Early Friday morning I set my alarm and woke up with scores of other geeks to purchase my Apple Watch. As I detailed in an earlier post, I decided I was going to buy the stainless steel Apple Watch, mainly due to concerns about wearing the Apple Watch to work and for professional events. However I hadn’t yet decided on a band. I knew I wanted a sport strap for the gym so I ordered the Apple Watch with fluoroelastomer band. By 3:03 a.m. Eastern my confirmation email arrived with an anticipated ship date between April 24 and May 8th.
I was still struggling with a choice for an everyday strap. I considered waiting for third party straps and I also backed Click, an adapter to allow you to use a standard 22mm band with an Apple Watch on Kickstarter. But I felt the need to see the Apple bands in person so I scheduled an appointment to try on the Apple Watch at my nearest Apple store, which wasn’t easy because the nearest Apple store is over 60 miles way.
I’ve read many accounts of Apple Watch try-on appointments over the last few days. While my experience was fine, I felt like it wasn’t quite as polished as others. Everyone at the Apple Store was friendly and tried to be helpful but there seem to be a lot of kinks to work out of the system at this specific store. For example, the employee who greeted me at the door wasn’t quite sure how to check me in, then didn’t seem to know where I was supposed to wait. I arrived about ten minutes early but was left waiting for some time and my appointment got started about 5 minutes late. It was politely made known to me at the start of the appointment that I would only have the opportunity to try on three watches. While this may be the policy, I've read others who handled many more during their appointments. This left the entire experience feeling rushed and a little disappointing, especially since I had traveled so far.
The employee who assisted me really didn’t ask ask any questions about my use or preferences or offer any guidance about selecting bands. He just asked if I had pre-ordered a watch and left it to me to tell him which three bands I wanted to try on. I picked the Modern Buckle, the Milanese Loop and the Sport Band. I would have liked to try the Classic Buckle, but it wasn’t available in my watch size.
We tried the modern buckle first. Interestingly when the employee pulled it out of the case he found the watch was dead. This was a Sunday morning and I believe my group was the first try-on appointment of the day. He explained the watch had likely been left on in the demo loop throughout the night and whoever put it away the night before hadn't secured it to the charging station. That was unfortunate so I just had to base my experience on the blank watch and the band.
This band would have been acceptable, but I’m not sure I would have loved it. It had a nice professional look and would have been appropriate for work, but the clasp was awkward. There are three sizing adjustments on each band and the band itself comes in a variety of sizes. The employee put the band on me the first time and then offered to let me try taking it off and putting it on myself. I had a difficult time doing this with only one hand free. I wear my watch on my left wrist and to put the band on myself I had to rest my left wrist against the table or against my chest for support and clasp the buckle with my right hand. Perhaps I would have gotten better at it over time but it was cumbersome to align and snap into place with only one hand. When opening the buckle the watch (partially due to its weight) would just spring open and fall off my wrist. I had to make sure I had a firm grasp on the buckle. I could absolutely foresee dropping the watch because the clasp slipped through my fingers when unbuckling it.
The leather also felt a bit thin. Although I know it is high quality and I bet would have aged well over time, it didn’t feel particularly luxurious. I would have preferred if the leather were just a bit thicker. This surprised me because I have Apple leather cases for my iPhone and iPad and love them. I really wish I could have compared it to the Classic Buckle, but alas, that wasn’t an option. I asked the employee how much the Modern Buckle cost when purchased separately (I looked at one point but had forgotten) and surprisingly he didn’t know, just referred me to the Apple Store App. I thought that was odd. (It’s $249 when ordered seperatley.)
All in all, I think I could have been happy with the Modern Buckle, but I’m glad I didn’t have to settle for it.
