HSS Round Table: Is the Apple Watch Cool?

You aren’t trying to work your iPad into your wardrobe in a stylistically cohesive way. Can the Apple Watch be an exception?

Brian Sacawa: Now that we’ve pretty much boxed up 2015 and put it away, I’ve been thinking a bit about some of the trends that a ton of people were talking about as the next big thing, but that never really materialized. The first one that comes to mind is olive green for Fall 15. Where was that?! But perhaps the biggest disappointment in terms of hype not delivered upon was wearable tech.

Obviously, there are lots of wearable devices out there now – including stylish fitness trackers that look like honest-to-goodness watches – but for our purposes here, I want to focus on the Apple Watch.

If we look at history, then there’s no reason not to think that the Apple Watch would have been anything but a runaway success – it’s not an overstatement to say that Apple designs things that change the world. And while I definitely see people wearing them, I don’t get the sense that it was as big a hit as everyone anticipated. And I’m wondering why.

I mean, is the Apple Watch just not cool? Is it a wearable tech issue? Thoughts? Let’s flesh this out.

Rob McIver: Ok. So, as a serial early adopter, unabashed Apple fanboy and owner of an Apple Watch, I can’t really say they nailed the cool factor and it most certainly hasn’t changed my life. It has just kind of quietly become a part of it. I think that there is potential for this device and ones like it to become very compelling as they mature, but in their infancy, they are just a bit ho-hum.

Brian: What do you mean when you say you don’t think they nailed the cool factor? I mean, for me, it’s got some sense of style but that style is geek chic. And I guess that’s my biggest thing – I’m not sure geek chic will ever be the ‘it’ style in a big way. Like, it’s cool and novel and all, but eventually that’s going to wear off, right?

Rob: I guess I feel that even though it looks decent enough, it is still skewed further to the side of function – albeit limited function – rather than fashion. I don’t think mass-appeal cool/acceptance can be achieved until the function is amazing and tech has advanced to allow that function to just happen in an aesthetically pleasing form.

Adam Lehman: I think another struggle here for Apple was just in the choice of a watch itself, in that it has such big shoes to fill. By that, I mean it’s going to be really hard to push out Rolex or Omega when it comes to what people – especially those with a eye towards style – seek in a watch.

Even the newer brands that have edged into the field in a big way – think Daniel Wellington or Shinola’s watch lines – aren’t straying far from that classic style. And I think they’re so appealing because they are reminiscent of classic styles.

Robin West: Geek chic is great for Apple’s niche audience, but Apple is not a niche brand. Personally, I like an old school watch because, well, it tells time, but also it’s another accessory – a fashion piece. The watch you pick can really complement, elevate an outfit or be used as a form of expression. The Apple Watch almost feels too mass market rather than an individual piece.

Brian: What do you think it would need to happen to take a geek chic niche product to permanent fashion? Is that even possible?

Adam: I’m struggling to remember the brand, but I do recall some watchmaker making a smart watch that was just basically housed inside a classic body. I think the display was nothing new at all, but it would communicate with your computer in the same way a FitBit does. So less innovative functionality, more classic style. Maybe if a huge name like Apple tried that approach, it could have more of an impact for in the style world.

Robin: I think what Huawei is doing with their smart watch is a positive step for people who want to customize it a bit more. It looks like a normal watch so it acts as a fashion accessory, but it has the technology for when you want to use it as a smart watch – a nice balance for a larger audience.

Rob: I feel like the tech will have to become malleable enough to allow fashion designers to work with it as a medium.

Brian: Do you think it’s going to take Apple getting out of the in-house design mindset to achieve that? It seems like that might be a direction they go. I mean, they kind of started to almost dip a toe in the water with Hermès.

But even that seems more like a token nod to style/fashion – only the watch band is actually crafted by Hermès, while the watch body itself is still the same boxy shape it has been, but with a Hermès watch face interpreted digitally.

Adam: I do think that’s what would help. As iconic and appealing as Apple’s aesthetic is, it will always hold some level of geekiness that people might not want to wear and display as part of their day-to-day style. The phones look cool as hell, but you keep it in your pocket. You aren’t trying to work your iPad into your wardrobe in a stylistically cohesive way.

Brian: Really excellent point.

