Apple has been committed to selling its Watch like it were a fashion item, but at a Condé Nast conference in Florence this morning, Apple design chief Jony Ive described how it's still very much built as a gadget. "Our focus has been doing our very best to create a product that's useful," Ive said, according to Vogue. "When we started on the iPhone, it was because we all couldn't bear our phones. The watch was different. We all loved our watches but saw that the wrist was a fabulous place for technology, so there were different motivations. I don't know how we can compare the old watches we know with the functionality and the capability of the Apple Watch."
"We're on a path that Apple was determined to be on since the ’70s."
Ive says that Apple isn't looking at the Watch in relation to traditional watches or other luxury goods. "We don't think about what we do in those terms," he said. In prior interviews, Ive has come off as a fan of traditional watches, and his deference here may be a sign of that. Still, it's an illustration of the Apple Watch's position as an extension of the iPhone, rather than a traditional piece meant to keep time.
That being said, Ive still sees Apple as being able to put the kind of care into each Watch that a traditional watchmaker might put into a mechanical piece. "It's not so much about things being touched personally — there are many ways to craft something," he said. "It's easy to assume that just because you make something in small volumes, not using many tools, that there is integrity and care — that is a false assumption." Rather, Ive posits that the machines Apple uses to build its products are just like any other crafting tool. "We all use something — you can't drill holes with your fingers," he said. "Whether it's a knife, a needle, or a machine, we all need the help of a device."
Ive, as well as his friend and Apple design partner Marc Newson, has a background in silversmithing, according to Vogue. That background and other experience with materials is something that both designers view as important to crafting products. "We both have the ability to understand certain materials," Newson said. "We come from a standpoint of being taught manually."
"It's that love of the material that drives so much of what we do."
"We both grew up making things ourselves," Ive said, "and I don't think you can design in materials without understanding their exact attributes." Ive said that the reason Apple created its own gold for the Apple Watch Edition is because "we loved how it felt." He told the conference, "It's that love of the material that drives so much of what we do."
While the Watch is very clearly a new market for Apple, Ive sees it as a natural extension of the work it's been doing. "I think that we're on a path that Apple was determined to be on since the ’70s, which was to try and make technology relevant and personal," Ive said. As for how Apple will know if it's succeeding? "If people struggle to use the technology then we have failed."