Through the Look­ing Glass

THE AP­PLE WATCH IS NOW A RE­AL­ITY—AND IT HAS AL­READY DI­VIDED THE IN­DUS­TRY ABOUT ITS PO­TEN­TIAL IM­PACT. Sean Li PON­DERS IF THE DE­VICE MIGHT BE A GLIMPSE INTO THE FU­TURE RATHER THAN A MERE TIME­PIECE

Hong Kong Tatler - - Watches -

There’s lit­tle doubt that one of the most an­tic­i­pated an­nounce­ments this year was for the Ap­ple Watch. Mak­ing its de­but on Septem­ber 9, along­side the new iPhone, Ap­ple’s en­try into the nascent mar­ket­place for wear­able tech­nol­ogy was the sub­ject of much con­jec­ture. The watch in­dus­try couldn’t help but no­tice, as there were ru­mours swirling that Ap­ple had ap­proached a Swiss watch man­u­fac­turer to build the watch, though that was never con­firmed. While the iPhone images were roam­ing the web for weeks in ad­vance, there was nary a sight­ing of a watch—cer­tainly noth­ing re­lated to the prod­uct that Ap­ple ul­ti­mately un­veiled.

While I gen­er­ally fo­cus on finely crafted me­chan­i­cal time­pieces, the Ap­ple Watch is sig­nif­i­cant enough that I feel the in­dus­try would be re­miss to sim­ply dis­miss it out of hand. Will it have an im­me­di­ate im­pact on the watches that are avail­able in our favourite bou­tiques? It’s un­likely; the Ap­ple Watch is cer­tainly not go­ing to be held in the same light. It’s not that it’s not well crafted—if any­thing, Ap­ple has shown a knack for crafts­man­ship, and the company has a def­i­nite grasp on com­bin­ing func­tion­al­ity and user friend­li­ness that many have em­u­lated but few have been able to du­pli­cate.

What did grab my at­ten­tion, though, is that Ap­ple cer­tainly seemed to have done its home­work with the Ap­ple Watch. The company pre­sented a much more com­plete of­fer­ing, even if it’s not go­ing to be avail­able for a few months yet, than any­one could have ex­pected. You only need to look at the mul­ti­tude of strap of­fer­ings, the two case sizes (38mm and 42mm) and even the var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als that Ap­ple has al­ready said it would pro­duce—stain­less steel, di­a­mond­like car­bon (DLC) coated steel, alu­minium and gold. All th­ese are fa­mil­iar to those who have more than a pass­ing in­ter­est in watches. The ease of use with which the straps can be changed, and even the bracelet it­self, with a sim­ple push but­ton used to re­move in­di­vid­ual links, shows a watch-re­lated ma­tu­rity that

was quite un­ex­pected. Ques­tions still re­main about the bat­tery life; it’s an as­pect that’s been con­spic­u­ously ab­sent from any of Ap­ple’s pre­sen­ta­tions so far, other than show­ing the watch will be charged via a mag­netic pad with no vis­i­ble con­nec­tors. Per­haps this is why Ap­ple has been vague as well about the launch date, only re­fer­ring to “early 2015,” to al­low for more time to ad­dress the bat­tery life while gear­ing up for pro­duc­tion.

Ad­mit­tedly, I haven’t had a chance to see the prod­uct in per­son, but Ap­ple’s videos of the in­ter­face have given me a de­cent im­pres­sion of what could turn out to be the best smart­watch yet. The in­ter­face is an in­ter­est­ing mix be­tween the touch con­trols we’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to with iOS, along with a me­chan­i­cal com­po­nent through the dig­i­tal crown and as­so­ci­ated push but­ton. A lot of thought has gone into user in­ter­ac­tion and the way that the in­for­ma­tion the Ap­ple Watch will show its wearer is parsed, with a simplicity very much as­so­ci­ated with the ethos that Steve Jobs ob­sessed over.

What it doesn’t have is that his­tor­i­cal as­pect, the sense of ul­ti­mate crafts­man­ship in decades—nay, cen­turies—of ex­pe­ri­ence, and the true sense of won­der­ment you can en­joy by see­ing a tour­bil­lon or hear­ing the chimes of a minute re­peater. The Ap­ple Watch won’t be able to re­place that. But it doesn’t aim to do so, ei­ther. What it does pro­vide is a link to our fu­ture, one where the per­pet­ual con­nec­tion to our dig­i­tal space will be even more in­ter­twined in our daily lives. Per­haps it could lead to re­dress­ing the im­bal­ance that we can ob­serve in some places, where peo­ple are sit­ting to­gether all the while so en­grossed with the screens on their smart­phones that they might as well be worlds apart. The Ap­ple Watch could per­mit us to fil­ter the on­slaught of mes­sages and other crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion, and to re­spond to it quickly and dis­creetly.

This is the link that should per­haps con­cern the watch brands, for it’ll be the one that will be much more dif­fi­cult to sever in the not­too-dis­tant fu­ture. To­day’s watch col­lec­tors, en­thu­si­asts and buy­ers will not be look­ing to the Ap­ple Watch to re­place their prized time­pieces. How­ever, it might im­me­di­ately re­place the health band, or the rugged dig­i­tal watch worn while ex­er­cis­ing or par­tic­i­pat­ing in sports where a me­chan­i­cal time­piece isn’t suit­able. While past gen­er­a­tions ac­tu­ally had to con­sult the TV guide for their favourite shows or, more re­cently, used email rather than short bursts of text or images via so­cial me­dia to com­mu­ni­cate, the younger gen­er­a­tion are the ones that have never known a world with­out an in­ter­net con­nec­tion or on-de­mand video. This is the mar­ket that will be drawn to the new­ness and con­nec­tiv­ity of the Ap­ple Watch.

It’s a de­vice that’s also sure to evolve, per­haps more quickly than we can an­tic­i­pate. Just look at the iPod—it left many scratch­ing their heads when Ap­ple de­cided to branch out into dig­i­tal me­dia. To­day, the iTunes Store is the world’s largest mu­sic re­tailer and the iPod has be­come syn­ony­mous with por­ta­ble mu­sic, much as Sony’s Walk­man was for two decades be­fore it. I’m very cu­ri­ous to see the Ap­ple Watch in per­son, so I can judge for my­self whether it’s another Ap­ple prod­uct that opens a win­dow into the fu­ture.

ONE FOR EV­ERY­ONE The Ap­ple Watch comes in two sizes with var­i­ous straps and case ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing 18K rose gold and DLC-coated steel

The Ap­ple Watch is de­signed to work with the iPhone The watch’s apps are ar­ranged as bub­bles that zoom in and out when the crown is turned

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