As watch enthusiasts, we often like to write off smartwatches as not being “real” timepieces. However, regardless of our personal thoughts on smartwatches and connected devices, in general, it’s impossible to discuss contemporary wristwatches in 2022 without including the Apple Watch. Whether you consider it the ultimate watch or the anti-watch, the Apple Watch is undeniably easily one of the most important timepieces to appear in the last decade and has become an integral part of the industry.
For die-hard horology enthusiasts, the Apple Watch will never completely replace the role mechanical timepieces play in their lives, but that doesn’t mean bonafide watch nerds can’t wear smartwatches, too. Some people go with the “double-wristing” approach, in which they wear their favorite mechanical timepiece on one wrist and the Apple Watch on the other, which allows them to indulge in their horological passion without sacrificing their notifications and health tracking features. Alternatively, there are other people like me who wear a traditional wristwatch most of the time, but choose a connected device as their sports watch because it can do countless things not possible with a mechanical timepiece. Tracking runs and bike rides with fitness metrics and GPS functionality. For someone like me, a smartwatch isn’t an all-day, everyday timepiece, it’s a piece of sports equipment like a diver’s mask or a pair of running shoes. Plus, I’m not the only one who sees the merit of connected devices as sports watches, because alongside the new Apple Watch Series 8 and SE models is the all-new Apple Watch Ultra, which is designed specifically for active outdoor use and offers additional features and increased durability that can also be used for scuba diving. Let it be your do-everything sports watch.
The new Apple Watch Ultra offers all the advanced technologies you’ll find in the new generation of Series 8 watches, including improved health tracking and a car crash detection feature. However, unlike the “Pro” model, which is a more advanced version of the standard option (like the iPhone Pro), the Apple Watch Ultra also places a significant emphasis on durability and adventure-ready features. The Apple Watch Ultra’s 49mm case is crafted from titanium and offers a different and more utilitarian profile than previous Apple Watch case designs. In addition to featuring an additional user-assignable button (dubbed the “Action Button”) on the 9 o’clock side of the case, the digital crown has been enlarged with more pronounced grooves to make it easier to operate while wearing gloves. . Additionally, the case is extended to provide impact protection around the 3 o’clock side of the crown, while a flat sapphire crystal sits on top of the case to protect against scratches.
Although the Apple Watch Ultra’s case is officially listed as 49mm, it’s important to note that Apple measures its watches vertically rather than horizontally, and since there are virtually no lugs protruding from the case, the Apple Watch Ultra is very compact. Its on-paper 49mm case size on the wrist might suggest otherwise. As you can see from the photos of the watch on my 6.75” wrist, the Apple Watch Ultra is an undeniably large timepiece, but it doesn’t look like the 49mm behemoth the officially listed specs suggest. Plus, it’s made of lightweight titanium that helps keep things comfortable and manageable on the wrist while still offering a large and highly visible display.
With that in mind, the extra case size of the Apple Watch Ultra isn’t just about providing a bigger screen and increasing visibility. In addition to having additional speakers and microphones that make it well suited for outdoor use, the Apple Watch Ultra is twice as water-resistant as previous editions with a depth rating of 100 meters. In addition, the model complies with EN13319 (the international standard for recreational dive computers and depth gauges) and also includes a depth gauge with a suite of built-in features that allow it to function as a proper dive computer. Beyond its underwater capabilities, the Apple Watch Ultra comes with a new “Wayfinder” face that offers a customizable heads-up-display with eight different complications to track outdoor excursions, along with an advanced dynamic compass app and “BackTrack”. ” allowing wearers to use the watch’s built-in GPS to navigate back to locations such as trailheads or campsites in case they’ve gone too far or gotten lost in the wilderness.
In addition to counting decompression stops while diving and helping lost hikers find their way back home, the Apple Watch Ultra also has several other outdoor-oriented features, such as an extra-bright always-on Retina display (2000 nits). For even more clarity in direct sunlight, along with a “Night Mode” setting that removes white and blue light from the screen to create an all-red and black display that provides maximum visibility in the dark. In addition, the Apple Watch Ultra is designed specifically for outdoor excursions, its battery life has been significantly extended and Apple claims it lasts up to 36 hours on a charge, which can be extended to 60 hours using the low cost. The Power Battery Optimization feature will arrive as an update later this fall.
As the Apple Watch Ultra is intended as a multi-purpose outdoor adventure timepiece, three different strap options are being offered for the new model, and each one is meant for a different type of sport or outdoor activity. The Alpine Loop is a single-piece nylon strap with a hook-style clasp, built for hiking and general-purpose outdoor activities. The Ocean Band is a two-piece rubber band with a highly comfortable horizontal tube construction made for swimming, diving and water sports. Finally, the Trail Loop is a lightweight and comfortable Velcro-style strap built for running and endurance activities. As with all straps and bands for Apple Watch, the three options are easily interchangeable without the use of any tools, allowing you to customize your Apple Watch Ultra to suit the specific activity or weather you want to conquer that day.
After having the chance to try three different strap options, I had a hard time picking a flat-out favorite. The flexible construction of the Trail Loop band paired with its infinitely adjustable design makes it the lightest and most comfortable of the three offerings, while the Alpine Loop’s slightly more substantial and rigid construction does a better job of supporting the watch’s larger case. On my moderate-sized wrist. At the same time, there’s something to be said for having a sports watch with a rubber strap that dries instantly and can be easily washed whenever it gets dirty, and the only non-fabric option currently available is the Ocean Band. Realistically, the three different strap options offer different things, and I could easily see having one of each and swapping between them for different activities.
Traditionally, Apple has offered its watches as GPS-only models or with the option of having cellular connectivity. However, as the new top-of-the-line edition, the Apple Watch Ultra is offered in an exclusively cellular-equipped form, meaning you can call and text directly from your wrist without having to carry your phone with you. Additionally, this means you get maps, music streaming, Siri and Apple Pay, plus the ability to download third-party applications directly to your watch from the App Store. Similarly, the standard Apple Watch Series 8 is offered in 41mm or 45mm sizes, with aluminum or stainless steel cases, and in a variety of colors including Midnight, Starlight, Gold, Graphite, Silver, Space Black and (product) RED. The Apple Watch Ultra is only available as a 49mm model with a titanium case with bright orange accents. While additional colors and sizes may eventually join the lineup at some point in the future, the matte titanium case with high-contrast “international orange” highlights provides a utilitarian overall aesthetic that’s consistent with Apple’s highly purpose-built nature. A tough watch.
Connected devices make ideal sports watches because of the incredible functionality they offer, and while the Apple Watch has always been popular as a fitness tracker and everyday sports watch, it often plays second fiddle to more durable and purpose-built offerings from brands. The likes of Suunto and Garmin when it comes to the category of rugged timepieces built for the outdoors. Until now, the Apple Watch couldn’t accompany you scuba diving or last the duration of an overnight camping trip without needing to charge. However, that changed with the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra, which pairs the brand’s versatile and highly intuitive interface with an extra durable case and a built-in suite of advanced sports watch features. At official retail price $799 USD (At launch), the Apple Watch Ultra costs more than twice the base price for the new Series 8 models, yet it’s well within the range of what would be classified as “affordable” by most of the watch enthusiast community. While there are certainly some people who will buy the Apple Watch Ultra specifically for its adventure-ready capabilities or because it can serve double duty as their dive computer, I imagine there will be plenty of people who will buy the new model. As many people wear dive watches – even if they don’t intend to go scuba diving – they appreciate its larger size, tougher construction and more advanced specs. For more information, please visit Brand’s website.