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To wear or not to wear? Can Apple Watch help you decide?

Posted: 11 Mar 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Apple  smart watch  Apple Watch  wrist watch  Santos-Dumont 

For most people, the act of wearing a timepiece is as staple to their daily routine as brushing their teeth, taking a shower, or putting on a pair of socks. There just is no question as to why you "need" to wear a wrist watch. In fact, simply asking the question would get you a raised eyebrow or a pointblank "Duh?" Then again, what if we modify that question and ask "Why do you need to wear a smart watch?

Amid the "hype" surrounding these innovative wearables, was the recent Apple Watch announcement worth all the ink and excitement?

On one hand, we know plenty of engineers who'll say, flat out: "It's basically just a fashion statement. Who cares?"

On the other hand, there are eternal optimists, such as Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research, who told the Financial Times a few days ago, "I continue to believe that the Apple Watch coming out will float all boats."

The truth, I believe, is somewhere in between.

There are many smart watch questions. Why isn't the market picking up? What's the optimal user interface? What are the killer smartphone apps? Should it be a standalone Dick Tracy watch or could it be a sort of smartphone sidekick? How long should a battery last? But there is only one smart watch question that really matters: Why wear it?

This is the era when most young people stopped wearing watches. So, why regress? Just because someone calls it "smart?"

Santos-Dumont flying biplane

Santos-Dumont flying biplane of his own design.

The "why" question is pretty important, because it was integral to the birth of the first wrist watch, ever.

The very notion of the wrist watch is a little over a hundred years old. Flamboyant Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont provided the inspiration for the design when he complained to his friend, the renowned French jeweller Louis Cartier, that he couldn't free his hands to consult his pocket watch while flying.

Cartier developed his Santos-Dumont prototype in 1904. The aviator wore it in fashion-conscious Paris two years later during his first successful public flight, covering about 200ft, in a strange-looking biplane of his own design called the 14-bis.

When Santos-Dumont emerged from the craft and checked his wrist watch to make sure he had set a new distance record, spectators got a glimpse of Cartier's design. It was one of the most successful product placements in history.

Santos-Dumont then knew exactly why he wanted to wear a wrist watch. To add flair and compel the rest of the world (who weren't crazy aviators and didn't need a wrist watch for airborne purposes) to try one, the timepiece carried the prestigious Cartier brand.

Watching the Apple Watch announcement, it dawned on me that Apple has done a lot of things right, to entice people to, well, take a flyer with this gadget.

An Apple Watch ad, with the pounding of drums and the force of redundancy, conveys the myriad possibilities of the Watch user interface. What comes through is Apple's awareness that no one smart watch can fit everyone's taste. The watch comes not only in all colours but also in all functions. The tagline: "There's an Apple Watch for everyone."

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