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Apple Watch 5: Resistance is futile

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Simple approach, the California face with just one complication, the day and date. You can add more, change to Roman or Arabic numerals and change the colour.

Readers know that I’m a bit of a smartwatchofile. I belong to a demographic that must feature in the worst nightmare of the established mechanical watch industry: The one-time fan who gave it all up for a smartwatch.

Apple Watch 5 — a bit of colour if you want, but I prefer the more traditional look

At one time I was a committed collector of traditional watches, almost all of which had been made in Switzerland. I had a watch winder thingy on my dressing table (surely the epitome of nerdiness) which kept four favourites ready charged in case I couldn’t decide which to wear in the morning. I knew a thing or two about watches and, I suppose, I was within a hair’s breadth of starting a blog on the subject.

Pushover

Then came the original Apple Watch in April 2015. As an established Macfile, I was a pushover for a smartwatch, although my perception of what I would find useful was way out of kilter. I imagined dealing with messages and emails, making the odd phone call and working wonders with international time zones.

What I did not anticipate at the time was that the benefit of the Watch would turn out to be almost entirely related to health monitoring. It’s the reason why I wear it all day, every day, and could not now consider returning to a mechanical watch, however attractive it is.

One of the new faces for OS6, Meridian. I like this because the traditional watch dial occupies the full screen with the complications inside. Here we bave digital time, steps, battery level and day/date.
One of the new faces for OS6, Meridian. I like this because the traditional watch dial occupies the full screen with the complications inside. Here we bave digital time, steps, battery level and day/date.

My one remaining Swiss timepiece lies loved but unused in a drawer. I have become a total convert to technology for the best of reasons.

Classless

The Apple Watch is a perfect example of one of those classless quality devices that are just right. I do not feel envious of others wearing Rolexes or, even, Patek Philippes. On the contrary, I feel rather pleased with myself because my Apple Watch is a microcomputer which looks after me day in day out. It looks good, the quality is high and, with the metal link bracelet, it is just as easy to wear as any mechanical watch. And it’s a lot cheaper, although it won’t last as long. Don’t buy one of these as an investment.

Simple approach, the California face with just one complication, the day and date. You can add more, change to Roman or Arabic numerals and change the colour.
Simple approach, the California face with just one complication, the day and date. You can add more, change to Roman or Arabic numerals or choose a new colour.

Despite this, the Watch editions so far have been hampered in one particular respect, setting them aside from the traditional wristwatch. The common perception is that a watch is for telling the time. Although this is no longer so, most smartwatches to date (including Apple’s earlier offerings) have presented an uninformative (and rather uninspiring) black screen whenever you glance down for the time. Sure, lifting the wrist brings the display back to life, but it should not be necessary and can send the wrong signals if done in a meeting.

Always on

The good news for potential buyers of the fifth iteration of the Apple Watch is that it is always on. Just like a proper watch. There is now no need to stare at a glossy black screen and no reason to tap the display or raise the wrist to tell the time. Veteran Apple watcher (no pun) John Gruber gives us a good insight into the feature:

Series 5’s always-on display solves my single biggest complaint about Apple Watch since day one. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than good enough. No other feature or improvement to Apple Watch to date has ever made me this happy. The watch face doesn’t really stay on on all the time — instead, when on previous Apple Watch generations the display would turn completely off, the watch face goes into a low-power mode. The display dims (but remains bright enough to be legible in most conditions), second hands go away, and you pretty much just see the hour and minutes. Raise your wrist and it fades in to full brightness. Notifications do not appear on screen while the watch is in its low-power state.

Other manufacturers have already produced watches with an always-on feature, but Apple’s implementation is extremely elegant and it works perfectly. For established fans, it makes the Series 5 a must-have. I had not intended to upgrade this time, but this one feature alone made it mandatory.

One of the older complications, this time with a circular clock face with up to eight complications — here you see heart rate, steps, mail, timer, day/date, workout, messages and calendar. The good think about the Apple Watch is that you have full control over the amount of information you wish to see at any time of the day and to suit any mode. The display of the Watch 5 is always visible, it simple dims slightly when not being viewed.
One of the older faces, this time with a circular clock face showing up to eight complications — here you see heart rate, steps, mail, timer, day/date, workout, messages and calendar. The good thing about the Apple Watch is that you have full control over the amount of information you wish to see at any time of the day and to suit any mood. The display of the Watch 5 is always visible, it simple dims slightly when not being viewed.

