March 9 Apple Announcement: Apple Makes a Fashion Statement with the Apple Watch

Apple Execs

Would you take fashion advice from Apple's Tim Cook, Eddie Cue, Jimmy Iovine, Phil Schiller or even Dr. Dre or Jony Ive? If so, you would probably wear an untucked dress shirt with a button undone or a slim fitting dark t-shirt all the time (except when getting knighted by the Queen.) Thankfully, their fashion sense didn't dictate our options for the Apple Watch.

Apple brought in Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, and lured her with over $70 million in stock incentives. That seems outrageous, but if she earns credit for helping Apple sell tens of millions of Apple Watches, it may just pay off. Ahrendts may already have had a hand in placing the Apple Watch in several fashion magazines. She may have also helped ensure that the Apple Watch is available in an assortment of styles that should please any fashionista. Apple even got Christy Turlington Burns, a supermodel and fitness enthusiast, to wear an Apple Watch on her recent half-marathon, in Africa.

Angela Ahrendts Christy Turlington Burns

The watch case is available in two sizes, 38 mm and 42 mm in height, starting at $349 or $399 respectively. That might not seem like a big difference, but ladies or anyone with a small wrist might find the larger model too clunky. Competing smartwatches have deservedly been considered too geeky and bulky. Whilemy first inclination is to get the larger size, as my eyes are bad enough, I can see the appeal for one that isn't quite so massive. I've been wearing smartwatches for years and yesterday I had to struggle to get mine out from under my winter jacket just to check the time. A smaller smartwatch might be easier to access and less obtrusive.

Apple Watch sizes

The Apple Watch case is available in three models. The Sport is offered in either silver or a space gray aluminum alloy with a glass display. The stainless steel models start at $549 (38 mm) or $599 (42 mm) in traditional or black stainless steel with a sapphire display. The $10,000-plus Edition model comes in yellow or rose gold with a sapphire display. Apple says they have achieved a stronger more scratch-resistant gold through their patented technology. It sounds like the stuff of superheroes (Tony Stark notes that, while catchy, "Iron Man" is a misnomer as "it's more of a gold titanium alloy.") Apple has invented or acquired metallurgical technologies when necessary. They bought exclusivity rights from a company that makes microscopic laser holes in aluminum. Jony Ive wanted to make sure that with their trackpad and wireless keyboard, you don't see any openings, yet the green LED still shines through. This is the kind of obsession Apple is known for, and like that green light, their attention to detail shines through with the Apple Watch.

Apple Watches

Apple's gold model, a.k.a. the Edition, will be expensive, which has prompted Apple to equip their retail stores with safes. There are even rumors of a platinum Apple Watch in the future which could be three times as expensive as the gold one. Such high-end models will be rare, making ownership that much more of fashion statement. Apple underestimated the demand for the gold iPhone 5s when launched and that was only gold in color. Apple may have learned their lesson and this time, they are determined to charge a lot more for gold, even more than the material cost of the gold should dictate. Apple didn't become the most profitable company by leaving money on the table. Personally, I am a "buy the cheapest home in the nicest neighborhood" kind of guy, so I'm likely to get an entry-level aluminum model as that will allow me to develop, test, and demonstrate apps. When the second generation Apple Watch ships, I can buy that and trade-in or hand down my original model, all for about the same price as buying a premium model now.

The Apple Watch bands are where the real style options come in to play. Customers can choose from materials such as gold, steel, leather, and plastic/rubber in assorted colors. Apple created their own fastener instead of relying on the traditional pin design that so many watches use. While this will disappoint customers who might want to use standard watch bands, it is a well-designed connector. Apple isn't afraid to switch from a standard when something superior exists or could be created. I remember when they were ridiculed for switching from 5.25-inch floppy drives to 3.5-inch drives, and from Motorola 680x0 to PowerPC and later to Intel x86. They dropped optical discs almost as fast as they embraced them, and they never adopted Blu-Ray, as Apple saw digital downloads and streaming as the future.

More often than not, Apple was right to break with the old in favor of a new design or technology. Just as Apple rethought their interface when they introduced the Lightning port, they decided what a modern watch band connector should be. Since Apple didn't make watches already, they had the luxury to start from scratch. Bands can be changed in seconds, and Apple certainly wants people to buy more than one. I could see swapping between leather, metal, and sporty bands based on activity, just as I alternate iPhone cases as needed. Changing straps using a traditional 'pin' system can be a pain and I did so with my original Pebble watch only once, when I had to because the factory wrist strap broke. It is not something I would want to do whenever I change outfits. But with the new Apple band system, I could certainly see using a rubber strap when working out and switching to leather or metal for evening attire.

Apple customers haven't had the diversity of options that Android users have. There are dozens of phone and tablet makers, and numerous Android Wear watch makers. If an Android customer wants a round smartwatch, they have at least a couple of choices. That is not the case with Apple customers. Outside of Apple, the Microsoft Band, Pebble, and Martian Watches are pretty much the only games in town. There are suggestions that Android Wear will become compatible, somewhat, with iOS, but for full app compatibility, iOS users will be looking to Apple for their smartwatch. That's why the plethora of band and case options are nice. Our smartwatch can have its own personality, even if the guts are all the same. Of course apps and watch faces will be another way to personalize the Apple Watch. After all, "what you wear is an expression of who you are," observed Tim Cook at the event today.

In reality, pent-up demand and the myriad of configurations might mean any early adopters will have to settle for what's in stock when they try to buy one. I'm probably fooling myself if I think I'm going to get the exact configuration I'd like if I want one soon!

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Todd Bernhard's picture

Author Details

Todd Bernhard

Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.