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I still wear my Nike FuelBand SE. I love the way it sits on my wrist and I really love the hint of silver at the bottom that glints when a certain amount of light hits it. Oh yeah, and it also reminds me to get moving if I've been sedentary for too long. It's the kind of no-nonsense technology that has enamored fashion-conscious people like myself who not only appreciate good design, but actively seek it out. It's why I love the iPhone and could never see myself actually using an Android phone—none of them have that combination of sleek design, brand cachet, and ease of use. It's also why I think the Apple Watch's initial incarnation is a slap in the face to fans of both Nike's FuelBand and the iPhone.
When noted watch enthusiast Benjamin Clymer reviewed the Apple Watch on his blog HODINKEE, he doled out praise and criticism where each was due. And sure, the Apple Watch isn't terrible, but it's still a far cry from what gets the style set excited about similar products. As Clymer says: "great design should not disrupt daily life," and I wholeheartedly agree. When it comes to the Apple Watch, its bulkiness detracts from the streamlined silhouette of items like the Nike FuelBand, or even a proper watch. Clymer admits he has trouble getting the device to surreptitiously hide underneath a sleeve, which to me, is a dealbreaker.
At best, the Apple Watch's squat, square shape and stubby digital crown look like an iPhone that's been squished to fit inside an Instagram post. There is definitely Apple DNA there, but none of the ingenious industrial design nods that have made Marc Newson synonymous with streamlined luxury. I mean come on, we're talking about a guy who made a speedboat look like a cigar humidor and a $13,000 hourglass covetable. Newson's sensibilities and taste level are so on point that the man can even steer G-STAR RAW out of the Eurotrash territory its clothes often tread. Yes, that's right: Marc Newson made G-STAR look cool. So why hasn't he done the same for the Apple Watch?
Killer apps and a solid operating system are one thing, but to really win over the aesthetes, Apple Watch absolutely needs a facelift.
The first real breakthrough in wearable tech will occur when something is designed so well it begs to be taken advantage of. It's the kind of thing you throw on, forget about, and yet, your life becomes a little bit easier. Killer apps and a solid operating system are one thing, but to really win over the aesthetes, Apple Watch absolutely needs a facelift. Noted fashion writer Angelo Flaccavento describes the urge to own designer gear as a desire "to own something that makes you look good and communicates endless spending power." A $7,100 Cartier Love Bracelet does just that—and it doesn't even tell the time.
Watch expert Clymer further builds on the emotional connection between horology fiends and their super expensive collectibles, noting that their handmade nature and timeless appeal will never require a software update—nor will that hardware ever be rendered obsolete. The difference between a $10,000 Rolex and the entry-level $10,000 Apple Watch Edition is the fine line between restrained elegance and nouveau riche braggadocio. The latter attempts to place a price on prestige and luxury—while the former has simply earned it through veneration—you already know a Rolex is worth that kind of cash.
Sure, the Apple Watch boasts plenty of customization options, from faces that include a nostalgia-inducing Mickey Mouse wristwatch to bands that run the gamut from sporty fluoroelastomer straps that give Nike's neon options a run for their money, to rich, vibrant leathers, to niche Milanese magnetic straps that make watch nerds quiver. But even then, it's pairing an acceptable body with a subpar face. And watches aren't exactly a time to lower your standards to last-call-at-the-bar-and-you're-all-alone levels—face matters a lot.
That isn't to say I'm forgoing the Apple Watch for a Moto 360—whose circular design I actually like. I haven't owned anything Motorola since the RAZR was hot, and while that puts me in seriously fashionable company, I am still a total Apple fanboy. And I know I'm not the only one in the fashion world with a similar love affair. But despite a few editorial features and stockists with style cred in spades, like Milan's 10 Corso Como, Colette in Paris, and Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo's Dover Street Market, the Apple Watch simply isn't a fashionable product. And I know I'm not the only one in the fashion world who thinks that, either.
For an item that Apple wants to compete in the aspirational luxury realm, the Apple Watch is a failure. It's a great device, but it is not a fashionably indulgent one—at least, not right now. And the lower priced versions make it more accessible without enough differentiation in the top-tier product. 18-karat gold hardware in and of itself does not make for a sound investment (unless you were planning on smelting it down). To really compete with the luxury heavyweights, Apple needs to show it appreciates design by producing beautiful things that can be appreciated themselves. Selling a $10,000 watch is not the same as making something actually worth paying $10,000 for. Time will tell if Tim Cook, Jony Ive, and Marc Newson can figure that out.