The Moto 360 is too aggressive. It's too big. It's too shiny. Its face is too large in comparison to its bezel. Its strap flops out from the edge of its case like a dog's tongue on a hot day. That's my opinion. Many will disagree with me, but I don't care. I will never wear a Moto 360. I might wear an Apple Watch, though. I expect millions of others might too.
Let's get one thing out of the way: the Apple Watch is not a pretty watch. A bulbous slab of metal, its case is a chunky blob with a square face and bulging sides. But while not conventionally attractive, it does achieve one extremely important goal: anonymity. However big it may be, the soft lines of the case seem to almost fade into insignificance, shifting focus to the strap and display. There will be 34 Apple Watch models across three "collections," and thanks to an ingenious design flourish in the form of a proprietary strap system, each looks distinct.
Far more than replaceable straps
While a number of smartwatches offer either replaceable straps or a choice of colors at retail, this customization fails to truly change their general aesthetic. Whether fitted with leather strapping or metal links, a Moto 360 is a Moto 360. Changing the strap on a Pebble Steel is simply changing the strap, and nothing else. The Apple Watch's customization is deeper. The proprietary system lets straps come with their own lugs (the small pieces of metal that connect a watch's case to its strap), and these lugs are individually tailored to match both the strap and the finish of the watch. It's hard to overemphasize how much this can change the look of a watch.
The standard "Apple Watch collection" models will be available with a choice of two finishes, stainless steel or "Space Black" stainless steel, and with six different types of strap. These straps connect to the same hollow in the sides of the watch, but the journey they take from there differs dramatically. The buckle designs encompass unfussy symmetrical metal lugs and simple leather straps; the link bracelet and sport band options do away with lugs and curve directly into the case; while the Milanese loop offers a modern lopsided fitting. This single collection features 18 models that offer a staggering variety of style. The "Sport collection," which replaces the case's stainless steel for aluminum and only comes with synthetic rubber straps, turn the same simple design into a G-Shock-esque sports watch. Add in the oddly named "Edition collection," set in gold and with design flourishes added to the crown, and it's clear what Apple is trying to do here. It’s trying to make a watch for everyone.
One watch, many designs, many wearers
Apple can't just make a Moto 360. It can't invest millions and millions of dollars in a new operating system, in new materials, and in marketing, for a single piece of jewelry with a divisive design. The watch industry, and the jewelry industry in general, thrives on our desire to be individual. Hundreds of thousands of watch designs are out there, of which only a handful will appeal to you. Until very recently, I knew no two people that wore the same watch, and it's perhaps my line of work that led me to meet two Pebble owners. If the Watch is to become what Apple needs it to be — a massive new product line like the iPhone or iPad — it has to be wearable by millions, not thousands. An anonymous, customizable design gives what is a very appealing gadget a chance to find a home on almost anyone's wrist. One watch, many designs, many wearers. It works for MetaWatch, and Apple is betting it will work on a far grander scale here.
There is only one Apple Watch I would consider wearing, but that's enough
The Apple Watch is clearly not perfect. Square designs undoubtedly comprise a small proportion of the over-one-billion watches bought every year. We're all familiar with circular watches, and the initial reaction to the Moto 360 sends a clear signal that we're not ready to let go of that design. Assuming its software works and its battery life is solid, you'd expect this first generation of the Apple Watch to sell well. For its second generation, Apple will need to continue down the same path, iterating on its design with sleeker models, with circular cases, and with a broader variety of case and strap materials. But as an entry into an entirely new market for the company, the Apple Watch casts a wide net. Of the 34 designs on offer, there is only one that I would consider wearing. But if millions can say the same, then the Apple Watch has a chance to succeed.