Thursday, 18 September 2014

Apple Watch

I’m not the least bit psychic but I’m predicting this will have a negligible effect on the mechanical watch industry, at least in the over US$249 end of the market. Maybe it will distract some of the demand for fake Rolexes. Horophiles are going to see this as a waste of valuable wrist space. My own feeling is that it is essentially a gadget with a clock for a screensaver.

Design wise, it’s as slick as we expect from Apple; and if they were compulsory I would choose the Milanese Loop version with the steel mesh band – only because I love Milanese bracelets! There is a multiplicity of bands coming so the chance of finding at least one you do like is high. Claims of a gold (as in the metal, not just colour!) version amuse me. The universal attraction of gold is its permanence and incorruptibility, whereas the point of consumer technology is its inbuilt obsolescence. A dead electronic device covered in gold is simply a waste of gold. Part of what sent me towards mechanical watch-making is today’s inverse ratio of technology to quality. The first mobile phones I had lasted for a couple of contracts and then got passed around several friends and relatives. But my last four phones, representing three brands including Apple, have not even lasted the two-year contract before malfunctioning. Mobile phone companies today are so paranoid we won’t upgrade every second year they now ensure their products won’t last that long so we are forced to get another one anyway.

And that is one of the greatest appeals of the mechanical watch industry: quality. There is a lot of respect commanded by companies that have existed since the 19th century, and make a product intended to last for generations. What other industry on earth is dominated by companies that are 180 or more years old?

The advent of quartz and the proliferation of time-telling mobile phones has sorted out what the mechanical watch is and isn’t. Anyone who buys a mechanical watch now does so in the face of everything that today’s technology offers, which they may well also be indulging in. They choose a mechanical watch because they want something that is powered by them, not something that is reliant on an electrical outlet and special cable and some large corporations’ ongoing permission.

The Apple Watch is not going to waylay the plans of the person who saves up for years and buys a Patek Philippe; or the person who wants a family heirloom; or the gift giver who wants to acknowledge a milestone; or the investor who stores it in a bank vault until it appreciates enough to sell for a profit; or the person who is enthralled by the microcosm of interconnected gears and cogs. Nor will it suffice for the person who wants to impress; and let’s face it, prestige watches are largely bought to impress others. No one is going to be impressed with an Apple Watch after five minutes

But as I said, I’m not the least bit psychic; and nothing perplexes me more than the motivations and opinions of the general public. Last night I passed a massive line of people camped out (tents and all) on the street in order to buy the new iPhone 6 released today. Now I myself have an iPhone, iMac and Macbook, but there is no way in hell I would spend even half an hour on the pavement queuing up for the privilege of buying Apple’s latest teething problem. So I could well be wrong, but I certainly would be astonished if this thing significantly affects the mechanical watch-making industry. I think the various crises of the past have reduced mechanical watch loving consumers down to a very dedicated population worldwide with enough demand to support an essentially Switzerland-sized supply.

Milanese Loop

Link Bracelet

Sport White

Benjamin Clymer has some great thoughts at Hodinkee's preview here

A Blog to Watch's review

If you're like me and love a good Milanese bracelet then check out:

IWC's Portofino Chronograph

Breitling's Transocean Day and Date

Breitling's Transocean Chronograph 38

Swatch's Irony Chrono Silverish or Blackie

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