There's been a lot written over the last couple days on the Apple Watch. No one has had it long enough to write an actual review so we don't know a lot of details yet. However, there has been some intriguing speculation about how the Watch will impact the luxury watch industry. This has been an interesting discussion that lead to sometimes dumbfounding conclusions. I'm thinking about Jean-Claude Biver's comments about the watch looking "too feminine," that it looks like "student work," and "Luxury [watches] always have something timeless, it's rare and conveys prestige."
These comments are inapt and remind me of the finger-pointing that happened by the other cell phone companies when the iPhone was announced (we all remember Mr. Ballmer's comments). Biver sounds like a watch executive who's threatened by Apple's entry into his marketplace because he doesn't understand the purpose of the Watch. (To be fair, any executive in a market that Apple enters would sound the same way. If Apple made a car, we would be hearing the same rhetoric from the CEO of BMW or Bentley).
Let's take a step back from the discussions of Apple Watch vs. Tag Heuer and look at the Apple Watch for what it is: a computer. Apple is in the business of making personal computer technology. They are very good at making technology seem approachable and friendly. It's not a coincidence that their most famous commercials pose their computers as the hip, friendly guy that super nice and helpful. The Apple Watch is an extension of this.
If you've been paying attention to mass market tech lately, you've seen a big increase in wearable technology. Wearable tech carries the promise of the next wave of innovation. Quietly integrating technology into our lives—to collect data, remind us of things, customize our surroundings and much more—is where we're heading. Apple, wanting to stay profitable, is coming along for the ride. But wearable tech seems foreign right now. Nobody wants to wear a computer on their arm or place sensors on their body to continuously collect biodata. A watch is comfortable metaphor that allows Apple (or Samsung, Motorola, etc.) to do high-tech things in a non-threatening way. The fact that it tells time is an added bonus.
My take on the Apple Watch is this: it's a watch in name only. It's not going to replace your heirloom Rolex. Luxury watches are exorbitantly expensive and are meant to be kept for 10's if not 100's of years. That's not this. We'll replace the Apple Watch after a few years because we'll have to (I'd estimate it to be roughly on the iPad/laptop replacement cycle: 3-5 years). NFC tech will get better, batteries will get smaller, processes will get faster, Siri will get smarter, and we'll need new hardware for these things. What the Watch WILL do is give us new ways to communicate, be healthy, and hopefully let us keep our phone in our pocket more.
Finally, a quick note on the aesthetic. Apple is designing for today. For reasons I mentioned above, they know that you'll need to buy a new one every so often. They're not designing, like Tag Heuer, to last forever. Jony Ive's work of late hasn't aligned exactly with my taste (it's too round and glossy for me) but he's designing to reach a global, high-end TECH market. With that in mind and comparing to the other smartwatches on the market, the Apple Watch looks pretty darn good. And to the point about it being too feminine...I'll say "duh." Apple wants every person in the world to own one of these and half the world is female. They have to walk a fine line (and give consumers options—as they have) to appeal to everyone.
It's called the Watch but it's as much a timepiece as the iPhone is a phone. I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes us.