Although I didn’t plan on trying on the sport band (this is the watch I would have substituted the Classic Buckle for) I figured I might as well see how I liked the band I ordered. In my brief time with the Sport Band I found it comfortable, but also very casual. My hope was that by ordering the black Sport Band I could get away with wearing it in instances where I needed to be a little dressier because the black band from a distance might hide the fact that it was made of rubber (ok, fluoroelastomer). Sadly, I don’t think this will be the case.
The Sport Band will be fine to wear to the gym and on weekends around the house, etc. But I don’t think it’s a band that I can get away with regularly wearing to work or to anything but casual events. (Though I will until the Milanese Loop arrives.) The Sport Band is thicker than I thought it would be and, to me, screams “sports watch!” It really dresses down the more formal stainless steel watch. At the risk of sounding sexist, I feel that men can get away with wearing more casual watches or sports watches with business attire in a way that women can’t.
As for the band itself, I found it comfortable and I had no problem taking it on and off. I'm a little concerned about the security of the clasp given how it comes to gather with a simple push pin, but I would imagine this is something Apple has tested thoroughly. I had no trouble in my limited use. The Sport Band will be my band that I use when I’m working out or other physical activity, but it will not be my everyday band.
Now we get to the band that I ordered to accompany my Apple Watch. As soon as I put this band on my wrist I knew it was right. It’s soft, sophisticated and perfectly complements the stainless steel Apple Watch. Based on photos I’ve seen from others, I’m not sure it will look as good with the Sport Edition watch. I think this band will be especially popular with women but also suitable for men.
A couple of surprising things I didn’t realize about the Milanese Loop. First, it’s infinitely adjustable. (Yes, I see it says that in the marketing material. It I didn't fully understand it until now.) Although Apple’s sizing guide says it fits 130–180mm wrists, there’s actually some wiggle room in that number because the magnet that secures the watch will attach at any point on the band. I think 130–180mm is probably the optimum wrist range but if you're a close you may be fine. I really liked the fact that the band is adjustable because sometimes I prefer to loosen my watch and sometimes I wear it tighter depending on what I’m doing. Of course you can’t wear the watch too loose or the sensors won’t make contact with the skin.
I also didn’t realize that unlike the other bands the Milanese Loop never fully uncoils. The end of the band where the magnet clasps is thicker than the loop it pulls through so you can never pull it out. This means that you put it on like a bracelet, then tighten it to the proper size. I was initially concerned about how secure the band was and asked the Apple employee about this. He said that’s a common question and encouraged me to shake my wrist around to try it out. I shook my hand aggressively, mimicking a gesture you would make if you were shaking up a beverage, and the watch stayed secure and did not loosen. I think I will enjoy wearing this band everyday.
Unfortunately the appointment ended fairly quickly and due to the time constraints I wasn’t able to take photos as I would have liked. But I did try the demo Apple watch units in the store. All the store demo units were the larger 42mm models, which makes sense for demos. However, when trying the Apple Watch on my wrist I found the 38mm was plenty big, a good bit larger than the watch I wear now. I can’t imagine having anything larger and suspect that most women, and a fair number of men, will prefer the smaller size watch.
I was not able to swap bands, nor could I get the Apple employe who was demoing the watch to swap bands for me. He just showed me where the release buttons were and told me it was easy to do so. I got the impression they weren't allowed. I did get to experience the Taptic Engine for notifications, though did not get to hear any notification alerts. The Taptic Engine was crazy, and awesome. I know there are different strengths but the employee who assisted me didn't know what strength the watches in the demo loop were set to. Whatever it was, I don’t think you’ll miss any notifications. The demo watch was completely silent, which is how I plan to wear my watch, but had no problem getting my attention and that's exactly my desire. Unfortunately I couldn't test the "raise to view" features.
Before I left the store I ordered my Milanese Loop from the Apple Store app. It will arrive in "May" with no other details about a shipping date, so presumably at last a few weeks after my watch arrives. After my experience at the Apple Store today I’m even more excited about the Apple Watch, and I wasn’t sure that was even possible.
Oh, and I played with the new MacBook, more on that later…