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Apple Watch: The much-awaited smart watch pick-me-up?

Posted: 11 Mar 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

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

Despite the hubbub created by smart watches, consumer take-up is still conservative at best, which leads many to ask if there is actually a need for these wearables. For instance, most people are sticking to wearing regular wrist watches like they would to using a spoon and a fork for eating. There simply is no question as to why you "need" to wear a wrist watch. However, asking the same thing as regards smart watches and you'll hardly find a conclusive response. But then again, is the Apple Watch poised to tackle that uncertainty head on?

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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