in the ISS, which I think is a pretty decent benchmark for durability) is a piece of jewelry. Jewelry with a function, but jewelry nonetheless. And a part of me finds the idea of having to replace my watch every year to the tune of +/-500 bucks a pop an anathema - especially when you can get some very decent Swiss watches with workhorse, time and tested movements at that price. For example, my wife has a pair of diamond earrings that she inherited from her grandmother. There is no "upgrade" for these, there is nothing inherent about them that needs updating. A watch that can't function as a watch basically forever (except for replacement batteries/movement repair) isn't a watch I would wear. I don't understand why Apple doesn't allow for the option of using the watch as an ordinary, radio controlled timepiece after its useful life as an iPhone accessory comes to an end. Because, let's be real, the first Apple Watch will not be compatible with the iPhone 10 (or 9, maybe even 8).

    The Apple Watch isn't a watch - it's a gadget. As sexy and desirable as gadgets get, but a gadget regardless, with a gadget's shortened lifespan.

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  2. I agree with this article to a point. How many people nowadays even use a timepiece? If I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me for the time I would be rich. You would think with rampant cellphone use they would fish it out unless their battery was dead ( OOPS! ). The reason I buy quartz watches is because they are relatively cheap. Once the battery runs out it is cheaper to buy a new one then replace it. Most digital or quartz watches have a a five and even up to ten year battery life for less than $30. But to get a decent mechanical watch that DOES NOT use a battery under $50 is impossible. So for me anything above $50 defeats the purpose of a relatively economical timepiece. In which I would then consider it either jewelery or an overbuilt gadget.

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    1. The Seiko 5 observer-style watch costs $52 on Amazon, and it has a time-tested durable automatic movement. Mine has been running for nearly half a decade without service. Also, I've never paid more than $15 for quartz watch service/battery replacement... I (gently) suggest you stop throwing away your watches and get something you'll want to keep on your wrist for years!

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    2. Yep, and as I mentioned below, you can buy a batter for under $3 and change it yourself in a couple minutes.

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  3. There was a time when I would have agreed with you. I own lots of timepieces. Most of them mechanical. Many of them high-end. Rolex, Breitling, Omega, to name a few. For the past 6 months I've been wearing almost exclusively an LG G Watch R. It's a $300 "Android Wear" smartwatch. Basically the Android equivalent of the Apple Watch. I bought it as an experiment, knowing fully that its disposable technology. But I underestimated the convenience of being able to view and archive emails, view and reply to texts, receive and respond to calendar notifications, and more -- all without taking my phone out of my pocket. This huge added convenience has made my timepiece collection gather dust. And that is something I never thought would be the case. If my current phone were an iPhone, I'd almost certainly be getting an Apple Watch...even though I'd hate looking like a mindless follower. And I'd only consider their cheapest version, since again, you're buying into planned obsolescence, and the more costly versions do nothing additional techologically.

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    1. Hence the irony. We wear watches to keep track of how valuable a commodity time is. This is especially as one gets older. Punching the clock seems less and less important than finally punching out. So regardless of the type of timepiece I can afford I certainly do not think apps, which monopolize my precious time, should be readily convenient. I use a watch to keep track of my time and not take more away from my life. My philosophy and opinion about apps is a whole different story for another day.

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    2. Can't argue with that. People now can't even imagine a time before everyone carried a phone around in their pockets....

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  4. Lots of good points in T's editorial and the comments. Although, the anonymous person with the quartz watches should buy the batteries and change them him/herself. A cheap quartz watch may cost $30 but a battery should be less than $3.

    I bought that Sinn last year and have been enjoying it. I considered the Damaso, but the Sinn had several adv. to me:
    1) Size: the Damaso is a little larger (diameter and thickness).
    2) Strap/bracelet. At the time Damaso didn't make a steel bracelet. They do now, and it may be the best bracelet out there, but it's very expensive.
    3) Function: I don't wear the same watch every day and it's a pain to have to set the day and date if you don't. Sinn has a date but not the day. I'd prefer to even have no day, particularly if it meant the watch could be slimmer.
    4) Looks: I prefer the the simple markers and colors of the Sinn's face.

    The Damaso is a bit tougher, but the Sinn is plenty tough for me.

