Hi everyone! I’m Nikki, Steve’s girlfriend. I help Steve with Denver Watch Geek sometimes, and will make a few guest appearances in the DWG blog. My interest in the watch world is sourced (and usually filtered) through Steve. I am mostly an outsider, which will hopefully make for some interesting blog posts with a little bit different perspective than you might see on typical watch blogs.
That being said, I’ll admit it: I don’t have a mechanical watch. I don’t think Steve will let me live my entire life, let alone the next couple years, being able to say that, but for now – I have owned Timex, Swatch, Fitbit – and now – Apple Watch (specifically the Wifi Series 3, 38mm version). Fortunately enough for me, the Apple Watch is a fairly hot button topic in the watch world. I don’t have much of a prediction about the role Apple Watch will play in the mechanical watch market – for that, look at any other watch blog in the world. I’m sure they will give you a thoroughly well thought-out, strong opinion. If you don’t care to Google it, here’s one of my favorites from Ben Clymer at HODINKEE.
However, I will comment on the Apple Watch as a techie and owner.
Is it worth it?
When I was a freshman in college, one of my close friends was a Google fan. No, he was THE Google fan. He was a Google Ambassador, had the Google Chromebook before it was any good (did it ever get any good?), and got in vehement arguments with anybody that questioned Google’s reputation. So when Google Glass first came out, he got a pair – even before it was available to the public. He just knew people. To me, it seemed like an over-expensive piece of unnecessary technology. To him, it would change the way people would relate to technology. He preached what I’ll call the Technological Paradox: the more technology you have, the less you notice it. It came down to this: by seeing your email and text notifications pop up in front of your face, you can decide in an instant whether you want to pay attention to it or get to it later. Because 98% of emails aren’t urgent, you can usually continue with your day until you sit down purposefully to tackle your inbox. However, with handheld technology, i.e. smartphones, whenever you check a notification, you open a virtual Pandora’s Box of distractions: before you know it, you’ve opened up Facebook, checked Instagram, and gone so deep into your email you forgot why you picked up your phone in the first place. Oh yeah! I wanted to Google the height of that actor I like. (FYI: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is 5’9″)
The concept made sense and I could also see how it was affecting my friend’s life: he did seem generally less distracted than most of my classmates and even had some awesome first-person videos of him going about his day. However, he was also the type of guy that loved preaching the Google mantra whenever anybody would ask him about his futuristic glasses. And even he got annoyed when every other person he ran into asked to try on his $1,500 glasses. The issue with Google Glass was not the concept: indeed, the idea of making notifications more accessible to reduce distractions holds true. However, the obnoxiously conspicuous hardware (and hefty price) made it difficult for average consumers to access.
Does Apple Pay the Price?
Apple, however, took the idea of the Technological Paradox and made a product that was a lot more accessible: the Apple Watch. Google’s mistake was thinking “most accessible = in front of your face” while Apple understood that strapping a wearable piece of technology to your body makes it just about as accessible. The added bonus of being less expensive and an aesthetic not straight out of Star Trek meant true accessibility to most consumers.
However, if Apple had just miniaturized the iPhone display and slapped a watch band on it, nobody would be interested. The keyboard would be useless, as well as most apps. Not to mention, there simply would not be enough people seeing wearable technology as the potentially freeing device it can be. To most, it would be just another display to monitor. Instead, Apple limited the apps and expanded features no phone could realistically compete with. You can receive texts and calls, but instead of attempting to fit a keyboard on the screen, you have to either scribble individual letters or dictate a response. It encourages you not to think of the watch as another phone display, but rather just as a ping to let you know what’s going on. You can check the weather, look at your calendar, listen to some music (with bluetooth headphones), or, of course, check the time. However, it does not have the full capabilities of an iPhone – encouraging you to limit your interaction with technology while on the go, saving complete responses for moments when you have time to set aside. Apple nails the Technological Paradox.
The most interesting capability the Apple Watch offers, in my opinion, is its capabilities to track health. I may be biased, as I just started going to a new gym the same week I received my Apple Watch, but these capabilities are unrivaled. It maintains a constant track of your heart rate and relative elevation, which currently caters to exercise nuts. Soon enough, the technology Apple will integrate into this feature will become essential to anybody with heart concerns or maybe even anybody with health insurance. Already, there is a feature for the watch to notify you when your heart rate jumps without any sign of exercise. Imagine this: an option to opt-in to your health insurance tracking your heart rate, or maybe just a summary, for a reduced rate. Just like cameras in automobiles for reduced auto insurance – not for everybody, but great for those that just want to show their insurance they’re doing their job.
Okay, maybe that’s a little too Brave New World, so imagine this: you have a history of heart disease in your family, but your yearly check-ups don’t show any signs of danger. You start wearing an Apple Watch and begin receiving notifications a few months in that you’re showing signs of heart palpitations. You go in to the doctor, verify their access to your heart data, and they look into exactly when those palpitations are occurring. They could potentially give you advanced warning of heart issues…or warn you to take a breather when you’re stressed out at work. Apple is already working on this kind of data with the Apple Heart Study at Stanford. Regardless of the effect Apple Watch may or may not have on the mechanical watch market, the potential impact on health data is impressive.
Digitized Rolex Face vs. Rolex?
No, I don’t expect many watch geeks will be switching over to Apple Watch full-time soon. You can’t geek out about the movement or accuracy – it’s good at what it does, but it is no mechanical wonder. The reality is that Apple Watch and mechanical watches appeal to very different markets: one is “average consumer” and maybe primarily interested in technology. The other has already shown a preference for long-lasting pieces of hand-assembled pieces – very much not what Apple symbolizes. As Ben Clymer pointed out in his article (above), Apple Watch isn’t competing with Rolex or Omega; it is competing with Fossil (and I would add Timex, Garmin, and Fitbit). For me, I am debating the future of my interest in mechanical watches: while Steve has promised a Nomos in the next few years, what will I do with my Apple Watch? Wear it only for workouts? But then it defeats the purpose of receiving notifications. The Apple Watch may mean that I will only wear mechanical watches for special events or in the evenings. I know Steve has debated the Apple Watch as well. For most men, the idea of being able to leave your phone at home (with cellular models) is extremely appealing. (I say most men as a generalization – I would leave my phone in my purse anyway, so it is not especially freeing for me.) In the end, Steve would still need his phone to take photos, respond to emails on the go, and use websites inaccessible on the Apple Watch. He would also rather wear his Rolex GMT-Master II to the gym anyway. I would imagine most mechanical watch owners simply don’t have a compelling reason to wear the Apple Watch on a regular basis, despite the idea that it is an innovative piece of technology.
Don’t expect to see Denver Watch Geek selling or buying Apple Watches anytime soon. They are still an Apple product – short term and factory-produced. However, for non-watch geeks like myself, they are potentially the future of our interaction with technology (and super fun to wear, to boot).