Here’s How Tough the Three Finishes of Apple Watch Really Are

Greg Koenig, the co-founder of Luma Labs who also narrated in detail each and every step shown in Apple’s Watch Craftsmanship videos in the form of a walkthrough last month, has now written an article at iMore, explaining how the Watch’s stainless steel, aluminum and gold finishes hold up against everyday beatings. I’ve personally been wanting to know this for a while now (and have been bugging Gary about it a lot lately :P), especially about the steel version’s durability and scratch proneness, and it’s also the main reason why I opted for the space grey aluminum instead.

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Greg says that even though the best way to answer the question of how durable each variant of the Apple Watch will be is to wait and see how the first wave of watches do in the hands of real people, early adopters of the device however are eager to at least have some idea before they buy. “Lucky for us, Apple is using materials and techniques that have been standard for wristwatches going back a few decades, so we can make some educated, experience-driven assumptions”, he says.

Starting with the Edition, the author notes that Apple claims to be using a “proprietary” 18-karat gold alloy, though it is nothing more than marketing speak. “Every manufacturer of gold watches claims their alloy is more durable, resilient and lustrous than the competition”. 

“Durability wise, gold is not the ideal material to manufacturer a watch with; it is soft and prone to being dented and damaged quite easily. On the other hand, repairing gold items is relatively straightforward, and any jeweler or watchmaker worth their salt can readily polish out the vast majority of accumulated daily scratches and ticks”.

Greg believes that in general, we can expect the Apple Watch models to wear about the same as any other high-quality stainless watch. “It also helps that the Apple case is fully polished — the surface leaves little traction for an impacting object to hit, and the shine actually helps to make minor scratching more difficult to see”, he writes.

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Regarding the durability of Sport aluminum models, here’s what he thinks:

“Apple has chosen to use a harder aluminum alloy — 7000 series. While the standard 6000 series aluminum is plenty strong for a watch, 7000 series aluminum offers roughly double the hardness and twice the tensile strength, approaching figures typically seen in mild steel. This means the anodized surface will have a much harder underlying structure to resist scratches and dents.

[…] Apple Watch Sport will likely be the most delicate of the models when it comes to overall durability, especially the Space Gray models (like the one I ordered). Even without dents and dings, anodizing tends to be extremely thin at sharp edges. I fear the Digital Crown’s grippy, laser cut serrations will show signs of use fairly rapidly”.

Well, the article sure seems to answer a lot of questions I had in mind for both the steel and the space grey sport versions but then again, only time will tell how well these watches keep their sheen over time. You can read the article in its entirety at this link.