So earlier this week Apple finally unveiled their much hyped ‘iWatch’, or Apple Watch as it is officially known now, and boy was it underwhelming.

The Apple Watch

To be fair, this is not entirely the fault of Apple. They certainly aren’t the first tech company to fail to live up to the lofty nay unachievable expectations set by the media, not to mention their own adoring fans. I mean let’s face it, the Apple Watch was one of the most talked about gadgets of 2014 well before its official unveiling on Monday, which is what makes this whole thing all the more disappointing.

Prior to its unveiling the Apple Watch was being billed as the ultimate smartwatch, the yardstick against which all other smartwatches would be measured (and found wanting, of course.) Post-launch however all people can seem to say is how similar it looks to the Samsung Gear, which was launched so long ago it’s now into its third iteration.

Apple Watch

Sure the Apple Watch has some cool added functionality and it appears to be well put-together but there’s no real wow factor that really blows the competition out of the water, at best you could say it’s on par with the rest, if not even a touch behind and that’s if you’re feeling generous. Jean-Claude Biver, the outspoken Chairman of LVMH’s watch and jewelry division and former CEO of Hublot, was obviously not when he told German daily Die Welt that the Apple Watch lacks sex appeal and “looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester.” This from a watch marketing guru who has successfully built not one but three brands into international successes.

Needless to say the Swiss luxury watch industry now firmly believes it has little to fear from the impending rise of the ‘Smart Watch’ – including the Apple Watch. I share this sentiment too and have done so for quite some time now (you can read my thoughts on that particular topic here.) Mr. Biver perhaps put it best though when in the same interview with Die Welt he explained that “Luxury always has something timeless; it’s rare and conveys prestige,” the Apple Watch meanwhile just seems a bit, well, tacky.

Apple Watch

What is interesting though is the recent news that major Swiss watchmaker Swatch is planning to launch its own Touch smartwatch next summer. Again I don’t think this presents much of a threat to the established luxury watch brands but it certainly will be interesting to see what impact this has on the digital market, especially if they surprise everyone and actually nail both the design and functionality, something the company is more than capable of doing. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Now for those of you who are still trying to make your mind up about the Apple Watch I recommend reading this excellent review by Hodinkee. As far as I’m aware they were the only real ‘watch guys’ to get hands on with the Apple Watch and as always have presented a pretty level-headed review. Plus they’ve got some great pictures.

At the end of the day Apple is still going to sell millions of units of the Apple Watch, with the novelty factor alone probably serving as incentive enough to get people to part with their hard-earned money. But that’s not the point. It could’ve been so much more but instead it felt kind of like a last minute job, which for a watch lover (even a mechanical one like myself) is kind of disappointing.

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Tom Mulraney
Tom Mulraney
Founder & Editor
Tom likes to write about luxury watches. So much so, that he created The Watch Lounge just so he would have an outlet for his passion. Together with his team, he is dedicated to bringing you original, entertaining (and maybe even a little educational) luxury watch and lifestyle content.

6 thoughts on “The Great Apple Watch Fiasco”

  1. skip1515 says:

    This is rather harsh. First off, the Samsung Gear is noticeably larger (to the point of being ungainly), while Apple has produced a much better scaled item (and in 2 sizes), and has been reviewed as being rather buggy. This might have been fixed by now, might be the reason for 3 iterations, and is admittedly in comparison to the as-yet unreleased Apple Watch OS, but to hold up the Gear as a benchmark is not in line with published opinions of the Gear.

    As to the design quotient, the Hodinkee review you cite is pretty glowing in that regard. At best the two of you are at opposite ends of the spectrum in your opinions.

    I”m not sure anyone at Apple (with whom I have no connection, other than as a consumer) intended to compete in the world of haute horology. Faulting them for not knocking MB&F, Audemars Piguet, Patek and others off their pedestals is to misunderstand the bull’s eye Apple was shooting for.

    “It could’ve been so much more”

    Perhaps. Without intending any snark, I’d be interested to hear what you believe it should have included that it doesn’t, while remaining a reasonably mass market item.

  2. Tom Mulraney says:

    Hey Skip,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Firstly, just to clarify, the only comparison being drawn to the Gear here is an aesthetic one, i.e. they are both rectangular in shape and look kind of similar from a physical perspective. I am not commenting on the OS of the Apple Watch, or anything like that.

