December 20, 2019

My Apple Watch is Ugly

I wear my Apple Watch every day…but I’ve disliked how it looks since the very first day I put on the Series 0, and none of the subsequent models or strap options have changed my aesthetic antipathy for it.

I frequently experiment with different customized faces on my Series 4 to keep things fresh, but the problem isn’t the face design—it’s the case shape. While I understand why Apple chose it, I detest square watches; I haven’t yet seen a square watch I like the look of.

My hope was that Series 5 would be the generation where Apple feels they’ve refined their initial design enough to branch out into a round face option, but instead they just experimented with more material choices, none of which change my feelings about the watch.

It seems they still aren’t ready to fulfill my dream of a round case. They may never be, which puts me in the uncomfortable position of loving how the Apple Watch works but hating how it looks.

Function Over Form

The Apple Watch’s appeal for me is its ability to show three key pieces of information at a glance: time, date, and weather. Each one accurate to wherever in the world I happen to be.

In addition, there are two functional benefits that I’ve come to rely on heavily: the ability to quickly set timers, and the ability to have direct control of playback and volume for whatever’s playing on my iPhone. I basically never interact with the volume controls on my phone, because it’s so much nicer to adjust playback using the watch’s screen and Digital Crown while the phone stays safely in my pocket.

Over time, those features working in concert have established the Apple Watch as a staple in my every day carry.

Other features, like the ability to triage notifications and motivate my fitness, are nice bonuses but they aren’t critical to my enjoyment. For many people, the arrival of an always-on screen with Series 5 made the watch feel more legitimate, but I’ve never really missed it in my usage so I wasn’t tempted to upgrade. In fact, I only updated to the Series 4 because the Series 0 had become almost unusable between the extremely slow performance and degrading battery life.

I still don’t like how it looks.

Up to this point, I’ve taken for granted that I’m giving up looking good in favour of having the utility that the Apple Watch can provide. But I’m beginning to doubt the wisdom of this choice, especially as I work on being more intentional about my use of technology.

This doubt was compounded by a recent experience at my wedding, where my wonderful groomsmen and I had a conversation about whether or not I should wear my watch for the photos. We all immediately and unanimously agreed that no, I should not.

Why? Because the Apple Watch is ugly.

Okay, maybe that was mostly me calling it ugly, but we all agreed that it wasn’t going to look favourable in a few years. Even with my Milanese loop and a classy customized watch face, it still just looks bad to me as a fashion accessory.

I’m not especially concerned with looking fashionable, but it seems fair to expect that at least I should like the things I wear. What they express to others should reflect the way I feel about myself and how I want to be perceived, and I’m not sure I like what the Apple Watch says about me.

Where does that leave me, though? Would I really go back to wearing a mechanical watch? And if so, which?

Mechanical Watches

Not to be negative, but I dislike many of the classic designs that watch collectors seem to enjoy.

I recently read a guide for buying mechanical watches, published by Ben Brooks, and realized that I wouldn’t wear any of the watches he showcased. Even beloved brands like Rolex, for example, don’t have a single model in their current line-up that I like the look of.

That post also sent me down the rabbit hole of looking at mechanical watches I do like the look of, and there are plenty of them.

At best, the mechanical watches I like can offer me two of my key pieces of information: time and date. They won’t update automatically, and they won’t be as accurate, but the information is there and I don’t travel that often so I can live with having to manually set the time when I arrive.

Weather, playback controls, and timers I could just go back to using my phone for. And since I have to use my phone to do anything about notifications anyway, maybe it makes sense to just handle them on the phone entirely. I don’t enjoy replying to things on my watch, and keep the notifications configured very minimally so only the most important few can bug me.

With AirPods and Siri evolving toward an AR future as quickly as they have been, maybe the real path forward is in hands-free control and interaction.

As I’ve been thinking about all this, I’m realizing it doesn’t sound that bad.

I wore a mechanical watch for years, so it’s not like it would be new to me, but I’m wary of falling down the slippery slope of another potentially-expensive hobby just to resolve what is fundamentally a frivolous problem.

The other option, of course, is to look at other smartwatches.

It isn’t exactly an inspiring search, but there are a few examples that I think look good: the Withings series of watches, and the Samsung Galaxy Active 2. The trouble is that both are worse smartwatches, and not as nice as some of the mechanical watches I like.

Whether or not that’s a problem I don’t yet know. I’d probably have to wear one for a while to see if the different combination of tradeoffs made me happier.

Time to Wait

If Apple were to make a new Apple Watch with a round case, I’d trust them to do it in a way that I would find aesthetically appealing. That would likely be my ideal watch, and I’d be happy to upgrade my Series 4 and have it all: form and function.

Until or unless they do that though, I’m stuck feeling more and more interested in seeking out a reasonable, nice looking alternative to the Apple Watch that isn’t just fun to use but beautiful to wear and look at too.


technology digital lifestyle


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