There are a number of luxury watch advocates who claim that they can’t swallow the thought of smartwatches because they find them to have a short life span and quick obsolescence (they’re no longer usable after two years). Luxury watches, on the other hand, are considered to have longer life and usage spans, are timeless, and often appreciate in value – leading many pro-luxury watch lovers to side with traditional watches over wrist wearables that are nothing short of computers-on-wrists.
Is this true, however? Is it the case that your smartwatch only lasts two years? Finally, does the evidence weigh in favor of luxury watches or against it?
The Smartwatch Obsolescence Argument
Luxury watch advocates argue that luxury watches have greater life spans than smartwatches because they view them as the wrist counterparts of smartphones (which I think is valid). In the same way that smartphones are often old and not given update support after two years, “the same goes for smartwatches,” is the response.
On the face of it, this seems to make sense – until you realize that the luxury watch owner carries and uses a smartphone on a daily basis that could also become obsolete within two years. There is little assurance, particularly within Android, that a device will be updated after two years and yet, many luxury watch owners also buy smartphones and replace them every two years. If these same advocates don’t mind the “obsolescence” of smartphones (or as it is perceived to be, however), why not mind the presumed obsolescence of smartwatches? Why is it that smartphones are allowed to have a two-year cycle but not smartwatches?
At this point, it is often said in response to my claim that “I don’t want a smartphone on my wrist” or “I don’t want to treat my watch like my smartphone,” but these statements are preferential, not objective. It’s fine to want to distinguish between smartphones and smartwatches and place them in different categories, but that is a preference, not an objective argument. You may not want a smartwatch that is replaced every two years, but that isn’t an argument against why smartwatches shouldn’t be replaced every two years.
A potential Two-year cycle for smartwatches hasn’t been verified, but is a workable assumption
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s also remember that the two-year factor is presumed, not proven. At this point, Android Wear is 18 months old and WatchOS (Apple’s smartwatch platform) is a little over a year old. The Apple Watch was just released a little under a year ago, so it’s too soon to know whether or not smartwatches will have only a two-year life cycle. It could be the case that smartwatches are given support for 4 years. Apple has extended iOS 9 to four-year old devices such as the iPad 3 and iPhone 4s, so it’s not unthinkable that Apple may give the first-generation Apple Watch a 4-year life span.
If you meet someone who makes this obsolescence argument, ask him or her for proof. If they’re honest with you, none is available. Smartwatch owners can be just as optimistic about the life span of their wrist wearable as luxury watch lovers are critical about it.
The Truth Behind Luxury Watches
Luxury watch lovers have made the argument that smartwatches quickly turn obsolete, but what about luxury watches? The truth of the matter is that luxury watch lovers and owners don’t know whether or not their watches will last for two years. Luxury watches have batteries that power them, and these batteries can’t be charged on a daily basis; in other words, once you buy the watch, you can either 1) replace the battery yourself when it goes dead or 2) take it in and get the battery replaced when something goes wrong.
To make the argument that smartwatches are obsolete after two years or have short life spans doesn’t automatically equate to “luxury watches last beyond two years.” Luxury watch owners quickly throw this in the discussion, but it just isn’t true. Maybe it’s true of their experience, but it isn’t true of all experiences. And for those who have been wearing luxury watches since they can remember, I’m sure they’ve had a luxury watch die due to water damage, impact damage, or a collision of some sort. There’s no guarantee that any watch, whether “smart” or not, will last for two years and beyond.
When you “tally up” the votes, luxury watches and smartwatches are in the same boat when it comes to some areas of the discussion.
It isn’t necessarily true that smartwatches will become obsolete after two years, and those who make the argument presuppose this obsolescence, though we’ve not even hit the 2-year mark for Android Wear (Google) or WatchOS (Apple). Perhaps when we hit the two-year mark, luxury watch lovers can make the case; even then, however, should a smartwatch last two years only, luxury watch lovers who are willing to replace their smartphone (but not their smartwatch) still have the burden of explaining why it is they’re comfortable with a two-year smartphone life span but not a two-year smartwatch life span.
Luxury watch lovers have a preference, and that’s okay, but it isn’t wise to tell someone they shouldn’t wear something or buy something because “I just don’t like it.” As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”