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Following the launch of Apple’s latest watch model, Series 7, our Editor-in-Chief, Scarlett Baker reflects on the impact of the modern smartwatch and the shifting role of the timepiece today. 

In our modern society, there are certain objects that we deem as controversial that clearly divide us into two camps: yes or no, love or hate. These divisive entities that unintentionally separate us from one another, manifest in the form of Marmite, anchovies, yoga pants, and the Apple Watch. You’re speaking to two audiences, those who like exclusivity, and those who like consistency. Since its inception in April 2015, the Apple Watch conjured a sense of uncertainty not to dissimilar from the quartz crisis in the early 1970s with the advent of the battery-powered timepiece that nearly toppled the traditional watch industry as bankruptcy became rife. 

Despite the loss of over 90,000 jobs by 1988, the Swiss watch industry managed to stay afloat by the skin of its teeth, eventually restoring its status into the thriving market it is today. While the quartz crisis is now a remnant of history, a new one prevails given the rising popularity for the Apple Watch, the total antidote to a mechanical watch. So much so that in 2019, a reports suggested that Apple shipped 30.7 million units of its watches worldwide by comparison to the 21.1 million for all Swiss watch brands combined.

With the release of Apple’s next iteration of the Apple Watch Series 7 which launched last month and is now available for purchase, what will the latest metamorphosis from Apple bring to the watch world?

First and foremost, it makes doing daily tasks even easier/lazier which is almost ironic for a watch that centres health benefits as its USP (so much so that the company even has a Director of Fitness Technology). Spurred on by an increase in health awareness and wireless synchronization during physically demanding activities among consumers, has ultimately driven the market into a conscious direction. “It’s the ultimate device for a healthy life,” brands Apple, on the mission statement for their most recent launch of the Apple Watch (as to suggest if you don’t wear one, you’re unfit and unhealthy?) Perhaps you’ve already deduced my opinion of these miniature gadgets feigning wristwatches, and for the most part, it comes down to the increased screen time and the superfluity of needed access on demand to another app. And there’s also something inherently paradoxical about the setting on the Apple Watch for an analogue view in Roman numerals. 

That said, I am just one opinion and were I to run more than once every six months, perhaps I’d be more enticed. So what’s on offer for the novel Apple timepiece? Going full screen ahead, the task for the latest model was to create a bigger display while avoiding the modification of the watch dimensions. Re-engineering the watch meant reducing the borders by 40%, which allows for nearly 20% more screen area than Series 6. And over 50% more screen area than Series 3 with a  45 mm Retina display. Yet to conceive unbreakable glass in Silicon Valley, “more crack-resistant glass” is on offer in the latest model, making it Apple’s most durable watch to date, with a body crafted from 100% recycled aluminium.  

Courtesy of Apple

While mechanical purists undoubtedly wince at the release of yet another watch – that’s 7 versions in 6 years – because you don’t even have to flick your wrist to see the time anymore, because the display is always on, and 70% brighter indoors too. The mystifying part of this new release, however, is exactly how a watch that is now on all the time and promises brighter displays can take 45 minutes to go from 0-80% charge and remain useful for the entire day. 

By the end of 2020, approximately 10% of iPhone users were wearing an Apple Watch. That might seem small, but when 10% actually equates to 100 million, it’s not so, making the Apple Watch the number one smartwatch in the world, with 36 percent of the worldwide market, according to Canalys, a research firm. Since its timely invention, brands have operated under the pretence that if you can’t beat them, join them, whether that’s by making a watch strap or having a stab at your own smartwatch. While the likes of Garmin, Huawei and Fitbit dominate the market, yet to overtake Apple, however, outliers such as TAG Heuer, Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors attempt to join the smartwatch rat race.

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

No one has quite made their mark like Apple though. And why is that? Quite simply, the wealth of access available at your fingertips, so that you don’t even need a phone. Ten years ago, we’d languish and bemuse over the thought of having cellular data in a watch. WiFi in your watch? You can take a phone call, check your heartbeat, unlock your car door, start your car, board your plane. It can sing you to sleep and wake you up in the morning. While our sensory systems help to define us in our make-up as humans, the Apple Watch inhabits its own mimicked anthropoid technology, sensing if the user has fallen and over and needs medical assistance. 

Despite my loyalty, as an owner of Apple products, my bias against the Apple Watch remains. But what the watch is doing for the movement in the watch world is placing a precedence on mental health that the mechanical world has been slower to respond too. Our time on this planet is limited, and the positive reinforcement that can be provided by a simple notification telling you that you’ve reached 10,000 steps has a positive mental impression that the tick of the clock can’t provide as overtly. Encouraging serenity, the new Series 7 goes one step beyond, offering a Reflect feature in the Mindfulness app, helping you set an intention and center yourself with a beautiful animation. Not forgetting the return of Apple Fitness+, the first fitness service built around the Apple Watch bringing studio workouts and guided meditations to your Apple products. 

While the latest release from the leading tech conglomerate boasts a more rounded design, larger casing sizes, and faster charging, what it continues to sell inadvertently is a mirage of time, where achievability is maximised tenfold by a machine doing the hard work for you. In a nutshell, the relinquish the feeling of soul responsibility and share it with our devices, so that in everything we do, we never have to be alone.

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Scarlett is a writer, editor, and creative consultant specializing in art, fashion, culture and digital strategy. Drawing on her work from previous titles including Dazed, LOVE Magazine, The Perfect Magazine, AnOther and 1 Granary, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Next Hour, Scarlett is leading the editorial vision toward new territories providing an alternative lens of social commentary to recontextualize the world of watchmaking for the next generation.