It Only Took Apple 5 Years to Dominate this 265-Year-Old Industry

Watches had been around for a long time before we started wearing Apple’s version, but it only took a few years for the Apple Watch to become the most popular wearable timepiece on earth. That’s according to a new report from research firm Strategy Analytics, which says that Apple shipped almost 31 million units last year, while the entire Swiss watch industry shipped a little over 21 million… More here.

While I see the future of smartwatches as potentially more damaging than quartz to the Swiss industry, I am not sure that just because millions of people are buying smartwatches should not necessarily kill off the former. Maybe the entire industry is just getting bigger.

Love the Apple Watch, sold the Apple Watch, stopped all tracking

My recent couple of months with the Apple Watch taught me a lot about what it can do, what I want and how I should be approaching my life. Yes, that sounds awfully over the top, but bear with me and it may actually make sense.

Over the past few years I have spent a lot of time improving my diet, my weight and my overall fitness and the results have been impressive, if I say so myself. 100lbs in weight lost and shirt sizes dropped from XXXL to L with my waist dropping from 40” to 32”. This was not easy when I started at 47 years old because everything gets harder physically when you are older, but I did it and am happy with where I am at. My wife also lost 35lbs in weight and went from doing no exercise, besides being a very busy midwife, to running a marathon recently following a ‘lot’ of training.

This was all done by not having bad food in the house and by using Fitbit to track exercise and calories consumed, and a Fitbit Aria to weigh ourselves every single day. For me personally the numbers helped a great deal and inspired me to keep going with a specific target weight in mind. The question then became ‘when to stop?’

This was difficult because when you get in the habit of tracking your movements each day, the amount of exercise, the amount you eat and your weight it feels as though you have failed when you miss a day or take a few hours off. The paranoia of slipping back to old habits is strong, almost overwhelming, and the fitness tracker becomes the hub of all of that data and the tool you use to ensure the paranoia can be held back continually.

The problem then comes with keeping up the same regime when you hit your target weight, and you do have to keep up a regime forever to stick to a specific weight. People diet and then they stop, and then wonder why their weight goes back up? It’s easy really; calories + activity = weight and that never changes. Some people can eat a lot and stay light and people like me have to eat little to stay within range despite being over 6’ in height and big built. What should happen, however, is that once you know what you need to do you should be able to stick to that forever more and stay within a certain range. The habits have been built and you should not need a tracker to continually remind you.

I haven’t actually been able to do this until the past couple of weeks and I am quickly getting over the sense that I need to continually track my movements and everything else. It all came to a head when I started using the Apple Watch a couple of months ago, yet again, and realised that the tracking had got out of hand. I continued to try to hit a daily step count, to do specific exercises and to count every single thing I ate. Enough already!

Some things have happened recently which have made me reflect on what is important in my life and it hasn’t been the best new year so far, and then I realised that spending so much time tracking these aspects of my life just took time away from helping those who need my time. The insular farce of checking so many numbers that reflect what I have done in a day makes no sense at all when you really think about it. What exactly happens? You see that you did, for example, 12,000 steps yesterday. What exactly can you do with that information if you are not trying to lose weight? I slept 6.5 hours last night. What can I do with that? Nothing at all. The same applies to literally everything else I do and as an adult I should instinctively know what to eat, when to go to bed and if I am being a lazy git over extended periods. If I take a couple of moments now and again to just remember what I should do, I will stay within the acceptable weight range, I will remain fit and I will get the sleep my body needs. Is it really worth tracking everything forever when the benefits are potentially minimal over very long periods?

Now I realise that I am sounding like I have done what I need to do and now it’s all rubbish, but that is not how I feel. I believe that fitness trackers and the Apple Watch are game changing and they offer huge benefits to anyone who wants to get fitter and improve their health, but the question of whether that tracking should last forever is what made me say no. Specific health issues aside, nobody needs to track everything they do every day because it will just get in the way of living a life and take away time from what really matters, and that is why I ultimately sold my Apple Watch and went back to a traditional timepiece.

I have owned many Apple Watches and the past two months is, believe it or not, the longest time I have spent wearing one. It is a superb watch from a theoretical point of view; accuracy is second to none, the number of complications you can display at one time is ahead of any normal watch and little touches like the ease of strap changing enable me to understand why I see them everywhere, literally everywhere. Add the fitness and heart tracking capabilities and you have a well priced product that will only become more popular and which will likely decimate the quartz watch industry in a bigger way than quartz decimated the mechanical watch industry in the 1970’s.

