Apple Watch Series Comparison: From the First Generation to Apple Watch Series 9

What to Know

  • The first Apple Watch came out in 2015.
  • There have been 14 different models of Apple Watch, including both generations of Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Ultra.
  • The newest Apple Watches are Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, released in September 2023.

It's hard to believe it's been almost ten years since the first-generation Apple Watch debuted. At first equal parts derided and celebrated, the Apple Watch has since all but taken over the world. From features like water resistance to blood oxygen tracking and car crash detection, Apple's self-described "most personal device" has evolved a lot over the years. Let's take a look at the Apple Watch generations in order.

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Apple Watch History: When Did the First Apple Watch Come Out?

The place: Cupertino, California. The date: September 9, 2014. The event: unveiling the first-ever Apple Watch. It's actually pretty interesting to watch the announcement of the first Apple Watch, not only to see Tim Cook doing his best Columbo impression but to witness the excitement in the room (it's kind of a bummer Apple announcements no longer happen in this auditorium setting, isn't it?).

The very first Apple Watch was announced in September 2014 but did not go on sale until April 24, 2015. It was simply called Apple Watch or Apple Watch (1st Generation). The first-generation Apple Watch is not the same as the Apple Watch Series 1. The Apple Watch Series 1 was released concurrently with the Apple Watch Series 2 in September of 2016. The Apple Watch Series 1 offered the same features as the first-generation Apple Watch but included a faster processor. Since the release of the original Apple Watch, Apple has released a new series each year, the latest of which are Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra (2nd Generation), released in September 2023.

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Apple Watch Series Comparison: Apple Watch Generations in Order

Below is our list of all Apple Watch generations, from the current generation's Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra (2nd Generation) to the original first-generation Apple Watch. 

Apple Watch (1st Generation)

Release date: April 24, 2015
Options: GPS only (though this is somewhat misleading, since the original Apple Watch did not have GPS itself and relied on being paired with an iPhone).
Sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm cases

Apple Watch colors: Stainless steel or space black stainless steel. Ceramic back.
Apple Watch Sport colors: Space gray, rose gold, gold, silver aluminum. Composite back.
Apple Watch Edition colors: 18-karat yellow gold or 18-karat rose gold. White, blue, or black cap. Ceramic back.

Features: Right from the beginning, Apple Watches came equipped with the now-familiar Digital Crown. Back then, Apple touted this feature highly, calling it the company's "most revolutionary navigation tool since the iPod Click Wheel and iPhone Multi-Touch." You could send and receive messages from your watch, answer calls, and monitor your heart rate.

There was also the infamous $10,000, 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition. I don't have anything else to say about that; I just think we would all do well to remember that this thing existed. This watch also has information on the back of the watch unit that describes size, Apple Watch series number, and other useful specs. On the Apple Watch Hermès model, you'll see the associated insignia on the back as well.

Apple Watch Series 1

Release date: September 16, 2016
Options: GPS only (reliant on being paired with an iPhone).
Sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Space gray, gold, rose gold, silver

Features: The Apple Watch Series 1 features a downgraded version of the simultaneously released Series 2's Apple S2 processor, so it, like its immediate predecessor, did not have a GPS-enabled chip onboard. It was only available in aluminum cases and had a lower starting price than the first generation of Apple Watch. Composite back. This watch also has information on the back of the watch unit that describes size, Apple Watch series number, and other useful specs.

Apple Watch Series 2

Release date: September 16, 2016
Options: GPS only
Sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Space gray, gold, rose gold, silver
Stainless steel case colors: Stainless steel, space black.
Ceramic: The Apple Watch Edition offers a ceramic case option that comes in white.

Features: The big innovation of the Apple Watch Series 2 was that it was the first water-resistant Apple Watch and the first to include a built-in GPS. With this watch, Apple increased its focus on health and fitness, using the new onboard GPS to improve workout data. Ceramic back on all models. This watch also has information on the back of the watch unit that describes the size, Apple Watch series number, and other useful specs. On the Nike or Hermès editions, you'll see the associated insignia here.

