Should you buy an Apple Watch or a Rolex?
People seemed amused and even offended by the price of the new Apple Watch Ultra, which is around £849.00. Yet no one seems to bat an eye at an £84,900 Rolex - which has one function: keeping time.
We thought this was interesting enough to warrant an exploration of the differences between the two.
It took almost 600 years for us to figure out how to scale down a clock and fit them to a wrist strap so they could be transported portably.
By contrast, there was just 31 years between the Macintosh computer and the significantly more powerful Apple Watch.
Would you rather strap a little clock to your wrist, or a little computer?
A mechanical watch will typically depreciate the moment you buy it. After a few years it will level out and maintain a consistent value. Some watches will appreciate in value.
A smart watch will depreciate from the moment you buy it, and continue to depreciate as new models with better technology replace it, eventually becoming redundant.
A luxury watch bought today can (should) last you a lifetime. It might also last your child's lifetime, and your grandchild's lifetime, provided it's serviced every 10 years or so.
A mechanical watch is far more resistant to the elements than an Apple Watch - which can easily be destroyed in a hard drop or extreme weather. There are some pretty tough smartwatches available though.
The tech industry innovates at a much greater rate than the luxury watch industry. New devices released every year quickly take over product lines. As the hardware ages, the battery degrades, the device slows down, and the manufacturer ceases supporting it with OS updates.
In terms of functionality, the smartwatch is king. Not only can it keep time; it can set alarms and timers, track sleep, steps and heart rate, make calls, send messages, make payments, stream music and video, and many more really useful things.
Both types of watches are available in a range of styles, sizes and materials; each with a distinct look and feel, depending on the brand.
A Rolex, Omega, Cartier, or Patek Phillipe watch each have their own distinct aesthetic and character, as do more affordable brands such as Seiko, Cassio or Timex.
You could argue that smartwatches are more homogenous. Even so, Apple, Samsung, Garmin, FitBit, and Google each have their own unique, signature style. Plus you can change your watch face every day, which is pretty cool.
To complete an outfit, it's hard to beat a traditional watch. Anyone can appreciate the classic style and workmanship of a ticking timepiece. There is something magical about hundreds of tiny parts moving in unison to produce a precise reading.
A luxury watch is a signal of wealth or prestige. Dropping tens-of-thousands on a watch has long been the ultimate status signal. Rappers simply cannot flex their $600 Apple Watch.
Perhaps smartwatches will become more fashionable in time; through both improvements in design and craftmanship, but also with shifts in public perception and trends.
But who's to say we can't have a platinum watch with a custom diamond-encrusted bezel that perfectly resembles a luxury swiss watch AND has fitness tracking and notifications?
Sounds like a new ultra-luxury market in the making.
Perhaps having to charge a smartwatch every day or two is a tad inconvenient, just as having to manually wind an old watch was. But the tech is only going to get better.
Smartwatches are young: The Pulsar Time Computer Calculator was released in 1976. The Timex Datalink - the first product that we would consider a smartwatch - came in 1994. The Apple watch changed the game and set the stage for the future of wearables - but this was just 7 years ago, in 2015.
Wristwatches on the other hand, have been ticking along since 1868.
Smartwatches aren't going to replace luxury mechanical watches any time soon. They just aren't the same thing... Smartwatches utilise technology to create functional and practical products. Luxury watches utilise rare materials to craft a beautiful piece of jewellery.
Perhaps both technologies can co-exist in harmony, with the upper-middle class opting to regularly switch between the two as required, or even wear one of each on opposing wrists (Yes, that's a thing)!
Notice how they have mostly replaced digital watches though, which are now reserved for athletic over-60s. Something like a Garmin Forerunner just does it all better, and is relatively inexpensive. And no one was ever winning over girls at the bar with their digital watch.
One thing is for sure: smartwatches aren't going anywhere. Amongst other wearables, they have tons of potential, and are the future of tech. Manufacturers will innovate, and products will continue to improve at a rapid rate. Mechanical watches simply cannot improve that much, unless of course they integrate smart technology - a hybrid watch if you will.
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