Today at 10:00 AM Pacific Time, Apple’s “Spring Forward” event will be available as a live video stream on the company’s website. The event is widely expected to produce the final details on the company’s long-awaited smartwatch, the Apple Watch.
The timing of the announcement is most certainly not random: it takes place the day after Daylight Savings Time goes into effect, and it falls slightly more than a week before the start of the Baselworld watch fair in Switzerland, with the antennae of the watch cognoscenti fully attuned. WatchTime has already done extensive reporting on the Apple Watch and its possible impact on the watch world in general. Here are some highlights from what Apple has revealed thus far:
• The Apple Watch will be available in three collections, in three metals (including 316L stainless steel and 18k gold), in two sizes (38 mm and 42 mm), with six interchangeable straps and bracelets, and 11 different faces. Prices will start at $349.
• One of its highlight features is a “digital crown,” similar to a traditional watch crown, which replaces finger-based scrolling that would be almost impossible to execute precisely on the small screens. According to Apple, the crown will allow the user to scroll, zoom and navigate, while pressing it will return the user to the home screen.
• Among its features will be “swipe and go” mobile payments; a “ping my phone” system that sends a command to a misplaced iPhone to make a sound so the user can locate it; a dictation-command function that enables quick verbal replies to messages; and straps and bracelets with magnetic attachments taking the place of traditional buckles. (For much more on the Apple Watch’s technological details, and the pros and cons early testers have noted, read our original articles here and here.)
• The watch’s battery life is expected to be very low, with daily charging necessary. (To see how the Apple Watch stacks up to other smartwatches in this and other categories, read our comparison article here.)
What new information is to be revealed at the “Spring Forward” event remains to be seen, although Apple has confirmed that the Apple Watch will be available at retail in April.
As one might expect, the Swiss watch industry has been quick to react to the rise of the smartwatch: brands such as TAG Heuer, Swatch, and others have either unveiled their own takes on the smartwatch or are expected to do so at the upcoming Baselworld fair, beginning on March 18. Among the most notable are the new “horological smartwatches” launched just last week by a trio of brands using a new MotionX-powered platform: Frédérique Constant, Alpina, and Mondaine. (Click here to read my report from the launch event.)
Also expectedly, many watch industry figures have been chiming in on the Apple Watch and what it means for the traditional watch industry. One of the most recent is Andrew Block, president of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry and former vice president of watch-retail giant Tourneau, who said in a statement, “First-time watch buyers entering the market have been left with the choice between fashion brands from Fossil or traditional brands like Tissot, with not much else to choose from. The Apple Watch broadens the offerings in the entry level category which will eventually benefit the entire watch industry.” On the issue of how the Apple Watch can capture the minds and dollars of the millenial generation where traditional brands have failed, Block says, “Due to smartphone technology many in the millennial set are not wearing watches leaving some valuable real estate on their wrists waiting to be claimed. Once this generation takes the dive into watches, there will be a natural progression to the upscale analog market as they become more established in their careers.”
More skeptical is our own Watch Insider, Alexander Linz, who opines in his recent blog post, “In my opinion this ‘watch’ will… be seen as a smart wrist-interface for the iPhone rather than a watch as we understand it. If I were Apple I would have never named it “Apple Watch,” but “Apple iPhone wrist-interface.” That way the ‘watch’ would be clearly positioned as an electronic consumer good, and not as a wristwatch… Will you really spend thousands of dollars [the 18k gold version of the Apple Watch is expected to be priced at $19,999] for a wrist interface for your iPhone?”
One things is for certain… it will not long before we find out.
This article was originally published on March 3, 2015, and has been updated.