Apple Watch Series 3 

Release date: September 22, 2017
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Space gray, gold, silver
Stainless steel case colors: Stainless steel, space black.
Ceramic: The Apple Watch Edition offers a ceramic case option that comes in white or gray.

Features: The Apple Watch Series 3 was the first of all Apple Watch generations to feature cellular capabilities, with the GPS + Cellular option. This meant users who opted for an Apple Watch cellular plan could make calls and text on their watches even without an iPhone nearby. It also included a new barometric altimeter that measured relative elevation, which, among other things, helped track elevation gain and flights climbed for workouts. Also of note is that the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular included a built-in eSIM well before the iPhone line adopted eSIM as standard.

Red cap on the Digital Crown on GPS + Cellular models. Ceramic back for GPS + Cellular options, composite back on GPS only models. This watch also has information on the back of the watch unit that describes size, Apple Watch series number, water resistance, GPS/GPS + Cellular capabilities, glass type, and case metal type. On the Nike or Hermès editions, you'll see the associated insignia here.

Apple Watch Series 4 

Release date: September 21, 2018
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Space gray, gold, silver
Stainless steel case colors: Stainless steel, space black, gold.

Features: Apple Watch Series 4 saw a renewed focus on health features. It featured an electric heart rate sensor capable of taking electrocardiograms and a new accelerometer and gyroscope that enabled fall detection. The ECG system was approved by the FDA, a first for any consumer device. The display was also 30% larger than older models. This was the first major redesign of the Apple Watch's physical body.

Red ring on the Digital Crown on GPS + Cellular models. Ceramic back. This watch also has information on the back of the watch unit that describes size, Apple Watch series number, water resistance, GPS/GPS + Cellular capabilities, glass type, and case metal type. On the Nike or Hermès editions, you'll see the associated insignia here.

Apple Watch Series 5

Release date: September 20, 2019
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Space gray, gold, silver
Stainless steel case colors: Graphite, silver, gold.
Titanium case colors: Titanium, space black titanium
Ceramic: The Apple Watch Edition offers a ceramic case option that comes in white.

Features: Once again presaging features that would one day come to the iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 5 introduced the Always-On Retina display. It also included a built-in compass and international emergency calling (for models with cellular).

Red ring on the Digital Crown on GPS + Cellular models. Ceramic back. This watch also has information on the back of the watch unit that describes size, Apple Watch series number, water resistance, GPS/GPS + Cellular capabilities, glass type, and case metal type. On the Nike or Hermès editions, you'll see the associated insignia here.

Apple Watch SE

Release date: September 18, 2020
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm cases

Colors (aluminum only): Space gray, gold, silver 

Features: The first-generation Apple Watch SE was the first Apple Watch created as a cheaper, more streamlined entry option to the Apple Watch line. Debuting later in the same year that the iPhone SE was released, the Apple Watch SE featured many of the most popular Apple Watch features at a more affordable price. Fun fact: SE is an initialism for Special Edition.

Red ring on the Digital Crown on GPS + Cellular models. This watch also has information on the wrist side of the watch unit that describes the size, Apple Watch series number, water resistance, GPS/GPS + Cellular capabilities, glass type, and case metal type.

Apple Watch Series 6

Release date: September 18, 2020
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Space gray, gold, silver, red, blue
Stainless steel case colors: Graphite, silver, gold.
Titanium case colors: Titanium, space black titanium

Features: The Apple Watch Series 6 was released at the same time as the first-generation Apple Watch SE. It featured a new Blood Oxygen sensor, further cementing the Apple Watch's reputation as a personal health device, and two new case finishes for its aluminum case options.

Red ring on the Digital Crown. New Blood Oxygen sensor, which consists of four LED clusters and four photodiodes arranged in a circle on the wrist side of the watch. This watch also has information on the ceramic back that describes the size, Apple Watch series number, water resistance, GPS/GPS + Cellular capabilities, glass type, and case metal type. On the Nike or Hermès editions, you'll see the associated insignia here.

