The Apple Watch design is already a classic — will it ever change?


The Apple Watch is a thing of absolute beauty. But, while using the Series 6, I was struck with a thought: will the Apple Watch design ever actually change?

The Curpertino-based company isn’t exactly known for left-field approaches to product design. It’s all about evolution, about tinkering and perfecting. This leads to clear aesthetic growth across its products.

Well, in everything but the Apple Watch.

Don’t believe me? Well, have a look at the Series 1, released all the way back in 2015:

And now compare that to this year’s Series 6:

Apple Watch design Series 6

They’re remarkably similar. The Side button is now flusher to the body, and the actual size of the Apple Watch has changed too (from 38mm and 42mm, to 40mm and 44mm). But apart from that? It’s strangely consistent.

And, just to note, I’m talking about external design here — obviously the innards of the Apple Watch have advanced considerably across the five years.

To provide a comparison, look at the iPhone 6 design (which was released in 2015):

iphone 6 design

And 2020’s iPhone 12:

iphone 12 design

Even just a cursory glance between the two pictures shows a huge number of design evolutions — far more than Apple’s flagship wearable has undergone.

So why has the Apple Watch design stayed so similar?

If we’re going to understand where Apple may go in the future with the Apple Watch design, we have to know why it has stayed so static.

There are three main reasons: brand, function, and customizability.

Reason 1: brand

The Apple Watch‘s design has become classic.

Think of it as akin to AirPods. Apple wasn’t the first company to create a product in that vein and shape, but it popularized it. The Apple Watch owns people’s brain space. It’s recognizable, something you can spot from afar.

This is so advanced that you can guarantee any company creating a square-ish smartwatch will receive accusations of Apple Watch plagiarism — whether that’s fair or not.

I could see Apple throwing away this level of product recognition, but to achieve this, it requires a better smartwatch design to move to. And this is where function comes in.

Reason 2: function

There’s a reason that most screens are rectangular: it’s simply the most efficient shape for displaying information.

If you’re designing a smartwatch you generally have two choices: a quadrilateral like Apple’s, or something circular like the Samsung Galaxy Watch.

samsung galaxy watch 3 design and aesthetic