Apple Watch: A fashion critic’s first look

A customer tries on an Apple Watch at an Apple store in Hong Kong on Friday.

A customer tries on an Apple Watch at an Apple store in Hong Kong on Friday.

(Kin Cheung / Associated Press)

The Apple Watch landed in stores today for “try-on visits” and pre-orders ahead of the April 24 ship date. It’s a pretty genius retail tactic akin to a fashion trunk show — a tease to create demand for the tech giant’s first foray into wearable technology. And it seems to have worked; many models of the watches are already back-ordered.

I wasn’t sure what to wear to my “try-on visit.” Jeans, a skirt, long sleeves or short? I went with short sleeves, a skirt and heels because I wanted to see if the watch felt right with a somewhat formal, “on-duty” outfit.

It turns out, it didn’t much matter what I wore, as no mirrors have been installed in Apple stores for the rollout. No mirrors for a product that is supposed to be a personal style statement -- are you kidding me? It was a big fashion fail, but one that I got around by taking pictures of myself on, what else, my iPhone!


The Apple store at the Grove has two large glass cases filled with Apple watches, and a more intimate sitting area in back where, by appointment, you can try on the timepieces, which are nestled in streamlined, ultrasuede trays, as if it were Tourneau.

I tried on three models. The classic 38 mm (that’s the smaller size) with stainless steel case, modern buckle, soft pink, made-in-Italy leather strap; the Sport 38 mm with stainless steel case, a surfy-looking white fluoroelastomer sport band; and the super-luxe Edition 38 mm with rose gold case, modern buckle and rose-gray leather strap.

Naturally, the Edition (which is $17,000) is the one I liked most. The rose gold is gorgeous, as is the buffed leather strap. The rounded shape of the lugs (where the band attaches to the case) kind of reminds me of the Hermes Cape Cod watch. And while the face may feel a little large to wear for evening, that’s easily solved by flipping the watch around and wearing the chic-looking modern buckle on the outside of your wrist. It looks like a beautiful Hermes leather bracelet. The round-edge rectangular “modern buckle” really grew on me, in fact. It’s one of my favorite features of the watches, and closes easily with magnets, with a satisfying “thump.”

The Sport model (starting at $349) has a more clean look, is noticeably lighter on the wrist with a strap that is a pin-and-tuck closure, which would be ideal for working out. I wish the strap color options were more vibrant, the pink more hot than the watermelon hue on offer, for example.

And the Classic (starting at $549) feels more functional than stylish. I was underwhelmed by strap options for the classic models, but third parties are already lining up to design stylish alternatives. In a few months’ time, no doubt Kate Spade, Michael Kors and others will have more colorful options on the shelves. (It’s worth noting that any of the three Apple Watch models can be mixed with any of the bands, which are easily swapped out—though the hardware won’t necessarily match.)

In terms of function, the customizable display on the face is a big draw. The flower options are attractive, and the animated jellyfish incredibly detailed. But I wish you could customize the display with a personal photo. That would make the Apple Watch the ultimate style statement. Can you imagine if everyone had a different photo on their wrist, what a conversation piece the watch would become?

There are two hardware buttons—the digital crown and power button. The crown is easy to use to scroll through lists onscreen, and is set high enough on the case that it won’t depress when you’re wrist is downward dogging in yoga. (So I’m told.) The icons for the functions on the face are small, but respond easily to touch commands.

Using the watch as a remote control for music and TV is a draw, as is the ability to click the shutter remotely on an iPhone photo. (No more selfie sticks!) The Apple Pay feature is cool, too, and safe-seeming — since the moment the watch comes off your wrist, it’s password protected. And then there are the apps, new ones rolling out every day, including Uber for Apple Watch.

I was excited to see the fitness applications, too — calculate how many calories you burned at a class at SoulCycle with one tap? Yes, please.

What kind of communication tool the watch will be, I couldn’t tell at first blush. The alerts, when someone has texted or emailed, are a strange sensation. Almost like a tiny electrical shock. But I suppose you get used to it. You can dictate texts and emails to your wrist a la Dick Tracy, but that’s possible on the iPhone. Maybe it will be easier to do while driving though.

I am looking forward to the prospect of being able to filter out some of my emails, so only the ones I choose hit my wrist and mental space. That would be a true luxury, a watch that’s actually a time saver.


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