The Apple Watch is in many ways the best watch on the market today and no other smartwatch comes close, and many quartz watches cannot compete either unless you are deliberately avoiding a smartwatch. The problem with the Apple Watch, at least in my eyes, is that it is soulless.

It is soulless in the way a computer or a smartphone is. They are all screens with pixels and colours that we use to gain information from and they are all temporary in nature. To many of you this must sound like me saying that a tumble dryer is soulless in comparison to a mangle or a new flat screen TV is soulless in comparison to an antique radio, but for those of us who view a watch as something special there is a difference.

Can you name one tool with a practical use that could be 50 years old and yet still perform its function perfectly every day without any intervention at all? A tool with history, provenance and which only goes up in value (both emotionally and financially) the longer you wear it? A tool that becomes so familiar that it would feel like a loss to not have it attached to you. Only a watch ticks those boxes.

And as my time with the Apple Watch grew ever more useful and ever more familiar I knew I had to take it off and force myself to forget about it. I was missing a real watch and verging on the point of feeling as though the Apple Watch was wearing me instead of the other way around. The notifications to move, the little pop ups attempting to motivate me and the insurance that I would never miss any message became too much. Sure I could control them to a point, but the ‘always attached’ feeling grew and grew. You could argue that the Apple Watch is almost too good at what it does and I eventually realised that it was a step too far in terms of where I want to go with technology.

By coincidence I have been reading a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Simple ways to Keep the Little Things from Overtaking Your Life and despite its sometimes American ‘you can improve yourself’ nonsense speak there is a lot of very useful information held within it. It looks at focussing on what is important and ignoring the little things that can annoy or that are not important, and within that falls the majority of the information an Apple Watch offers up countless times a day. It has also opened my eyes to how I interact to people and made me realise that I can be a bit of a dick at times, most of the time actually.

Another coincidence was visiting a vintage watch shop with my son and seeing an Omega Calibre 1012 from 1974 for sale, a watch I had been thinking about for some time, but which is not easy to get at a reasonable price. I held back from the purchase because I was wearing the Apple Watch, but it remained in my head for some reason. A few weeks later after some prolonged negotiation with the owner of the store I bought it for £70 less than a new series 5 Apple Watch would cost.

Comparing the two is pointless because most people would see no comparison at all. The Apple Watch is more accurate, it offers multiple complications, it is more customisable (straps etc), it could save my life one day (!) and it does genuinely look quite smart.

None of that matters in any way to me because the aim here is to do less and to be more. As it happens the Omega bears some similarity to the Apple Watch in terms of form, but it has much more style and pleasing little details that make it what it is. When I check the time on the Omega I spend a second longer than I need to because it is such a joy to look at and to wear. The way the bracelet attaches and tapers is an example of near perfect watch design when considering the bracelet uniformity to the watch itself. The fact I never need to do anything because it winds itself is a practical advantage and merely changing the date every other month is hardly a big hassle.

It offers much less than the Apple Watch, but it is so much more and crucially it helps me to step away from continually checking what I am doing for no good reason. In 2020 when technology is used to help us do so much the humble mechanical watch remains a useful tool that does something of great importance- it tells the time. Nothing more, nothing less and in some cases it does so in a way that just makes us feel good and which offers others a sense of what the person is. A sense of style and personality in a world where everyone is wearing the exact same Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch is so good I need to sell it

The Apple Watch has proved to be a brilliant companion for me and one that I find disturbing because it is killing my one material passion which is real watches.

When it comes to importance my family wins every time, but in those moments when I need to think about something else or to simply have a hobby, it is watches. I talk to my son a lot about watches, he is at Uni so it gives us a connection, and together we are gradually building up our knowledge of watches present and vintage.

Sure, the Apple Watch tracks my fitness and my general day to day movements. It keeps deadly accurate time every second of the day and can display a myriad of complications such as the weather, date, calendar and so much more, and you can change the strap in a second for a new look. I never miss a notification, I can control the Apple TV with it, unlock my Mac automatically and end my morning alarm. And for the rest of the time I can switch to a simply watch face and just tell the time when I need to.

The problem, however, is that it is soulless and there is no depth at all to the experience. It is a computer that just happens to be very small and that can be worn, and there is never a sense of history, longevity or getting to grow with it over many years.

