A lot of people evidently want to buy an Apple Watch.
The party line from the traditional watch industry has been that this is no big deal, that the Apple Watch isn’t really a watch but more of a gadget or a geeky plaything and that the world of “real” watches has nothing to worry about.
Maybe. We got some indications recently, reported by Business Insider’s Lianna Brinded, that the arrival of the Apple Watch has at least stalled the pace of purchasing in the luxury watch world.
There’s one contingent of the watch-buying public that likely won’t have much use for an Apple Watch: people who need a very tough timepiece.
The Apple Watch looks to have a lot going for it, but robustness isn’t one of its selling points. We’ve heard that it was designed to be relatively durable — obviously able to stand up to workout demands — but even if Tim Cook says he showers with his watch on, that’s not a risk I’d want to take. Modern micro-processors plus batteries plus water equals NOT GOOD.
Many folks need or want a watch that they can beat the crap out of. Often, they spend less than $US100 on a Casio G-Shock and are perfectly happy. Other folks desire a bit more style and tradition. They’re the ones who will buy something like a Seiko Diver, a watch I highlighted as a good alternative to Apple Watch if you want a very solid “real” watch, but don’t want to spend a lot of money (you can get one for $US400, before the usual online discounts).
As it turns out, over the weekend I got some insight into just how utterly useless the Apple Watch would be for a person who needs a watch that can handle just about anything.
I watched the 2013 film “All Is Lost,” starring Robert Redford and only Robert Redford as a solo sailor shipwrecked at sea. Redford barely speaks any dialogue, but he does manage to survive his predicament — as does his Seiko Diver, a Japanese automatic watch (no battery, uses the motion of the wearer’s body to keep the movement ticking) that has a stupendous reputation among people who spend a lot of time on or under the water.
The man and the watch take an unholy beating. Redford’s boat has a hole punched in it, which he patches himself. Then his boat is clobbered by a massive storm and sinks. Redford abandons ship and takes to an inflatable life raft. He teaches himself celestial navigation using an antiquated sextant (it’s very helpful to have a relatively accurate timepiece when navigating this way), ends up in a shipping lane, is missed by several cargo ships, ultimately sets his raft on fire as a signal, and is rescued.
Tough guy, touch watch. Numerous watch aficionados noticed the Seiko in the movie — it’s a timepiece with a reputation for being utilitarian, highly waterproof, and nearly indestructible, not to mention inexpensive. It bears a resemblance to the discontinued Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi,” so named because of its red-and-blue bezel — but you’d be bummed if you lost your $US6,000 vintage Rollie. So the Seiko is a better choice if you’re planning to take to the waves for an extended journey.
In “All Is Lost,” all of Redford’s electronics are fried. The circumstances were extreme. But I wouldn’t really want to test an Apple Watch when washing dishes or in a thunderstorm, much less in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by salt water. By the end of movie, Redford has only one functioning piece of technology — his watch.
Apple isn’t going to convince anyone who plans to subject their timepiece to plentiful abuse to strap on one of their wrist computers when the strapping on counts. Although I suppose there could be an aftermarket opportunity here, perhaps for somebody like OtterBox — makers of super-tough iPhone cases.
So although the traditional watch industry may face a bigger threat from Apple that it’s admitting, the idea that a watch is a tool in addition to being a statement about style should keep at least one segment of the traditional market going and going strong.
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