Apple Watch Series 7

Release date: October 15, 2021
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Green, Blue, Starlight, Midnight, PRODUCT(RED)
Stainless steel case colors: Silver, Graphite, Gold
Titanium case colors: Natural Titanium, Space Black, Silver

Features: The Apple Watch Series 7 featured the largest display size of any Apple Watch generation so far, edge-to-edge with a wraparound effect. The body featured more rounded corners and a red ring on the Digital Crown if Cellular enabled. The glass also had increased dust and crack resistance and faster charging speeds. On the Nike or Hermès editions, you'll see the associated insignia on the underside of the watch.

Apple Watch Series 8

Release date: September 16, 2022
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 41 mm and 45 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Starlight, Midnight, Silver, and, PRODUCT(RED)
Stainless steel case colors: Gold, Silver, and Graphite
Titanium case colors: Titanium, Space Black Titanium

Features: Apple Watch Series 8, released at the same time as the first Apple Watch Ultra and the second-generation Apple Watch SE, featured a new Temperature Sensor to to track fertility and ovulation, and a Crash Detection feature, which uses new motion sensors that can detect real-world accidents, including head-on, rear-end, side-impact, and rollovers.  It also brought the fan-favorite iPhone feature, Low Power Mode, to the Apple Watch. You'll notice that the sizes jumped up from the previous generation, from 40 and 44 mm cases for the Apple Watch 7 to 41 and 45 mm options for the Apple Watch 8.

Apple Watch SE (Gen 2)

Release date: September 16, 2022
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm cases

Colors (aluminum only): Midnight, Starlight, and Silver

Features: The intro-level Apple Watch got an update in 2022 with the second-generation Apple Watch SE. It featured the same new Temperature Sensor as the Apple Watch 8, so users could track fertility and ovulation, as well as the new Crash Detection feature. Other key features included the Always-On Retina display and Low Power Mode.

Apple Watch Ultra

Release date: September 23, 2022
Options: GPS + Cellular 0nly
Sizes: 49 mm only

Titanium only: Titanium Starlight.

Features: The first-generation Apple Watch Ultra was Apple's first "rugged" watch. It came with a new customizable Action Button. Along with all the features of a base model Apple Watch, the Ultra was designed for extremes: extreme temperatures, extreme depths, and extreme weather conditions and was heavily marketed to athletes. It featured a Dive computer and a 60-decibel siren. Its battery life was extended to 36 hours.

Apple Watch Series 9

Release date: September 12, 2023
Options: GPS and GPS + Cellular
Sizes: 41 mm and 45 mm cases

Aluminum case colors: Pink, Midnight, Starlight, Silver, and PRODUCT(RED)
Stainless steel case colors: Gold, Silver, and Graphite

Features: The newest base model Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Series 9, was released in September 2023. It features improved performance and capabilities, including a new double-tap gesture, faster on-device Siri, Precision Finding for your iPhone, a brighter display, redesigned apps and Smart Stack, new watch faces, the ability to access and log health data, new Activity workout features, and carbon neutral watch options.

Apple Watch Ultra (Gen 2)

Release date: September 12, 2023
Options: GPS + Cellular only
Sizes: 49 mm only

Titanium only: Titanium Starlight.

Features: Released alongside the Apple Watch Series 9, the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra features all the same improved performance and capabilities, including a new double-tap gesture, faster on-device Siri, Precision Finding for your iPhone, a brighter display, redesigned apps and Smart Stack, the ability to access and log health data, new Activity features for water workouts and cycling, expanded altitude range, and carbon neutral watch options. It also boasts a 36-hour battery life, with up to 72 hours in Low Power Mode, and a new Modular Ultra watch face.

