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How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch?

How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch? Featured Articles

How is the iPhone 5 a lot like luxury watches? First, why compare the iPhone 5 to luxury watches? The iPhone has become the de facto phone of choice for people who can choose whatever phone they like. That doesn’t necessarily mean they only have an iPhone, but it is uncommon to find consumers of high-end products who don’t have an iPhone for daily use. No doubt Apple achieved this impressive market position with a slick user interface and useful product, but the design of the iPhone had a lot to do with it. Apple has succeeded where many others have not with a product that looks good to the eyes and feels good in the hands. It is also useful on a daily basis and tells people who see you with one a little bit about what your personality may be like. In a nutshell, the iPhone is a sexy tool – a concept invented by the watch industry. Let’s see how Apple is following the lead of high-end watch makers when it came to designing and constructing the newest iPhone.

The quality and construction of the iPhone 5 is arguably the best any iPhone has experienced. Apple made it easier to use and nicer to hold. It has an attention to detail and tactile user experience far and away beyond what any other mass-produced mobile phone can claim. So where has it followed the lead of high-end watches the most closely?

Organic Curves

How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch? Featured Articles

While the iPhone 5 might resemble the shape of a candy bar, it employs a series of graceful curves and rounded edges. The mastery of the design was in combing the technical look of a sophisticated modern gadget with an item that does not clash with the organic look of the human body. Use of organic curves in products meant to be held and seen on one’s person is an extremely effective way to help something feel warmer and less alien. It is difficult to find harsh edges on the iPhone, and it does not look or feel unnatural when in one’s palm. Likewise, high-end watches have employed the same design concept for years – creating wearable tools that do not disrupt the natural rhythmic curves of our organic bodies.

Beveled Edges


How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch? Featured Articles

One time while in Switzerland, I recall hearing about a practical reason developed by historic watch makers that involved beveling the edges of parts in mechanical movements. Though that reason has likely long since been forgotten. Today, beveling the edges of metal and other items has mostly aesthetic value. Beveled edges look better and help join two areas together for a smoother visual transition. Beveling edges are often highly polished and can further add a welcome shine and sparkle to products with otherwise mostly non-polished surfaces. Many high-end watches as well as the edges of the new iPhone 5 employ beveled edges for the precise same purposes. Apple was clever to use this design feature and I think it helps the iPhone 5 looks as much like a luxury product as possible.

High-Quality Touch & Feel

How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch? Featured Articles

Often times the elements that makes a watch “luxury” are the materials it is made from. You don’t find plastic in luxury timepieces, but you do find a lot of high quality metals as well as precious materials. Use of high quality materials isn’t enough though. Those materials need to be finished and polished properly for the best effect. The iPhone has always been an incredibly solid feeling phone, but with the iPhone 5, Apple tells us that the phone is entirely made from aluminum and glass (more on that below). Metal and a hard crystal is exactly what most good watches are make out of. Like high-end watches, the iPhone 5 also makes use of various finishes and very well fitting parts. It will also likely feel very soft and familiar when it is being handled. Harsh edges and an awkward feel are something the best watches don’t have – and neither will the iPhone 5.

Hard Crystal

How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch? Featured Articles

Virtually all modern high-end watches have a crystal made from very hard synthetic sapphire crystals. While nothing new these days, use of this material revolutionized the construction of high-end watches by making crystals extremely difficult to shatter and very scratch resistant. The iPhone has always used rather good glass over their screens but the iPhone 5 makes uses of the brand new Gorilla Glass 2. Gorilla Glass is a light and hard durable type of glass used in a range of mobile phones and other applications (such as TV screens). Gorilla Glass 2 is about 20% thinner than the original, with the same durability properties. It looks like Gorilla Glass has a hardness rating of about 700 Vickers, which is pretty good. Most sapphire crystals however have a hardness rating of over 2000 Vickers. The interesting news is that the iPhone 5 does in fact use some sapphire crystal in its construction. While Gorilla Glass 2 is used over much of the iPhone 5 body, sapphire crystal is used over the camera lens for clarity and protection.

Slim Yet Substantial Design

How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch? Featured Articles

The new iPhone 5 is thinner and longer than the outgoing iPhone 4S. Apple has long been a proponent of size reduction in all of their products – especially when it comes to those products being thin. Years ago before the advent of quartz watches, high-end mechanical watch makers would compete with one another when it came to making the thinnest watch movements and cases. Today, there has been a trendy resurgence of the “ultra-thin” mechanical watch (the winner is Piaget most of the time by the way). Not just thin, but thin and wide. Apple and high-end watch makers agree that the classiest look is to provide the greatest possible viewing area in the slimmest size signature.

Arguably, the most improved areas of the iPhone are in its visual design and construction in the iPhone 5. More now than ever it is a product with a bona fide luxury experience (and it looks great next to a nice watch).

