Apple Watch has its Achilles' heel

LONGEVITY: The Hamilton Intra-matic (left) and the Apple Watch. While a mechanical watch can last decades, the smart device will become obsolete and unrepairable one day.


    Aug 07, 2015

    Apple Watch has its Achilles' heel

    THERE are two types of people in the world: those who wear watches and those who don't.

    If you belong to the second group, then there is really no reason why you should get an Apple Watch.

    Unlike a smartphone, desktop or notebook computer, a smartwatch is not a necessity. You do not need a smartwatch to take calls, browse the Web or check your e-mail messages.

    In fact, smartwatches are still heavily dependent on the phone that they are synced with for features. Take the Apple Watch away from the iPhone and it can do little more than tell the time. If you have made it this far in life without a watch on your wrist, you will do fine without an Apple Watch.

    However, if you are like me, love watches and have a habit of wearing them no matter where you go, then the Apple Watch is a tasty prospect worth considering.

    A colleague said the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch for the iPhone. And after wearing it for a month, I concur. No other smartwatch works as seamlessly with the iPhone.

    But whether it is necessary or even useful depends very much on your habits. Personally, I found some features useful, but I do not miss anything when I am not wearing my Apple Watch.


    What is not debatable is Apple's attention to detail and the build quality of the watch. Considering that the tech giant has zero experience in making watches, the Apple Watch is a great device.

    The quick strap-change system makes it extremely easy for users to change straps. The straps from Apple are also brilliant. The metal bracelets are easy to adjust to fit different wrist sizes without tools. And the Milanese loop, which is my favourite, has a magnetic clasp that makes it so easy to get a perfect fit on the wrist.

    The stainless steel case of the Apple Watch is impressively made and finished. Admittedly, mirror polishing the entire case is not the most complicated thing in the world, but the overall quality of the case is very high. Put the Apple Watch beside a watch costing twice or thrice as much, and it would not seem out of place. It looks and feels like a proper luxury watch.

    I applaud Apple for its efforts. The Apple Watch simply blows away the smartwatch competition where build quality is concerned. But as an alternative to traditional mechanical timepieces, I have my reservations.

    One of the reasons why I love mechanical watches so much is their longevity. If taken care of properly, a mechanical watch can last decades.

    This is the exact opposite of gadgets and devices, which often become obsolete in a couple of years. It is impossible to expect that the Apple Watch of 2015 to be compatible with the iPhone whatever of 2025. Ten years from now, what you will be left with is a very well made digital watch, which isn't really that bad.


    But the Apple Watch will surely fail at some point. The rechargeable battery within will gradually lose its ability to hold its charge, and will need to be replaced at some time in the future.

    Apple might be able to get you a replacement battery, perhaps three or even six years from now, but it is unlikely to be able to do so in 10. I doubt Apple is safekeeping first-generation Apple Watch batteries in its storeroom in anticipation of customers returning a decade later in search of a replacement.

    As for mechanical watches, thanks to advances in materials and manufacturing, a typical mechanical watch can last decades if used appropriately and serviced regularly.

    And even if it does break say 10, or even 30, 50 years down the road, most brands or even skilled third-party watchmakers will be able to carry out repairs for you. In fact, many luxury brands pride themselves on their ability to service and restore customers' watches even if they have long been out of production.

    That is my biggest gripe with the Apple Watch, and it is the same for all digital and quartz watches. I love G-Shocks and admire them for their unique design and cool features, but I would be reluctant to spend more than a certain amount for one because I know it will become impossible to repair one day.

    Watch wearers buy and wear a watch because of the way it looks and the way it makes them feel. I am happy to wear the Apple Watch, as it is fantastically made and provides some real utility as a smartwatch.

    That said, I would be hesitant to recommend it as a purchase, because its usefulness is highly subjective and I know it would become obsolete and unrepairable one day. But if that doesn't bother you, the Apple Watch is not just the best smartwatch for the iPhone, it is also one of the best digital watches you can buy, period.