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    1. It is agreed that installation of a watch battery is much cheaper than taking it to a jeweller to do it. At that point then it is about cost benefit analysis if it is even worth the trouble? Am I going to be so stingy and miserly, based on a sub - average income, to care? If I amortize a sub $50 watch over five to ten years it works out to less than three cents a day or below nil for the life of it's usage. That is pretty damn good in my book. Considering the watch is going to get beat up and abused to finally fail I might as well get a new and possibly upgraded one for the next five to ten years. There may be a new improved model out with inflation priced in. Or, I can even get an older model turned retro for even cheaper. I don't mind people looking at me funny or the heckles, frankly. Either way it is an upgrade and I can still enjoy a brand new timepiece. I, also, have a tendency to get the metal or chromed quartz digital timepieces as I feel they are more robust. With solar the longevity of the functionality gets even further extended. Bonus! The battery life almost becomes a moot point. Still, I would like to have a cheap mechanical that is reliable for nostalgia's sake. Even the quartz mechanicals rarely fall under $50 and their functionality are limited.

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    2. I have a few vintage automatic watches bought on eBay for $20 incl shipping. They've run for years w/o service. Better for the environment and you're not supporting companies that treat their workers badly.

      Do a search for Swiss automatics on eBay and have them display the cheapest ones first. You'll find tons.

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    3. Awesome! Thanks for the tip. I will do that. All the best.

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  5. Further to this, unless I become Jack Reacher and learn to rely on my internal clock, it would still be nice to keep track of the time. If one does not want to rely on mechanical movement or quartz one can always get one of these. They can be passed on for generations unless the sun becomes a red giant or there is some kind of galactic shift. By then owning a timepiece will likely become a moot point due to the inherent impermanence of reality itself.

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/e56d/?srp=96

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  6. I'm so torn on the topic of smart watches. I love technology and I am fascinated by mobile technology in particular. I am someone who SHOULD be the target market for a smart watch. So why do I despise the thought of wearing one right now?

    I think you verbalized part of my problem very well, Tony - I don't want something on my wrist to distract me even more than I already am, I just want something to tell me the time at a glance.

    Another part of me thinks there is something there with smart watches, but the tech is immature and the developers just haven't really figured out a great use for it. Right now I see a smart watch as having all the drawbacks of my smart phone (daily charging, too-frequent distractions) without providing any added convenience or technology, and at the same time it does not provide the simple, focused functionality of a traditional watch (reliable, works all the time, tells me exactly what I want to know immediately). But what if I only have to charge it monthly, and the screen stays on all the time, and a clever developer thinks of a novel function specific to the smart watch/wearable platform? I think a smart watch is in my future, but for the first few generations of the tech I will continue to wear my Seiko auto.

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    1. I too will prob. end up getting one in a couple years once the bugs are worked out.

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  7. "I want a watch that I can glance at and see the time, and nothing else...If I were in the market for a FitBit or a G-Shock, I'd prefer an Apple Watch."

    Funny, that's exactly why I have an atomic/solar square G-Shock: glance at it and read the time, zero maintenance. I straight-up suck at reading analog clock faces quickly—it's truly pathetic. I feel like it's a tiny math problem every time I look at it. :-)

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    1. Funny, I'm the exact opposite! With my aging eyes, I can glance at my analog watch faces and instantly realize the time but my g-shocks and the like just look like a bunch of tiny 8's until I reach for my glasses. It just goes to show there is a device to serve everyone. :-)

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    2. I was going to make the same comment. My G-Shocks get more wear than my mechanical watches, except for the vintage Seamaster I wear to work.

      Time updates automatically every day, solar recharge, etc. Despite wearing G-Shocks surfing, biking, shooting, hiking, lifting, and working on my car, they all look as good as new, whereas my stainless Rolex "sports watch" that I don't engage in sports with looks well worn.

      Given that a G-Shock can run hard for 10 years without a battery change or time adjustment, or any maintenance, I'd say getting a mechanical watch is more about appreciating the craft and personal style preferences than practical purchasing reasoning.

      No matter how robust, reliable, or simple in design or function, a mechanical watch will never match the accuracy of a quartz watch getting atomic signals every night. It will never match the durability because of the moving parts. It will require service every few years, while the quartz requires nothing. Etc. You can even get an analog atomic G-Shock.

      Yet there is the beauty of pushing the various limits of antiquated technology. How cool and fascinating are automatons? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7oSFNKIlaM

      I love my automatics. I still need to add a manual wind to the collection - I'm looking for a "real" Speedmaster.

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  9. I'm an Apple fan, MacBook Pro user. Reliable, good repair service when needed, and overall longer lasting than PCs of my friends. No iPhone yet, just a cheap Android, but the watch is more tech than I need. I can see how it would fit many people's lifestyles, though. That is the real decider. Plus personal preferences/prejudices/philosophies. That's why we have horse races.

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