I could wear an Apple Watch on one wrist and a ‘real’ watch on another, but that just does not feel right and probably never will. As much as I appreciate the Apple Watch and all it can do I am prepared to give all of that up to track myself less often and to simply enjoy a vintage timepiece on my wrist. My heart is definitely overruling my head here.

Observe the Apple Watch

I was watching a game show on TV the other day with one presenter and six contestants. I happened to notice that the presenter was wearing an Apple Watch and a few minutes later I realised that five of the six contestants were as well.

Literally everywhere you go you will see the Apple Watch and it is easily the one product I see more than any other wrist-based device. It actually seems as though I see the Apple Watch more than traditional watches now which is a scary thought.

$10,000 for 5 Garmins

Garmin’s MARQ line was designed to bridge the gap between highly functional smartwatches and luxury timepieces made with high-end materials. And for those who’ve struggled with choosing which design to splurge $1,500+ on, Garmin has now packaged almost the entire line in a fancy wooden box that will set you back $10,000 for the entire lot… More here.

These are not collectable, they are disposable. Why on earth would anyone buy this set?

Fossil’s Hybrid HR smartwatches

When you click into one of these apps, the watch hands move to point to 9 and 3, so they’re horizontal, and then the information displays above and below them. It works, but it’s awkward. Worse: it means that very little information can fit on the screen at any given time. That would be okay if you could quickly scroll, but the refresh rate on this screen is slow enough to be annoying… More here.

This is the kind of device that could bridge the gap between traditional and smart watches in a way that does not negatively affect either form, but it seems as though there is some way to go still.

We need a much better Chronos

I have been struggling recently with the idea of wearing my watch and a fitness tracker and after many different attempts with multiple devices I still do not have a solution.

I don’t like wearing things on both wrists because it’s uncomfortable and it looks silly, and trying to balance the two can be tricky. I also don’t like clip-on trackers because they cannot track the heart rate which is vital for any kind of fitness tracking. And as it happens none of the big players have made very small trackers that are not obvious when worn.

Garmin has gotten closest with the vivosmart 4, but it’s still another device on another wrist. And so a device like the Chronos looks like the perfect solution, and in theory it is.

The problem with the Chrono, judging by the reviews, is that it does not seem to work very well and the customer support is even worse so that’s a no go.

If one of the big boys in the fitness space could come up with a disc that sits under the watch and which offers excellent fitness tracking in a tiny space it would be an ideal solution, but it does seem as though no one has managed to do it right yet. Even the Sony Wena is receiving mediocre reviews at best.

Maybe one day soon this will happen…

The Garmin Venu

The Garmin Venu arrived yesterday and after some tinkering I came to some quick conclusions-

Finally, Garmin is using a decent quality screen that rivals the Apple Watch and it includes a cut down always-on display.

You can expect 2-3 days of battery life using the always-on display feature.

The fitness tracking is superb and extremely versatile.

It is quite big which is not deal, but arguably roughly the same real estate as the 44mm Apple Watch, but with a round form.

I was then going to write up a quick review, but I found this article which is so good I decided not to bother. Just have a read of it if you are considering the Venu. It’s the first smartwatch I have used that feels comparible to the Apple Watch.

Would you buy this above a G-Shock? I think I would…

Constructed to U.S. military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 metres)
Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) support helps track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
Monitor your heart rate, activity and stress; train with preloaded activity profiles
Stay connected with smart notifications and automatic data uploads to the Garmin Connect™ online fitness community
Use the TracBack® feature to navigate the same route back to your starting point; use the Garmin Explore™ website and app to plan your trips in advance
Battery life: up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, up to 16 hours in GPS mode and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac™ battery saver mode (depending on settings)

For some reason I ended up looking at the Garmin Instinct yesterday and after some time looking at the specs, the toughness and the design I had to ask myself why would someone buy a G-Shock above this? I get that there is great fondness for the G-Shock in the watch world and I myself have owned many, but there are also those who would decry the Instinct as not being a watch while quite happily wearing a G-Shock. I don’t get it.

Xiaomi’s first (Apple) smartwatch

The watch has an almost-identical rectangular touchscreen face with rounded corners and a lookalike rotating ridged crown button for scrolling, which is also located above a similar-looking pill-shaped button on the right side of the watch. Those are all right where you’d find them on an Apple Watch… More here.

Some watch brand get criticised often for copying well-known designs, but the sheer laziness from Xiaomi here is breathtaking.