Do you buy a luxury timepiece that simply and elegantly tells time, or a nifty timepiece that doubles as a wrist-computer? We break down the modern arguments for a luxury watch or a smart watch.
Apple – the tech company – has a wicked appetite for other people’s industries. After revolutionising music, movies and their respective consumption, it went on to devour another industry adjacent to its own.
In 2017, Tim Cook proudly boasted that Apple now sold more watches than Rolex. That first place ranking also saw Apple edge out the likes of Omega, Cartier, Breitling and Fossil. Cupertino beat Switzerland at the game it had been playing for over a century in only a matter of years.
Years later, Apple would announce it now does more in Watch sales than all of the luxury watchmakers combined. The success of the wrist-worn computer is a runaway train, carrying Apple and its cohorts (such as Google, Samsung, Huawei and Sony) to a rich vein of cash.
There’s no question that the Apple Watch is an incredible achievement, both from an innovation and investor standpoint. Hell, I’m wearing an Apple Watch Series 2 from 2017 on my wrist right now. So much so that it has worn a permanent mark into my wrist from years of strapping it on tightly.
But the figurative and literal marks the Apple Watch (and the wearables that came before it) have worn into my life still leave me wanting luxury watches, despite their dearth of “features”.
The Apple Watch can track you from space, help you lose weight and play almost any song ever recorded while telling you the time almost as an afterthought. A Rolex can tell you the time, act as a stopwatch and can be worn high in the sky or deep in the sea. That’s about it.
Form or function?
From a “feature” perspective, the smart watch has it hands down. But from a style perspective, even the most luxurious Apple Watch can’t hold a candle to the iconic and elegant stylings of a luxury Swiss watch.
But with a luxury watch, you miss out on so much that a gadget like the Apple Watch has to offer. Here’s a list of what I use my Apple Watch for everyday:
- Tracking my calorie burn and exercise minutes;
- Reminding me to stand so I’m not idle for 9 hours a day;
- Streaming music to my AirPods
- Giving me 2FA passcodes through Duo Mobile
- Paying for just about everything with my Black card in Wallet
- Measuring my resting heart rate to track my overall fitness
- Getting breaking news alerts from AP and BBC
- Telling me whether I need my Davek Solo umbrella or even just a jumper
Oh, and it tells the time.
But that being said, your phone can still do all of those things. If style and status is your game, the luxury watch is your ride-or-die.
It’s worth noting at this point that the argument about smart versus luxury is also a deeply elitist one.
One that has been amped up by the luxury watchmakers who thrive on scarcity of product. Apple sells literally millions of Watches per quarter. 9.2 million, at last quarterly check, in fact. Rolex (and its sister brand Tudor), meanwhile, sells roughly a million a year.
Remember: the value of a luxury watch comes from its scarcity, rather than its availability.
You’ll rarely ever be on a waiting list for a smartwatch, as the purchase of such a gadget immediately locks you into an ecosystem for which you’ll spend hundreds (if not thousands) of extra dollars on accessories, apps and other devices.
The bottom line
In the iconic film, Skyfall, James Bond receives two items from his quartermaster: a gun and a radio. Looking slightly miffed the gadgets weren’t fancier, Q responds poignantly:
“What were you expecting? An exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.”
This understated scene illustrates exactly how I feel about smart watches: they’re great toys for when you’re young, but the elegance factor has to be there to help you age gracefully.
If you really want a smartwatch as you get older, don’t buy a sports-focused model. Go in for something more elegant like the Ceramic Apple Watch Edition or even an Hermes model with the double-loop strap. That’s how to balance luxury elegance with smarts.
If it was my money? I’d invest in both.
The Apple Watch is the best activity-based gadget on the planet. It’s the gadget that defined the last decade for me. It’s an absolute must-have for anyone with a gym membership or pair of running shoes. It’s a perfect weekend warrior for tracking your fitness as you do the gardening, play with the kids of go for a swim at the beach.
During the week it’s perfect for hitting the gym with you and maybe even wearing daily depending on the meetings and events you’ll attend. But when you need to dress it up, make sure you look the part, either with a smartwatch (or band) that is higher-caliber than the standard sports watch or a luxury watch that plays the part perfectly.
Ultimately, you’re investing in yourself. Purchase wisely!
Luke Hopewell is the editor and co-founder of Redaktör. He's previously been the Editor of Gizmodo, Founding Editor of Business Insider Australia, Editorial Lead for Twitter Australia and more.