Fashion Choices and the Apple Watch

I just came across this astute article on the current state of Apple and Android smartwatches from FastCompany:

Google Could Beat Apple At Fashion—Just Like It Did Phones

It gets to the heart of one of the problems with the Apple Watch: Apple’s integrated approach to products doesn’t mesh well with fashion’s emphasis on individualized style1.

Fashion is one of those markets that walks a fine line between mass production and personalized, unique expression2. For all the factory-line production of clothing and lightning-quick reactions to latest trends, there’s still a cultural expectation of individualism expressed in clothing. Uniforms still signify conformity, and finding someone else at a party with the same dress is still awkward.

Tech gadgets tend to be much more homogenous, but there’s certainly markets for custom phone cases and laptop stickers. With smartwatches, there’s an even greater fashion influence as it competes with an existing — and extremely mature — watch industry. Luxury mechanical watches, in particular, are pieces of jewelry which are supposed to serve as a signal of extravagance and individuality for their wearers; again, it’s rare to find two people wearing the exact same watch in a room.

The stubborn singularity of the Apple Watch clashes with this culture of fashion-as-expression. The only real outlet has been watch bands, but they’re a poor substitute for the variety of watch faces and chassis that attract watch buyers. So far, every Apple Watch looks about the same as every other Apple Watch, and without much in the way of apps, the watch has trouble justifying its existence from either presentation or utility.

  1. After writing this post but before posting it, Apple’s event happened where they officially lowered the price of the Apple Watch, which bolsters the narrative of decreasing watch sales.

  2. For some reason, cars also toe this line; there’s real value ascribed to model rarity.

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