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Lynn Yaeger Test Drives the Apple Watch

An antique-timepiece devotee has a charmed—albeit puzzling—affair with a hot new smartwatch

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Okay, maybe I’m not the most technologically savvy person on the planet. I clung to my ancient BlackBerry until one day a bunch of teenagers on the subway actually pointed at the thing and shrieked with laughter. I still think the Cloud is something from a Rolling Stones song, not a tool I better sign up for before I lose all my data. 

So the idea of strapping on a timepiece so smug that it refers to itself as a “smartwatch” presents a serious challenge. It’s not that I don’t wear a watch—in fact I’m a vintage-jewelry collector, with drawers full of pre–World War II tickers in various states of disrepair. I love their noble numbers, their burnished cases, despite that when it comes to their one and only task, they’re frequently temperamental.

Still, when I ended up with an Apple Watch on my wrist earlier this year, I was up for the challenge—especially when the company agrees to schedule a session with a teacher meant to make me feel comfortable using it. First off, she informs me that the watch—a 38mm model with a stainless-steel case—is actually tethered to my iPhone by some kind of mystical, invisible umbilical cord, without which it can do little more than give me the time of day.

Though you can choose from 13 screen styles, I go with my old friend Mickey Mouse, looking pretty much like he does on the face of the iconic Mickey Mouse Ingersoll watch that sold for around $3 in 1933. (I have one of these, and guess what? I paid way more than $3 for it, and it doesn’t work.) Mickey even taps his little yellow shoe in the direction of his gloved minute-hand, and I would be content to let him just tap and tell time, but my teacher insists on showing me the tiny symbols that get magically bigger when you touch them—icons that can inform you that your stock portfolio is tanking, or that it’s going to snow in Wichita. 

Many small miracles follow. You can use your watch to pay for a bottle of aspirin from Walgreens! (As yet it is not equipped to procure a pair of Manolos at Bergdorf Goodman, alas.) You can pull up a boarding pass, that flappy piece of paper I have been known to lose between the X-ray machine and the gate. You can send your heart rate to another Apple Watch owner who is interested in what your heart rate is. (I haven’t met this person yet, but maybe he or she is out there.) There are even differently colored rings that chart how much you Move, Exercise and Stand. (They confirm what I suspect: I do manage to Move and Stand, but when it comes to Exercise, the lime-colored indicator ring is nearly invisible.)

Best of all, my new watch can e-mail and text! Well, sort of. You can only read e-mails, and in order to send a text you must dictate it to the notorious message-garbling dumb-bunny Siri. But so what? My adorable teacher says this feature is very helpful in business meetings when you don’t want to take your phone out. (Though do you really want to be caught staring at your watch in a meeting?)

Then again, I don’t go to meetings. I’m freelance, which means on nice days I spend a lot of time walking around window-shopping, and it’s delightful not to have to fish my phone out of my bottomless handbag, but instead let Mickey fetch my e-mails and texts.

One week in, I’m a total sucker for this thing, shoving my wrist in my friends’ faces and waiting for them to comment—though certain sticks-in-the-mud in my circle remain uncharmed. One fellow especially thinks it’s ridiculous. (This guy has a flip phone, so consider the source.) But even he, with his hauteur, his disdain, is brought low one day at lunch. Suddenly my wrist buzzes, and I lift up my arm and talk to the hand! All of his cynicism evaporates, and he mists up, thinking, he confesses, of Dick Tracy and his two-way wrist radio. By the look of joy on his face, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next time I see him, he has chucked his light-up Timex and is deep in conversation with Siri. 

I can’t say I will abandon my vintage babies entirely, even if their mechanical engines, no matter how valiant, will never be able to send a text or take a call. But here’s a thought—if Apple can offer a new Hermès model, maybe they can figure out a way to refit a 1920s cocktail watch with postmodern innards.

A girl can dream. 

Shop the latest smartwatches in the gallery above.