After the Apple Watch shipped in April, The Mac Observer started reviewing Apple Watch charging docks. Here's a summary of those reviews just in time for your holiday shopping. This list is ranked (roughly) from best at the top. Also, each entry linked back to the original review.
1. Just Mobile Lounge Dock. US$39.95. Rating: Outstanding Product.
Just Mobile Lounge Dock
Notable for this dock is that it avoids common problems with this kind of product. You can easily place an Apple Watch in either portrait mode (the design) or Nightstand mode (not hard), and the vertical presentation angle is adjustable. The charging disk goes in and out of the head fairly easily, and there's no need to awkwardly bend or twist the cable into a gutter. Plus, it's not hard to take apart. While the aluminum base is padded and weighted nicely, it's also not overly heavy. The designers seem to have thought of everything, and this dock makes for a useful, affordable gift.
2. The Twelve South Forté Charging Stand. $59.99. Rating: We liked it.
Twelve South Forté
This dock/stand could have been just about perfect, but had a few flaws. Going for it is the beautiful design. It's capable of portrait or Nightstand mode, and has a leather top on the nicely weighted base. However, one has to press the charging cable into a gutter in the arm, and the vertical presentation angle isn't adjustable. If those aren't considerations, then this dock would make a nice gift.
3. Griffin WatchStand for Apple Watch. $29.99. Rating: Outstanding Product. (Before advent of Nightstand Mode.)
This dock was rated before the advent of Apple's Nighstand mode. While it can be used in that mode, I think the first two products listed above do a better job of that. So the adjusted Rating is now: We liked it.
Notable is the way the cable is hidden inside the column without too much bending, and the generous heft, nearly a pound, to keep it from tipping over. There's lip on the base that allows you to set your charging iPhone there as well. However, the presentation angle isn't adjustable. Just a few months after introduction, better designs have appeared, but it's still a handsome, capable device.
4. Native Union Apple Watch Charging Dock. $59.99. Rating: It's Okay.
The idea here is to cleverly present the Apple Watch, wrapped around a cylinder that's magnetically attached to a solid block base for either portrait or Nightstand mode. While the concept is interesting, the execution is not so great, including the need to bend the charger cable sharply and the fact that the base tips over on a soft surface. It's also very expensive compared to the clever design of the Just Mobile Lounge Dock.
5. Twelve South HiRise Apple Watch Stand. $49.99. Rating; We Like it.
Twelve South HiRise
This was the best charging dock reviewed before Apple introduced Nightstand mode. While there is some mildly tricky assembly required, the payoff is worth it. The charger cable has one sharp bend to make, but the rest pulls out of the gutter, covered with a nice color coordinated base plate, easily. Finally, the all aluminum design is handsome. If you're a Twelve South fan, the slightly more expensive Forté is a better way to go.
6. Just Mobile TimeStand. $39.95. Rating: It's Okay. This is the kind of charging dock one might consider throwing into a travel bag. However, I think time has passed it by. It's probably too easily tipped over when touched in Nightstand mode, and it isn't really designed for that. Plus, there's an exterior gutter into which the cable must be pressed, and the charger disk has to be pulled out by the cable—possibly putting undue stress on it.
Just Mobile TimeStand
On the other hand, I haven't seen an Apple Watch charging dock that meets all my design criteria and is easy to travel with.
7. Native Union Anchor. $29.99. Rating: It's Okay. I just received this, but have not yet published even a quick look review. I probably won't. So here's the diagnosis.
Native Union Anchor
Examining this minimalist, two piece dock in my hands, I wondered what the design motivation was. One piece is zinc metal, and the other is silicone block. Together, they hold the charging disk without any contortions of the cable. The only thing I can think of is that its a good way to keep your Apple Watch off a rough surface and/or keep it stable and in place. Or perhaps keep the watch itself protected from a liquid spill on the night stand. (However the watchband has to lay flat.) At 92 grams (3.26 ounces), it's a no brainer to travel with, but one has to really work to appreciate its (minimalist) virtues.
The Bottom Line for Personal Use and Gifts
For bedside use, I would recommend the Just Mobile Lounge Dock based on its design and price. If you want to spend a little more for some design elegance and the leather covered base, the Twelve South Forté is beautiful, if slightly flawed.
For travel, my current recommendation is to lay the watch's charger disk on a book, connect the Apple Watch and be done. At least until a travel dock comes my way that's both portable and well designed.