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The Apple Watch Series 4 From a Watch Guy’s Perspective

A snobby mechanical watch guy weighs in on what the newest iteration of the Apple Watch means for his nerdy brethren.

Eric Yang

I have a confession to make: when the original Apple Watch came out, I wasn’t remotely interested in taking it for a spin. This wasn’t because the product seemed sub-par or poorly constructed, or even because I’m sort of a contrarian who has to go against the grain and be the odd man out all the time (actually, that last part is vaguely accurate, but I’m working on it, I swear).

I didn’t go check out the Apple watch for two reasons, one of which is A. I’m a mechanical watch snob and my interest in mechanical movements largely supersedes my interest in things powered by microchips, and B. I don’t want any more screens or connectivity in my life. I feel like I have a hard enough time sitting down to dinner with someone and convincing that person to put his or her phone down for thirty, uninterrupted minutes — I just don’t believe that the introduction of another screen is going to benefit me.

But maybe I judged too harshly and too quickly. The truth is that when I finally caved and checked out one of my best friend’s Apple Watches, I concluded that it was pretty damn amazing. I mean, it did everything I could possibly need it to do and more, and it did it by while synching with the phone in my pocket. Could it or would it ever replace my mechanical watches an everyday wear? Not likely. But there is an activity in my life that unfortunately takes up an inordinate amount of my time, and for which both a mechanical watch and/or a phone are inadequate companions — namely: working out.

I spend a lot of time at the gym. Not so much that I would necessarily consider myself a “gym rat,” per se, but more time than I’m comfortable with, given how much I dislike being there. Typically I’m there with my phone for storing my workouts in Notes and updating them with current rep and weight numbers (and for listening to podcasts while running), and I’m not wearing a watch, as I find them distracting and would rather simply look at the clock on the gym wall when I need to. Carrying even the phone, my water bottle and my car keys around is a royal pain in the ass, however.

Enter the Apple Watch Series 4. Don’t get me wrong — deep down, I still very much don’t want another screen in my life (they’re actually slowly destroying what was, until recently, 20/20 vision), but at this point, as I read the feature set, it’s getting harder and harder to be the Abstaining Mechanical Watch Guy who refuses to knowledge the Apple Watch’s existence. It’s there, the electronic elephant in the room, strapped to more wrists than I care to acknowledge, blinking incessantly at me.

The Series 4, in addition to featuring an edge-to-edge display that’s significantly larger than the Series 3, now features an ECG sensor in addition to an optical heart rate sensor for monitoring heart rhythm. It will let you know if it detects an elevated heart rate, and the digital crown provides haptic feedback. It can even report a fall to emergency services with the new next-generation gyroscope.

Do all of these new features necessarily pertain to me? Probably not. Some of them seem more geared more toward my grandmothers than me, personally (although my grandmothers are two tough, 93-ish-year-old ladies, let me tell you), but some of them are very much right up my alley. While I don’t necessarily want my iPhone calling me an ambulance, I could definitely use its help in the gym, and with every iteration, it’s getting harder and harder for me to come up with a good excuse for not owning one — or at least for not giving them serious consideration. After all, there’s nothing I’d love more than to not carry my phone around with me during a workout. Holding it in my hand when I go for a run outside seems particularly unnecessary in 2018; I imagine all the Generation Z-ers are laughing at me, calling me a stupid Millennial.

And then there’s the Watch Guy inside me. My watches have a symbiosis with me, and there’s something beautiful in that — I require them in order to tell the time, and they require me in order to function, whether that’s by winding a crown or simply wearing one on my wrist so that a rotor winds a mainspring. How could I possibly replace that with a computer, I asked myself, each time another Apple Watch comes out?

The truth is that wearable tech will likely never replace mechanical watches in my life — I’m simply too fascinated with the technology behind them and with the idea of them philosophically to contemplate their replacement with something powered by a battery and a microchip. However, I’m also not sure that Apple is necessarily asking me to abandon mechanical watches — too many of their top designers of past and present are mechanical watch guys (I’m looking at you, Jony Ive and Tony Fadell), and too many of their personnel are able to wax poetic about watchmaking to posit the thesis that Apple is somehow the watch world’s SPECTRE, looking to destroy all that is good and beautiful about a mechanical movement.

I mean, maybe they are all evil, but if that were true, I’m fairly certain that we wouldn’t know about it until it was too late.

What I think is probably more true is that there is room at the table for everybody, and that it’s time I began considering the possibility that loving mechanical watches need not be mutually exclusive with owning and using an Apple Watch (this argument could of course apply to any wearable tech, but after 16 years of die-hard Apple use, am I realistically going to turn someplace else? To a sub-par product that doesn’t come in that beautiful white box?). After all, if it makes my workout (and thus, my life) easier, then isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why we purchase a product, anyway — to make life easier? If the Apple Watch can do that, then it’s pretty difficult to write it off…

Even if it’s battery-powered.

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