The Apple Watch Ultra is a very good smartwatch. It’s got loads of features, very long battery life, a titanium shell, and a distinctive design. You can read all about how good it is in my colleague Victoria Song’s review from earlier this fall. Be sure to check out the feature-length video review we recently published that does a deeper dive into Apple’s unique claims for the Ultra.
But as good as the Apple Watch Ultra is, it’s not the Apple Watch for me. I’m not an adventurous athlete and have no aspirations to be, but I am both a smartwatch devotee and an appreciator of fine mechanical watches (that, let’s be real, I won’t ever be able to afford). The Ultra should appeal to me based on those merits — after all, nobody dives with a Rolex Submariner on their wrist, despite the fact that it’s considered a “dive” watch in the mechanical world. The Ultra’s top-of-the-range status, larger-than-normal design, and larger-than-life capabilities speak to many of the same factors for why large, showy dive watches are popular.
I had the opportunity to long-term demo the Ultra this fall, and while there are certain things I certainly like about it, a month on my wrist wasn’t enough to convince me to buy it. What it did convince me to do is find a secondhand Series 7 Edition and buy that instead. Here’s why.
There were three factors about the Ultra that I really liked: the large screen, the titanium frame, and the long battery life. During my time wearing the watch, I could easily go two-and-a-half days between charging it, even when I wore it overnight for its silent alarm function to wake me up. The screen is big, bright, and easy to read; the larger, more heavily knurled digital crown is fun to spin and click, and I didn’t have issues hitting the other buttons by accident when I bent my wrist, as I know others have run into. The matte finish on the titanium frame looks better than the shiny finish on Apple’s stainless steel models and feels nicer and more sturdy than the aluminum on the standard Apple Watch. It’s a nice balance between the two other metals Apple uses.
What I didn’t like about the Ultra was just how big it sat on my wrist. There’s no hiding this watch: it’s big, it’s thick, and it stands out. Though it wears lighter than I thought it would, it’s not the kind of watch that I can put on and forget that I’m wearing half the time. I can’t easily fit it under a shirt or jacket cuff, and I’m constantly worried about banging it into door frames and such when I’m wearing it. The Ultra is also impossible to dress up — no matter if I outfitted it with a leather band or a metal bracelet, it still looks like a rugged action sports watch.
There’s no disguising the Ultra’s size or looks
I also am not a huge fan of the flat display. It’s not as nice to swipe and interact with as the curved glass on standard Apple Watches, and the way it plateaus on top of the watch makes it look disconnected from the rest of the design.
The Ultra’s other features fell short in my daily use, as well. It’s great to have another button on the side of the watch to do things with; it’s a crying shame how little I can actually do with it. (As my colleague Vjeran Pavic noted in our Ultra review video, it’d be great to have this watch change its function based on Focus Modes, much like how the watchface can automatically change.) I don’t take calls from my wrist, so the louder speaker didn’t come into play, either.
So the Apple Watch Ultra didn’t work for me. But it did inspire me to find something that does, and I’ve found it with the 45mm Series 7 Edition. This watch has a screen that’s nearly as large as the Ultra’s but maintains the curved sides that are easier to swipe on and look nicer on my wrist. It has a titanium frame that, while not exactly like the Ultra’s bead-blasted finish, is close enough to my eyes. It’s smaller, sleeker, and more comfortable to wear than the Ultra, and I can easily dress it up for different outfits.
The main thing I have given up is the Ultra’s battery life — the Series 7 is a daily charge device, no matter what. But my personal routines have adapted in a way that it’s not really a problem for me: I charge it for an hour or so to full each night before going to bed, then put it back on the charger when I wake up and shower to top it off for the day. I’ve yet to run into an issue with the S7’s battery dying before I was ready to charge it.
You may be wondering why I’m referring to the Series 7 model here, the watch that Apple released over a year ago, and not the newer Series 8, which shares its design and features. Well, the problem is that Apple discontinued the Edition version of the Series models when it launched the Ultra, so I can’t get a Series 8 in the titanium that I like. The upside to this is that to get a Series 7 Edition, I had to buy one secondhand, and I was able to grab one in excellent condition for less than half the price of an Ultra (and half the price of what the Edition was when new).
Bring back the Edition models, please
After a month or so of wearing the Series 7 instead of the Ultra, I’m quite happy with where I’ve landed. I have a “nice” Apple Watch with many of the same characteristics the Ultra offers, without the drawbacks that come with it.
I guess what I’m taking over 1,000 words to say is: bring back the Edition watches, Apple.