The new watch faces released with Watch OS6 add a fair bit of interest and you can see the Meridian face in the accompanying photographs. I like the way the watch face occupies the full screen with the four complications occupying centre ground (in this case, initially, I have day and date, steps, digital time and battery usage).

There are alternatives to display even more complications from a long list. And, of course, you can swipe through your favourite faces while wearing the watch — perhaps a full set of complications for daytime use and an elegant, simple watch face for evening wear. The graphics are so good that, at first glance, it all looks just like a mechanical watch.

Change and a rest

They say that a change is as good as a rest, so this time I’ve opted for the silver-finish stainless-steel 44mm case in preference to my previous black watch. The old black link bracelet has been pressed into service until Apple can supply the matching silver.

My choice for Watch 5: Stainless steel in silver, classic elegance enclosing a shedload of technology and useful functions to keep you healthy and safe

Previously I’ve written about the importance of the Watch when it comes to health monitoring. For me, this is the single most important aspect of wearing a smartwatch as opposed to a traditional watch.

As someone who has previously suffered from atrial fibrillation, having a monitoring device permanently strapped to my wrist is a great comfort.

Lives have already been saved around the world by this one feature alone. Recording of exercise and heart rate is extremely important and helps build up a long-term profile which doctors find helpful as an aid to diagnosis or review of medication.

It’s unfortunate that the main demographic for smartphone users tends to consist of younger people. Yet it is older people who can most benefit from the health features found in smartwatches and in the Apple Watch in particular.

The fall monitoring feature is of crucial importance to many older people; sadly they are the least likely group to recognise these advantages.

The Watch knows if you fall and will call an ambulance if you do not respond by pressing the OK button. It sounds a bit dramatic, but it is a vital feature for many older people living on their own. You can turn it off if you don’t need it, of course.

But only a couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a 92-year-old friend who has walking difficulties. Last month he slipped and fell at home. Although he wasn’t injured except in pride, he just could not get up from the floor. Many older readers will recognise this problem.

Assistance

So he slid himself along the hall and into the sitting room (where the carpet made progress more painful). He then had to pull the telephone off its table by the cable before he could call for assistance. He was incredibly lucky because, if he had injured himself, he might not have been able to get to the phone and the consequences could have been disastrous.

Carrying a smartphone around is a good second-best, but how many of us keep a phone constantly with us while at home? A push-button emergency assistance device carried around the neck is another possibility —my friend now has one of these — but it is something else you have to remember to wear and can easily forget. The smartwatch, on the other hand, is with you constantly.

Important Note: If you are buying the Apple Watch 5 for fall monitoring, make sure you pay the extra for the cellular model. There is a small monthly fee of around £5-7 to pay to your phone company but it is essential if you wish to have full coverage. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

What happens, though, if you fancy the health monitoring aspects of the Apple Watch but still want to wear your favourite Breitling or IWC? In that case, there’s nothing wrong in wearing two watches, one as the jewellery element, one as the practical live saver. This is actually becoming fashionable.

After four-and-half years with the Apple Watch, I cannot now conceive of a time when I would ever think of going back to my IWC Pilot Chronograph, however pretty, functional or desirable it may still be.

What about you? Do you wear a smartwatch or do you feel it is just a gimmick and unnecessary?

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11 COMMENTS

  1. .
    When the Apple Watch came out, I swore I would NEVER wear such a gadget which bore all the hallmarks, I thought, of Jonathan Ive’s hubris: a nicely-designed device, but with no possible function apart from showing (what we call) the time. It was Form over Function ..Jonathan given his head, now that Steve (Jobs) wasn’t around to rein him in and make him see sense.

    What did it do? Showed the time and date and weather ..so what? My (Swatch-owned) Tissot Touch showed the time and date, and – rather restrainedly and elegantly – was also a compass, barometer, altimeter, alarm, stopwatch and thermometer. (..Well, it showed the temperature of my wrist ..but, er, what for?)

    When my Beloved had some memory trouble after an operation, and forgot her appointments, though, I thought “this would be good for her: it’ll show her diary data, from her computer, which syncs to her phone, which’ll sync to her watch, so she’ll always get a message when meetings are due, and tap-on-the-wrist reminders!” ..so I bought her one ..a Series 2, I think: the ‘Nike’ version, which had a strap I thought she’d like.