Watch Brands



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  • Kris C

    Slow news day, I guess…

    • MarkCarson

      Kris C Sundays are usually the day for esoteric posts on ABTR. A good day for editorial or informational posts vice just news posts.

  • Pugsley

    Nah he’s hoping for a freebie.You can say the same about plenty of phones on the market today.

  • DG Cayse

    Its a cell phone…get over it. If a person is judged, or judges others, by the brand of cell phone they carry, they have issues that need to be dealt with.I never lose my cell. its always in the top right hand drawer of my desk.

  • Ulysses31

    Sounds like an advertorial.  You don’t write for Gizmodo by any chance do you Ariel?  For someone who claims to recognise fine engineering, you must have had your beer goggles on when assessing the iPhone.  Apple product engineering and design comes from the adoption of techniques normally used in the automotive industry.  This is why you have such fine tolerances in how parts fit together, easily the equal of many other phones out there.  I don’t personally find straight sides and a flat bottom to be ergonomic for a human hand; a shape similar to the old 3GS is more comfortable as it curves gently.  There’s also the issue with using glass in a phone that might crack when it is dropped.  Doesn’t make much sense to me – i’d prefer it if they found a material that was tougher after the fiasco that was the iPhone 4/4S. Finally, while the iPhone might have a decent finish, I can’t say that about other Apple products I have owned and used.  The laptops in particular have a lot of unbevelled edges and sharp points that look unfinished and actually hurt if held in certain ways (in before some smartass telling me i’m holding them wrong).  Maybe it’s a stylistic decision or laziness, I can’t tell.  I would really like some company to adopt the fine engineering of the watch industry, but phones are mass produced very expensive yet disposable items, and there isn’t a phone out yet that comes close to that level of quality and precision.  Even the watch companies themselves who’ve tried to create phones have failed (hello TAG).Don’t get me wrong; I like fine engineering – it’s why I come here – I just don’t like lazy engineering.  Oh, and by the way, just because a lot of people own a product doesn’t automatically make it superior.  A lot of people own a Casio watch, but you wouldn’t call it the best watch ever made.  In the end, excessive zealotry over phones (that has been ramping up of late, especially from one particular company that is becoming tiresome) is stopping people from being objective.  There is no perfect device.  A very wealthy company shouldn’t rest on its laurels and release devices with minor or expected enhancements (memory size, CPU performance increase on a regular basis, screens get bigger – none of which is revolutionary) and expect to coast along on image alone, because it is like an image in a mirror; it can easily be shattered with a little scrutiny.

    • Careful now, I never said the iPhone was ergonomic – it surely is not. But rather that it has an organically themed finish on the edges and curves. All mobile phones are far from perfect, but none obsess over design as much as this one does.

  • village idiot

    Bit of a stretch I say. My watches and  fountain pens yes, they make a statement about me and  to me. I do appreciate the detailed description of the physical design that without deliberately studying it, I’m sure would have entirely missed. I really have to get into the ninties with my cell phone technology.  Seldom use my old boat anchor of one.  Too many people have given me ample feedback “silence is golden”.   Internet access?  Great. Now I could  be welded to it 24/7. 

  • xelocin

    @TheScotchGirl it shows you the time in, wait for it, *jazz hands* Retina Display.

  • The problem with this piece (post) is that it misses the point about “timeliness” design and locus.  The iPhone 5 is the cool design for the moment. There is a reason Jony Ives always claims the current product is the best Apple has ever designed; and that is because currency is what sells here. Look at the first iPhone or second or third… I betcha if I try to sell you one today you’d go straight to Android. There is no timeliness to the design, it’s great until the next one. It simply does not transcend time nor space. Contrast that to a Rolex Submariner or a Cartier Tank. Both (and many other iconic timepieces) are designed to stand the test of time and space such that I’d be just as happy (maybe more) to buy and wear a Sub made in 1972 as I would one made in 2012. And that, is the essence of why mechanical products differ from electronics… One is based on tangible mechanism that lives in the “real” world whereas the other is based on intellectual mechanisms that is “made up.”  In other words, one lives (like us, like our heart) in the real physical world, the other lives in made up world that is fun at the time but disappears until the next made up world our brain can think of…

    • JamesLeseke

      Maximilien The wristwatch has had almost a century to develop its “timeless” look. The iPhone and its competitors have only been around for five.I do see the point of how design and feel do add a sense of perceived value to the iPhone. The five, by Air-ing out its design is placing itself as a high end luxury product. The unibody construction of the five gives it a very special look and feel. Either you like it or you don’t. From the very beginning the iPhone had a heavy style component. Not only the phone had a definite style but the OS had a style too. The look and feel of the OS and the look and feel of the phone were obsessed over like no one else in the industry. In this way I do see a connect between luxury watches, and not only the iPhone but other Apple products.  I distinctly remember that Apple nearly died an ugly death when they started pumping out un-stylish kit that did not work. They were cranking out really dull beige boxes just before Jobs took over. When Jobs came back, Apple started putting out some really wild, really trend setting kit, like the first iMacs. Style does matter. Your love for Rolex proves that. That watch, for you, has all the details absolutely nailed. It is a creation of obsessive attention to detail.And I think that is the real link to luxury watches; obsessive attention to details, even the most minor. The really good companies sweat the details. They work every niggle out like it is a matter of life and death. They create cult followings. 

