The New Withings Steel Watch

Chalk it up to bad purchase timing.

A week after I decided to wear a watch and went with the Whitings Activité, they announce a new, cheaper watch in the Withings Activité Steel: basically the same watch, with a cheaper strap and a single monochromic color scheme (which I think is substantially worse than the two available on the Activité proper), but almost $300 cheaper in MSRP. I did use a 20% off coupon with my order, so the difference narrows to $200.

Of course, my first thought is that of buyer’s remorse, at least on the timing. Technology is known to have aggressive economies of scale and devices plummet in price over time, so much so that there are trackers to let potential buyers know when it’s a good time to get a new gadget. The “buy last year’s model for less” phonemonen seen with cars just doesn’t happen with gadgetry and consumer electronics.

On the other hand, watches belong—at least for the time being—in a different category of goods, one that values brand and prestige and looks much more so than conventional technology offerings. This was the reason the $10k Apple Watch Edition was such a different proposition: it tried to tug at the same strings that luxury watchmakers like Rolex and Omega have defined for decades. Yes, the functionality is identical; the difference is in the materials, the design, and really the brand and price itself. The rules of luxury goods are wholly different.

Not to say that any of this applies to the Withings watch line. These watches are simple, well-constructed, have enough sensors for a small amount of health-tracking, but otherwise don’t compare to watches-as-jewelry goods. They actually play more in the low-three-digit smartwatch category, albeit (hopefully) lasting more than 2–3 years before becoming technologically obsolete.

All that said, I still really like the design of my watch and it still feels like a fair price. If all this talk has piqued your interest, however, the Activité Steel is a great buy.

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