What's Next? Future Apple Watch Rumors

In 2022, the Apple Watch line has expanded to include the Apple Watch Ultra. For years prior, fans had been clamoring for a rugged Apple Watch that could better aid them in their outdoor activities, and Apple delivered. So, what's next for the Apple Watch?

2024 will mark ten years since the debut of the original, and many people are excited about this moment in Apple Watch history. Surely, the Apple Watch X will be a landmark addition to the Apple Watch generations. Initially, that's exactly what we expected. Mark Gurman, an important Apple analyst, reported in his Power On newsletter that Apple was planning a big overhaul to the Apple Watch line to mark the device's tenth anniversary. He claims this device will be called the "Watch X" (modeled after the tenth anniversary iPhone X), and that Apple is exploring changes to the size of the watch case, a new magnetic band that might make room for improved battery size in the watch itself, a microLED display to replace the current OLED screens, and blood-pressure monitoring.

However, according to another Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, the speculated Apple Watch Series X will likely be postponed until 2025. Kuo expects the 2024 Apple Watch upgrade to be incremental and does not anticipate microLED or blood-glucose monitoring (another proposed new feature) to be included. Kuo still thinks these features are coming—but probably not until 2025 or even 2026. A 2025 release for a significantly improved Apple Watch X could make sense as well, since, while the original Apple Watch was announced in 2014, it did not begin shipping until 2015, so 2025 could mark that tenth anniversary. But since we're on the Series 9 right now, I'm unsure how Apple will get around announcing a new Apple Watch in 2024 without calling it the Series 10 (making an Apple Watch X or Apple Watch Series X sound unfortunately redundant).

Whether or not we see them in 2024 or have to wait until 2025 or even 2026, most analysts say that new additions to Apple Watch features will include things like blood-pressure monitoring, blood-glucose monitoring, an overhaul of the watch band-connecting mechanism, thinner case sizes, and an upgraded microLED screen. Here at iPhone Life, we have a wishlist stretching from a round shape for the case to an invisibility button, but one of our more realistic hopes is that eventually, Apple will take notes from competitors like Garmin and include energy-level recommendations to help you learn when you should take it easy and recharge your "body battery" and when you should go all out with your physical activity. How about you? What would you most like to see in future Apple Watch generations?

Apple Watch Comparison Table

Below, check out a side-by-side comparison of every Apple Watch model and its features.

*The Apple Watch (1st Generation) and Apple Watch Series 1 are splash-proof, but it is not until the Apple Watch Series 2 that the device is labeled water resistant and comes with a water resistance rating.

FAQ

  • What is the order of the Apple Watches? The order in which the Apple Watch series came out is: Apple Watch (1st Generation), Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 2, Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2nd Generation), Apple Watch Ultra, Apple Watch Series 9, and, finally, Apple Watch Ultra (2nd Generation).
  • What is the difference between the Apple Watch and the SE? The current Apple Watch SE (2nd Generation) comes in smaller sizes and is only offered in an aluminum case. It lacks the Always-On display of the Apple Watch Series 9, has the S8 SiP chip instead of the S9, lacks several sensors like temperature sensing and ECG, and does not offer fast charging.
  • What series should I get for an Apple Watch? If you need a basic watch to tell the time and track basic workouts and health stats, consider the SE. If you are a serious athlete who will be taking your watch up mountains and under the sea, the Ultra is for you. If you want something in the middle, an Apple Watch Series 9 is your best bet.

Images from Apple.com

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Author Details

Elisabeth Garry's picture

Author Details

Elisabeth Garry

Elisabeth Garry is an Associate Editor for iPhone Life. Formerly of Gartner and Software Advice, they have six years of experience writing about technology for everyday users, specializing in iPhones, HomePods, and Apple TV. As a former college writing instructor, they are passionate about effective, accessible communication, which is perhaps why they love helping readers master the strongest communication tools they have available: their iPhones. They have a degree in Russian Literature and Language from Reed College.

When they’re not writing for iPhone Life, they’re reading about maritime disasters, writing fiction, rock climbing, or walking their adorable dog, Moosh.