      • @JamesLeseke don’t get me wrong, I have nothing per se against the iPhone 5. It looks like and is likely a cool product (have not seen nor touch it yet) and as an overall happy owner of every iPhone from first to 4S means that I’ll eventually give up my 4S for a 5 or 5S (when that one is released) once my AT&T contract expires…Also, as an software engineer who has programmed for iOS and Android, I have a somewhat “deeper” appreciation for the software and the engineering. All cool and great. As we all know, Apple takes great care in the user interface and user experience; the hardware and software of all its products are essentially designed to make the user experience great.So, without now sounding too much like a fan boy, yep the iPhone 5 is a nice design, but for an electronics device or gadget. However, as I mentioned, if you compare it with classic timepieces (e.g., Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, Cartier Tank, IWC Pilot, AP Royal Oak, Patek Nautilus, and many many others), my comments above still stand. The iPhone 5 (like most electronic devices) is designed for the moment and not to transcend space and time.The reasons I noted above can be cited but maybe the most important is that one is designed for a singular purpose (with some added complications, e.g., chronographs, calendar, and so on) whereas the other is designed to be a general purpose computing device that can be programmed to do pretty much anything… So maybe the comparison is unfair.I do see some level of comparison between the fit and finish of great timepieces and the iPhone (and most Apple devices) however that’s like saying that a BMW’s fit and finish is comparable to the iPhone.Any premium good will require a level of manual and automated fit and finish above average and above the competition in its class… that’s simply needed to differentiate with competing products and to earn the premium moniker.So yes the iPhone 5 is a nice product and an even sexy fashionable product. However, let’s talk in 2022 and that Cartier Santos 100 that I’ll be wearing will be just as nice as it is today but I am sure neither you nor I will be spotting an iPhone 5 in our hands or pockets 🙂

  • JohnnyJohnnyJohnny

    Organic Curves, High Quality Touch & Feel, Slim yet substantial design, CrystalHow is a stripper like a luxury watch?

  • MarkCarson

    People are fawning over the iPhone 5 but the truth is that Apple technically is playing catch up (for a change). And not fully catching up let alone surpassing things like the Samsung Galaxy S-III (which has many of the same “watch attributes”).I guess I’d agree with the article more if it was generic as in “How are state of the art cell phone like fine timepieces” and then used the iPhone 5 and other phones to prove the points. But the article looks a bit Apple Fan Boysh, which is too bad as the design concepts are worth discussing.Even though I doubt I will ever own an iPhone (as an IT geek I have lots of issues with Apple), I did enjoy the article.

    • MarkCarson The funny thing is that if you ask people who know me you’ll learn I am anything but an Apple fan boy. I am their biggest critic, but feel it was a good idea to point out where they do it right. These points to apply to other phones as well, but not as well to the iPhone. Plus, you don’t see luxury industry mavens carrying around Android-based phones. Just the iPhone.

      • MarkCarson

        ablogtoread MarkCarson  Of course, luxury industry mavens are “style concious” and the iPhone fits that bill completely. Back in the early days of cell phones, the Motorola Star-Tac was the “in” phone and some people paid $1500 for the little (at the time) buggers for the cool factor (it was an early Star Trek communicator style clam shell) and not for the features they wouldn’t be using anyway. All of the “cool kids” and fashionistas have now flocked to the iPhone. I’m not saying the iPhone was an undeserved hit, but the “aura” factor is way out of whack with its technical aspects. Still, not a bad comparison basis for your watch analogies. But as we agree, not the only comparison point either.What I find ironic is the Apple’s slogan used to “Think differently”. But now the iPhone is so popular it is the norm (not the “difference”). How times change…Imagine a Patek Phillipe ad with dad trying to get junior to lust after his iPhone in 30 years. “Dad, you gotta be shittin me! That old thing? Why would I want that dinosaur in 30 years? Take it to your grave with you.” Ha ha ha

  • Apdl

    Never mind the iPhone 5 How do I get that exploded image on my phone

    • MarkCarson

      Apdl  Save the image onto you PC/Mac, then crop it (image editing software) to just show the “screen” portion. Then email the photo to yourself. Read your email on your phone and save the photo. Then use it as wall paper, etc.Good luck.