Adam: Right? A guy whose look is classic prep is going to feel out of place with a futuristic watch on his arm. Like Robin said, the style is great for a niche audience, but is going to feel too out-of-place for much of the mainstream. I would love to see Apple, with their technological innovation, work with a heritage brand to create a blend of the two.

Robin: Right now, the Apple Watch is just another product like Google Glass. The end goal of what these two products want to do is interesting, but the technology and design aren’t there yet.

It took movie studios how long to create a really good 3D movie? They knew how to do it, but it’s not an easy flip of the switch. So the Apple Watch and Google Glass, in their current form, are there now to give you something to play with until the kinks are worked out. Which is obviously not really want consumers want.

Brian: Totally. I remember when Mr Porter pushed Google Glass hard about a year and a half ago. Even suggesting, via a cameo by Scott Schuman, that they were stylish enough to catch his attention. Obviously, you don’t see it on the site anymore.

You know, looking at the rendering in the video of what the wearer actually sees… that’s pretty freaking cool. Reminds me a lot of the Head-Up Display we experienced in the BMW 7 Series. The difference is that one is housed in a BMW and the other a pair of glasses that look vaguely cyborg-ish. Pretty big difference.

Okay, so I think we’ve collectively agreed that the Apple Watch is kind of cool, but not necessarily stylish right now. Readers, do you agree? Keep the conversation going by chiming in in the comments.

Photo via Mashable

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Chime In

  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    “Is the Apple Watch Cool?”
    In a word: NO!

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Well, there you have it. Care to elaborate?

      • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

        Sure. It’s not cool for two reasons:
        It does not “look” cool. It looks pretty craptacular.
        It’s not super functional. You need to charge it every 10 minutes and it doesn’t really have any killer functionality.
        So, not great on form, not great on function. I’d rather have a $39 Timex that’s a minimalist, attractive, super useful WATCH. Then I’ll spend the rest of the money on something that looks awesome on me.

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          Cheers!

  • Hashim

    During the WW1 the watches came out of our pockets and people started wearing on their wrists. Ever since then, and to some extent even before that period, watches have been accessory/jewelry product for men. Men do not wear necklaces, bangles and chains, and watches are one of the few, if not the only, jewelry product men wear. Finding out what time is it, is only an excuse; these days iphone/android phones can do a better job in that respect. But in fact traditional watches are a fashion statement, a billboard that advertises your taste. As far as apple watch is concerned, they are just a smaller version of iPhone, attached with a strap; and not a fashion statement. Lastly, having apple watch and iPhone/android phone at the same time is kind of redundant.

    • Peter

      You say an Android/iPhone can do a better job of telling time, but it’s quicker to look at your wrist. And if you wanted to see the exact seconds, there’s a second hand; meanwhile, phones don’t display seconds (in the lock screen, that is). I agree with your point nonetheless.

      • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

        Yes, I’ve always liked an analog watch because it’s much less intrusive and rude when you need to glance at the time.

    • Michael

      I’m wondering why you say having a phone and smart watch at the same time is redundant because the watch only works when it’s connected to a phone, otherwise you’re just wearing a very expensive digital watch. On the design aspect I think the outcome of the discussion was correct. Until apple decides to make something that actually looks like a classic watch, it’s not going to catch on as a fashion accessory. I think this is more likely to happen with android because anybody can make an smart watch compatible with android while only apple can make things fully compatible with iPhones.

      • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

        Agreed.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for adding to the discussion, Hashim.

  • Gregor

    I wonder if we should explore the Apple watch as neither fashion nor style but the continuance of product. Apple, once on the ropes, is now the Big Kahuna in “cool-must-have-tech”. As such, Apple must push, stretch, but always, always continue and develop their product line as the must have gadget. This product has appeal and pizzaz but is it any different than seasonal craft beer? Does one wear craft beer? That being asked, ones does want to be associated and understood as an aficionado of craft beer, or as discerning the Apple watch as the most hip wearable tech. Is the Apple watch much different in this context? Now before “Chime In” responses blow up and I am pummeled consider the question as just that, a question for debate (remember when debate was an exportation of a topic?) and not an absolute statement.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Interesting analogy to craft beer. I actually think the craft beer market is completely oversaturated – I’m not much of a beer connoisseur myself but I can see the shelves! I don’t think we’re at that point with wearables yet. What do you think would help take the Apple watch to the next level?