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The Apple Ultra Watch's Packaging Is A Reminder That This Isn't Your Daddy's Timepiece

by Rudy Sanchez on 09/27/2022 | 3 Minute Read

Consumer electronics giant Apple has offered what it calls a watch since 2015. It tells time, and you wear it on your wrist, but that’s about where the similarities to a conventional mechanical or quartz watch end.

Of course, the Apple Watch also positioned itself as a helpful health and fitness wearable, albeit a product confined to the gym or other low-stress, low-risk environments. 

But the newly released Apple Ultra Watch is the first to join more rugged wrist buddies, the kind of timekeeper you take for an underwater deep dive, atop rugged mountains, or on long trails. At $800, it’s also competing with some very nice and durable sport watches, both mechanical and quartz. But is the packaging for Apple’s new device for super serious athletes and adventurers as beautifully designed as similarly-priced sports watches?

Editorial photograph

The packaging for Apple’s Ultra Watch is definitely on par for the brand. The outside of the box gets made using textured premium card stock. Absent is the plastic film, and the top has “Apple Watch” embossed on the top. The box is held together with a clever tab and slot mechanism that unfolds to reveal the inside contents.

With the interior, you'll find a monochromatic scene of the great outdoors, a mountain range in the case of the Alpine model. Ocean models feature choppy ocean waters. The packaged user guide has a glossy, magazine-like look and feel and comes printed in full color, save for the front, which matches the inside of the box. Underneath, a white box reveals the watch on one side and a new twist on the “Designed by Apple in California” message on the charger cable holder on the other side. Under the typical tagline are GPS coordinates "37°20'5.5674" N, 122°0'32.3274" W," which corresponds to a location in the middle of Sanborn County Park, about 25 miles away from 1 Apple Loop Way. The watch band is on a fiber tray inside a smaller, white box, along with more documentation.

Apple’s Ultra Watch packaging is impressive and stunning, as expected for a premium product from Cupertino. However, it’s also demonstrative of how much a watch the Ultra isn’t. A conventional timepiece in that price range will typically come in a box designed to store the timekeeper for decades, something made from sturdy stock or material with a soft interior that protects the timepiece from scratches. The outer packaging will have the fit and finish commensurate with the brand, but Apple’s packaging doesn't bother with any of that. It doesn’t even look like the watch is meant to go back inside the origami box. In the end, Ultra’s packaging is more iPhone than IWC.

There is a logic to Apple skipping the conventional watch box. Traditional watches are more jewelry than necessary instruments these days. An $800 timepiece is certainly something purchased for more than knowing the time, especially when a $10 quartz will likely do a better job. Apple knows that all its devices will become obsolete in a few years, and the consumer knows this too. Why bother with a conventional box when customers don’t expect one, and Apple knows the Ultra isn’t an heirloom? Besides, isn't it better to make everything disposable and recyclable in the long run?

Ultimately, an Apple Watch isn't designed to be a cherished keepsake passed down a generation or two, just like its Macs. The lithium battery pack inside will eventually wear out in a matter of years, sooner than the coin battery in a Casio. Apple will iterate on the design and the software, making better, faster, and cheaper versions of its watch. Like the rest of the Apple range, the packaging reflects the short lifespan of its products as it’s mostly paper. 

For the Ultra Watch owner, there is no future where a grandchild receives it upon a major milestone, like graduating high school or college. Rather than aiming for horological permanence, the Ultra Watch is a tiny wrist computer made to be inevitably retired, dismantled, and recycled, just like its packaging.

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