    Secondly, the argument that has been made time and again isn’t about whether a Smart Watch could compete with high-end luxury watch brands but rather that it would eventually eliminate their market entirely by virtue of becoming an indispensable product to the wearer, thus relegating all other watches to the sidelines. In the lead up to the launch of the Apple Watch there was a lot of speculation that this would be the watch to do that, however this is clearly not the case. Sure people will buy them but they won’t stop buying or wearing other watches simply because they have one. For example I wouldn’t wear this Apple Watch to a fancy dinner or to an important meeting, despite the fact that I can read emails and monitor my heart rate with it.

    I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the Apple Watch however with regards to your final question, I (along with a lot of people I’m sure) were expecting Apple to give us that answer. Instead they’ve created a nice-ish looking product that does pretty much the same thing every other smart watch/wearable technology does. Nothing wrong with that but certainly not what I would call disruptive.

  3. They’re not competing in haute horlogerie – they’re staking ground on wearables specifically in wrist real estate.
    That’s why the fact it’s a butt ugly product is disappointing but maybe not as relevant as some would think. And probably more dangerous than most realize.

  4. Tom Mulraney says:

    Hey Jerome,

    Thanks for your comment, very cryptic!

    Care to expand a little please for my benefit, especially on that last part about it being more dangerous than most realize?

  5. Sorry didn’t mean to be! 🙂 I was trying to say that they’re competing for wrist space – so not specifically against the watch industry but also things like the Nike fuel band and all these other wearable “internet of things” entities – namely connected wearables.

    I think it does pose a danger to the watch industry but not from a design/tactical standpoint – rather from a terrain occupation angle – it’s hard to wears a real watch if you’re also sporting one of these things. If they manage to occupy the space via sheer functionality or “fashion” then it’s problematic for horology.

    The other “trap” – in my opinion – is fighting against this thing purely on technical level – if watch companies do that, then it’s like when they tried to fight quartz on its own ground back when – resulting in what we know happened. Who was the only one who took on quartz completely outside its ground via Blancpain? JCB 🙂 – You add technology gimmicks to existing product lines to try and “keep up” with the apple watch and you’re gonna be in a world of hurt.

    Just my opinion and I’m barely qualified 🙂

  6. skip1515 says:


    Thanks for replying, it’s appreciated.

    Really though, if the Apple Watch role out was underwhelming – and I’m not sure that’s everyone’s take on it (see: Andy Ihnatko at , admittedly the perspective of a tech writer) – it’s because various parts of the media and some fanboys/girls built up the lead-in. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone serious was disappointed that Apple’s intro to wearables wasn’t “disruptive”, least of all Apple, who didn’t make that claim (that I know of).

    Given that watches have been around far longer than smart phones, MP3 players or computer tablets, it would have been fantastical beyond belief for Apple to bring out a smart watch that redefined watches. As Ihnatko points out, Apple wasn’t the first to the smart phone, MP3 player, or tablet markets. They have managed to pretty much define those markets, though, once they got in the game. I think we should wait and see where they take this well-developed tool, rather than decry their inability to reinvent a centuries old device.

    From 25′ away (and probably much less), the Apple Watch is no more similar to the Gear than any dozen high end round or tank watches are to each other, so I’m not convinced that that’s a knock on the Apple Watch. Until someone comes out with a shape that’s completely new, and more wearable than the more fanciful of the MB&F pieces, I think we’re kind of stuck with basic circles and rectangles. Fit and finish matter, of course. In that regard the Apple Watch has set a standard for smart watches, from what I’ve read. It’s not haute, and not meant to compete in that arena, as I said earlier.

    “Secondly, the argument that has been made..snip…whether a Smart Watch could compete with high-end luxury watch brands but rather that it would eventually eliminate their market entirely…snip…In the lead up to the launch of the Apple Watch there was a lot of speculation that this would be the watch to do that”

    I can’t see how anyone of consequence in either the watch industry or tech industry could really have thought that could happen. If that were the case, then the motivation to buy a high end watch is way different than what I’ve always perceived it to be; the “indispensible” nature of a high end watch is its provenance, or mechanical-ness, or materials, not it’s ability to give information, in which it would always come up short against a smart watch. I’m sure we agree that that’s delivering information is not what drives the value of haute horology.

    What I can imagine is some middle ground, where someone like Roland Iten makes a case and band for a smart watch that has proven itself as a quality delivery system for information, including the ease of its OS. Given Apple’s history of understanding *how* we use technology, or how we will use tech even if we don’t know it yet, the Apple Watch has to be seen as the most likely candidate at the moment, but never as a threat to haute.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

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