The Big Apple Watch Question: How Long Will It Remain Useful?

Yesterday Apple released more details – including pricing and release dates – about their forthcoming Apple Watch. For between US$349 and $17,000 you will be able to begin pre-ordering your Apple Watch on April 10th and begin taking delivery on April 24th. Initial supply will almost certainly be limited, so some (many?) may wait a bit longer.

As John Martellaro pointed out here yesterday (and John Gruber pointed out at Daring Fireball last week), these prices are very, very reasonable for what you're getting when you compare them to other, luxury watches. I should know, I'm a watch guy. Heck, I went on record months ago saying I'd buy up every gold Apple Watch Edition I could find if they cost less than $10,000.

I have watches that range in value from $50 to about $10,000 (thankfully I paid far less than that for the latter and its value on the used market has since appreciated nicely). In any given week I'll easily wear watches at either end of that range and everywhere in between. I enjoy the variety and the mix of functionality.

There's room for an Apple Watch here, but for how long?

The thing is, the Rolex I bought back in 2007 still works exactly the same for me as it did when I purchased it. Sure, it's in need of a ~$400 servicing, but it still works just fine. So does the Citizen that was passed down to me through my wife's family that has decades of use on it. Again, it's been through a couple of minor servicings but its functionality remains in tact and the watch is perfectly useful.

Will the same be said for a first version Apple Watch in 5 years? What about 2 years? What happens when Apple Watch version 2 is released next year or the year after? Maybe Apple, too, will follow the watch industry and offer an annual servicing that provides a guts-upgrade without making users re-buy the (expensive) casing again. Maybe the bracelets will continue to fit future versions of the Watch. But then what happens when the form factor changes? As great as Apple's design of the Watch is, we can rest assured that they will continue to iterate on it for years to come. That's in Apple's DNA and I don't see that ever changing.

For me, I'm not even sure I want an Apple Watch. To get full utility out of it I would need to make it my daily-driver, and I'm not sure I'm willing to give up my variety and make any watch my daily-driver. But I'm also not against spending $400-$700 on a watch that I don't plan to wear daily, either. Plus it makes sense for me to simply have one given my work here at TMO and Mac Geek Gab.

With that in mind I keep thinking I should simply buy the least expensive Sport model and save my shekels for next year when version 2 comes out and I know I'll want to upgrade. After all, with the exception of the Ion-X glass vs. sapphire crystal, there are no known functionality differences between any of the Apple Watch models, it's simply a fashion choice. Apple's Ion-X glass is likely to be extremely scratch resistant on its own (and more impact resistant than sapphire), so if I'm going to upgrade every year anyway – and I don't know how often I'm going to even wear it – I don't need to spend the extra money on a potentially longer-lasting crystal.

The Apple Watch buyer's price decision comes down to fashion alone. It will be interesting to see how many folks choose to spend more money on fashion when it stands to reason that piece of jewelry will be unusable in just a few years.