Discover more from McGST
The 1995 Apple Watch, from a time when even Apple did not know good design
So here was the incentive. If you bought System 7.5, you would get – at no extra cost – your choice of either a piece of software called Conflict Catcher 3 (meant to help alleviate issues with third party applications running on the Macintosh), or … an Apple Watch – but not the one you're thinking of… More at Hodinkee where you can read a lot more about this particular watch.
Apple gave this watch away as an add-on if you bought an early Apple operating system, in the same year that Microsoft released Windows 95. The Newton MessagePad was the 'portable offering from Apple which was later removed from the lineup, the Power Macintosh 6200 cost more than $2,000 and things were not going well at all. A couple of years later Steve Jobs returned to Apple and you all know what followed.
This particular Apple Watch, however, tells us a lot about the time and in particular where the watch industry was, and also how poorly we tend to look back at this era when it comes to fashion. Overalls, flat chinos, chunky shoes, crop tops and various other garments that offered nothing original apart from copying other eras from not so long before. The 1990's was not a classic period in culture, fashion or anything else that I can remember and for some reason it sits in the back of my mind rather than alongside other decades (I am 53 by the way).
I admit that if the paragraph above was about the 70's (flares, long hair), 80's (men wearing make-up, guitar playing poodles) or any other decade it would be easy to mock, but as far as watch design is concerned it was pretty bad.
It is possible that in 1995 the majority of people buying Apple System 7.5 were the type of people who would enjoy this design (geeks?) because computers were hardly commonplace or perhaps it is more likely a sign of Apple trying to be different and attempting to bring some colour to the beige world of early computing. Either way it is shockingly awful to look at in 2023 and completely impractical.
I picked it up in About Time Watches which is by far my favourite pre-owned watch store. It is in Wimborne, Dorset and the service is excellent with prices that you do not see elsewhere. To date I have bought a few watches from Scott and never had any problem, and I spent some time with a 1990's Omega Speedmaster on my wrist while visiting- I was so close to buying it and it is still playing on my mind because it is a classic of the 90's and as it happens the 70's, 80's and any other time. The 1995 Apple Watch is not a classic of any time, not even the single year of 1995, but I bought it from Scott because I have never seen one before and I like how it marries the historic tech-focus of this site and my consistent fascination with horology.
My intention is never to wear this watch or to be specific, to not be seen dead with it on my wrist. It is so f*cking awful that it is kind of charming in a perverse way. Just look at it, you would be hard pressed to make a watch that is less practical and harder to use than this model; the hour hard is a big triangle of non-specific time telling, the minute hand is too thick and rounded to be accurate, and even if it wasn't rounded there are no minute markers to point to. Don't speak to me about the ridiculous second hand (my favourite bit as it happens) or the four 12,3,6 and 9 markers which don't quite align with the 6 markers on the blue bezel, 2 of which are at 3 and 9 o'clock for some reason?.
The crown is rounded and almost impossible to use, the overly large QUARTZ detail on the dial and the way the lugs meet the strap are an exercise in bad design which is only saved by the classic Apple logo at the top, which for consistency is ironically not consistent with the rest of the watch.
There is nothing about this watch that is positive, nothing, but it will sit in a watch box as a memento of a time when Apple did not quite have their design chops in order and from when they tried to do something different, extremely unsuccessfully. Who knows? It may rise in price one day and be worth £10,000, but that feels as likely as the current Apple Watch being considered a design classic.