    I encouraged her to wear it, and ..when she remembers.. she does.

    Not knowing what to get ME for my birthday a few months later ..she bought me – guess what! – a Series 2 Nike Apple Watch ..and a spare strap, as I’d bought one for her.

    Just to encourage her to wear hers, and to say ‘Thanks for the present!’, I wore mine.

    Then I found it’d ring, even when I couldn’t hear my phone (tucked into a jacket pocket inside my coat). I could even dictate text messages to it while driving, and it’d send them to my phone which would text them to whoever I wanted to reach. It showed me MY appointments, shows me a second time zone, shows me text messages which come to my phone, and lets me send quick responses like “smiley-face”, or “OK”, or “Congratulations”, “Yes”, “Am busy driving” and so on.

    In a phrase; it’s become invaluable.

    I chose some second-hand leather strap I found in CEX (..the Computer Exchange shops around London..) ..actually, it’s a strap for the smaller (ladies?) size of watch, but it looks more svelte and under-stated than those bigger butch straps on the 42mm ‘men’s size’ watches.

    I miss my mechanical watch(es) ..and sometimes wear what you might call a ‘dress watch’ when going to fancy dinners, and so on. But for general days around the house, or going up to town, or doing assorted jobs when I might not hear my phone (..its ‘Blade Runner’ ringtone starts off very gently and discreetly..) the Apple Watch does so much that’s useful, and which I want.

    I’m still ashamed of it – it looks so ‘geeky’ and so ‘nerdy’, whereas, of course, I pretend that I’m just not that kind of person at all(!) – but its Function, for me, now over-rides its Form.

    I was wrong: it wasn’t Ive’s nemesis, after all.

  2. I like the watches but think the straps are ridiculously priced. Third party straps are excellent value, and there are some really good quality Apple imitations out there. Save some money and put it towards a lens!

  3. I love my series 2, and its still functioning fine, so I wont be replacing it anytime soon – unless I find I manage to wring the life out of it.

    I use it for running, and my distance walking, and for erm. telling the time. For work, I use a mechanical watch, an occupational necessity. Although walking is out at the moment as I nurse myself through a second year of injuries – this years is stress fractures of the heel – I didnt realise for six months, just thought it was bruised and kept running and walking on it. oops.

    I tend not to use the health monitoring side of it, I sort of see it as a hypochondriacs dream/nightmare depending on how you view it. So I try not to check anything on me, I am of the view that if my journey is about to stop, I don’t want my last memory to be a watch vibrating violently and announcing that I am about to meet my maker.

    • Despite reports that the display is dimmed when off, I find it brighter than I exoected. I haven’t noticed problems in sunlight so far. It’s good idea to go an Apple store and try it out.

  4. I’m a committed (my wife says I should be…) mechanical watch guy and have been since I worked my a$$ off as a 14 year old to earn enough money to buy one. The collection has been pruned, has regrown and been re-pruned again over the years. I simply love them and can’t give them up.

    But..
    As you get older, add a heart attack to the list of medical dramas, and worry about coming off my bicycle and needing help, an Apple Watch starts to feel like a practical and necessary tool rather than an emotional and visceral pleasure.

    The big birthday beckons…is this the time to finally add an Apple Watch to the collection???

    • I’d you do get one, please let us know your impressions after a week or two. But don’t fall off the bike purposely just to try it out!

  5. My wife and two daughters all have Apple Watches and are highly delighted with them.

    I do not want one because I find their screens too small and there is too much info. I don’t doubt the health benefits of monitoring essential data but will currently stick with my own solution – healthy exercise every day.

    The watch I do want is a Slo Watch which is a one handed watch and I want the 24 hour dial version. This enables you to tell the time day or night at a glance — to within a couple of minutes! I find little need for greater accuracy and in any case have my phone if I did.

    As clocks started out one-handed, I believe, I therefore want a retro watch to go with my retro Fuji cameras!

  6. Well, it STILL looks like a slab of butterscotch or a mint tin strapped to your wrist in my opinion. And nothing is eventually going to save you from poor health or illness including an Apple Watch. When your time is up, it’ll be up. The attraction is that it does so many things that it seems like you can’t live without it. Yet we did, for centuries. And charging that thing up every night..don’t you feel ashamed of wasting energy like that? Greta’s scowling at you!
    How dare you!

    Just kidding. Enjoy!

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