While I rarely talk about it on this site, I work for a jewelry company. A company that, from time to time, has created watches. It’s why I keep obsessing about the impact of Apple entering the space. If there’s anything to be learned from the entertainment and phone industries, it’s that Apple tends to irreversibly change a market. If the rumors are true and they unveil a watch, it will most certainly change my industry. As a geek, I’m excited about what an iWatch could mean. As a jeweler, I’m concerned. Even though we only dabble in watches, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who make their living selling them. As the iWatch rumors grow, I find myself wondering how it will change an industry and an accessory that I love.
Our technology choices are often a personal statement, but watches are a public-facing statement of style. Much as Apple may offer different colors or even different watch straps, a predominantly screen-based approach will change the extent to which a watch is a fashion accessory. Assuming the screen will remain dark when not in use, a watch will become more a tool for the user and less a statement to the world. Much like our phones, our watches will begin to look more and more alike.
To those excited about functionality, this won’t matter, but it’s important to remember that jewelry is different than technology. Think about iPhone cases rather than the iPhone itself. Much as we make fun of them, the case is how many people turn their phones into accessories. There’s little doubt that the introduction of an iWatch would lead to watch straps that serve the same purpose, but this won’t be enough. When it comes to a traditional watch, the strap may help emphasize things, but the face is the statement. A screen-based watch with mass appeal may change this for many, but for some, it will not replace what most people look for in a watch: their own statement of personal style.
It’s very possible that Apple looks to do to watches what they’ve already done to phones. That their goal is for the traditional watch to go the way of the “candy bar” phone. If they embrace the watch industry, rather than only trying to supplant it, the impact of a connected watch could span a lot farther than an iWatch.
I’m excited about the possibility of the iWatch, but as a jeweler, I’m intrigued by the possibility of an API. If Apple releases a watch, it will have a point of view and offer a specific experience. If they also offer an API, it will allow for watches to interface with an iPhone in a range of ways. It would allow Apple a way to offer their vision while empowering luxury watch brands to push classic designs forward, much in the same way they pushed car manufacturers forward with iPod integration.
Why would Apple want to do this? Why wouldn’t they want to own it all? Why not dominate the watch industry as they have so may others before it? Because even if the iWatch becomes a dominant player, it’s unlikely to be someone’s only watch. Unlike phones or music players, watch customers, especially luxury watch buyers, tend change things up. They change their watches to suit their mood or to suit the occasion. An API would allow Apple to be a part of the collectors everyday life rather than only on the days where they choose to wear the iWatch.
Finding The Right Mix of the Two
By offering ways in which other watches could interact, they empower users (or wearers in this case) to prioritize their needs while still benefiting from various levels of integration with their iPhones. Some, like me, may want full control over notifications and would enjoy the possibilities that a touch screen would allow. We’ll gladly give up unique form in favor of robust function. Others would still prefer what they consider a luxury watch. For them, fashion will continue to come first.
An API would allow for various looks with multiple levels of integration. It would also empower watchmakers to create unique blends of analog and digital technologies, helping to define and inspire the watches that are yet to come. A combination of an iWatch and an API would allow watch lovers to have it all.
By creating an iWatch, Apple will certainly give geeks like me the watch to wear. Providing an API will help ensure that even when someone isn’t wearing an iWatch, they’ll still be wearing an Apple watch. And it may give a few jewelers a reason to stock a few iPhones, which can’t help but make a jewelry loving geek like me smile.