    • MarkCarson

      This is not the same image, but I googled for “watch movement exploded view” and grabbed a result. Then resized it to be 1280×720 (the resolution of my S-III, yeah I know that’s larger then the iPhone screen) and posted it to my website. You can browse the below link on your phone and then save it, etc.

  • CG

    It’s a simple question: How Is The iPhone 5 Like A Luxury Watch?with a simple answer:It’s not! It’s a phone, there are no “like” similarities! There are more similarities between cats and dogs than an iThing and a “luxury” watch; whatever! 

    • DougMoose

      CG From a product standpoint, you’re right, of course.  But a luxury watch, besides telling time and looking nice (subjective), luxury watches have other purposes.  They can be status symbols, or a present you buy yourself which you might not normally choose (splurge), a special gift for a family member or business associate, or maybe something to just show-off when you go to the office or after-hours hangout.  Perhaps you are fulfilling an age-old desire to be the first kid on your block to have one so your friends will be jealous.All those qualities, and more, can be obtained by the purchase of either a luxury watch, an iPhone, a custom BMW, and so forth.  While the watch and iPhone may not share quantitative similarities, they can share qualitative characteristics.Blame Mark.  I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t shared the link on FB! 🙂

  • kineticmike

                                                I think that the aesir phone might come closer to filling the criteria.  I did some work on it, it’s actually what got me interested in watches.

    • MarkCarson

      kineticmike  Beautiful piece of design and engineering. Unfortunately, the specs don’t cut it in today’s world of ever higher tech disposable phones. And to take another bite out of Apple, is the king of planned obsolescence and has been ever since the first Mac upgrade.I think the best luxury companies can do for phones is provide alternate cases. Precious metals, carbon fiber, whatever. At about the most they can technically add would be something like induction charging from an extra battery in their custom case. And the short life of any phone makes it hard to recoop engineering costs and if you are slow to market, the products have passed your by. Thanks for the link.

    • MarkCarson

      Beautiful piece of design and engineering. Unfortunately, the specs don’t cut it in today’s world of ever higher tech disposable phones. And to take another bite out of Apple, they are the king of planned obsolescence and have been ever since the first Mac upgrade.I think the best luxury companies can do for phones is provide alternate cases. Precious metals, carbon fiber, whatever. And about the most they can technically add would be something like induction charging from an extra battery in their custom case. And the short life of any phone makes it hard to recoop engineering costs and if you are slow to market, the products have passed you bye. Thanks for the link.

    • Thomas Moller Jensen

      Thanks Mike, nice of you to share. /Thomas, Founder of Æsir Copenhagen

  • Ovidiu Hretcanu

    Is a Swarovski Crystal a luxury item?If yes, then I believe we can consider iPhone5 too… let me tell you what I mean by that:A watch is luxury because is contain something so unique and exquisite than only a educate person can really appreciate. The other will either ignore it or will take it for granted just because other will say so (or the prize dicatates); I am sure you will agree with me on this, to some extent.This gadget, however, apart from its price, does not possess neither of that: it is nothing revolutionary about it judging by the rules applied to this category of items. As for the design, I am sure the newly introduced “bevel” seem a lot but it simply does not make it better: you can have whatever design on a watch it will not matter since you’re putting it on your hand, the smartphone however is something you will hold in your hand and it needs to have an organic form. Now I know these are not always the best looking but having a borg cube as your phone will simply not do.I am deeply sorry Ariel, but you don’t need to be ashamed holding an S3 while wearing your Patek 😉

  • Henry Miller

    I’ve noticed that most watches have ’rounded edges’ also.Does this mean that Apple, Inc. will start litigation against the watch industry?

  • GeoffBot

    How is the iPhone 5 like a luxury watch?  Because it’s overpriced and made in China.

  • aBlogtoRead

    @JCKmarketplace thanks. There have been a lot of really interesting responses to this piece!

  • EphraimGerstein

    What is the piece in the first side-by -side?

    • GeoffBot

      EphraimGerstein ikepod megapode

  • Whille I like the idea that many people drawn to the title of the piece came from the iPhone side and left knowing more about luxury watches I fear the reverse journey isn’t quite as rewarding. Suffered through 3 generations of this device through my work and if my mechanical watch failed so badly at it’s primary purpose it would have been retired long ago 🙂

  • Its a great pleasure to read this article..It’s good to know the concept of iPhone designs taken from the luxury watches.  Really it enhances the looks of the  iPhone 5.

  • NoelSmith

    also get a case to match.  Have bought a case from EDGE and I love it. Guss its the only case with lifetime warranty! is awesome

  • mseyri

    what is the app on this picture on iphone 5 please?