Watches: My IWC gets eyed up and I get pangs of remorse as I contemplate treason with Apple's Watch
In three days' time, at 8.01 am London time on Friday, we can order our Apple Watches from the online store. That morning, also, it will be possible to inspect the various models on display at an Apple Store near you — although sale stock will not arrive until the 24th.
The Watch is an crucial launch for Apple and, as a follower of technology, I am duty bound to buy one of the three versions. Almost certainly this will be the middle-of-the-road stainless steel model, with either the standard sport band or the Milanese loop. As a watch fan I am looking forward to trying it out over the next few months.
Watch geek confession
But as a long-time watch geek, I worry not that I won’t like the Apple Watch but that I might like it too much. After conquering a serious case of SWAS¹ a few years ago (and replacing it almost immediately with GAS²) I settled down with just one quality timepiece, the IWC Fliegeruhr Chronograph, the renowned pilots' watch.
It is far from brash, unlike a gold Rolex for instance, but it is noticed by people who matter, mostly by fellow afficionados. IWC has something of a cult following, just as Leica does in the camera world. As an example, earlier this week I was sitting in a crowded Piccadilly Line train when I noticed an IWC Portugieser on the wrist of the man opposite. At the same time he stared pointedly at my watch and tapped his finger on the Portugieser. We then did something very atypical for tube passengers — we had a conversation. It was probably because, as I discovered, he was Italian and not English and therefore lacked a stiff upper lip. But the shared love of fine watches led to an interesting chat about IWC of Schaffhausen and watches in general.
All or nothing choice
After this brief encounter I thought again about the forthcoming Apple Watch and felt pangs of remorse. What a traitor even to be contemplating an electronic smartwatch! Perhaps, I feared, I would not be wearing my dumb old IWC very much, if at all, once I get used to the new smart kid on the wrist.
The Apple Watch is likely to be an all or nothing choice. Once it becomes a part of the personal communications ecosystem it will be hard to leave behind. It will be akin to going out without your iPhone and, as I know to my cost, if this happens I always have to return home to collect the recalcitrant device. Call me an addict, but I cannot go through a full day without access to news and personal communications, not to mention the ability to work on blog posts such as this.
At the moment, collectors of fine watches are used to sallying forth with a different model on their wrist every day. Even those who own only one find it glued to their arm at all times. But the Apple Watch could completely kill this old-school eccentricity. The next few weeks will be extremely interesting for me. If I bond totally with Apple's new wrist wear, will I ever again want to wear a smart but dumb Swiss watch?
Up the Eiger without a rope
This must be worrying the manufacturers of expensive timepieces. If the Apple Watch can lure away committed enthusiasts such as me, they will indeed be on a sticky wicket. At the very least it will probably ensure that I never buy a second or third Swiss analogue watch: The IWC will remain my one indulgence for wear on special occasions. And even then I suspect I will immediately miss the Apple Watch.
It is too early to say. Only a few people in the world have actually used the Apple Watch. But all the indications are that it will be a major success for the world’s largest company. By the end of the summer I will have a better idea of the threat faced by the craftsmen of the Alps. If I succumb then surely they will be halfway up the North Face of the Eiger without a rope.
¹ Swiss Watch Acquisition Syndrome
² Gear Acquisition Syndrome, as in cameras and lenses