Why the Apple Watch might just be the perfect watch for a politician
It is clear that in the last thirty years there has been a huge shift in how politicians are viewed by the media and by the public at large. No longer are they treated with reverence or are allowed to act as entitled members of an elite club without consequence; now they are more likely to get toppled by an inappropriate tweet, a lewd remark whispered in an aide's ear or perhaps just a good ol' sex scandal. Politicians now attempt to come across as "one of us" rather than "one of them" so gone is the suit and tie when talking to constituents now the dress code is rolled up sleeves and unbuttoned collars. Now that the three piece suit has been put firmly to the back of the closest, the luxury watch has been locked in the bedside cabinet as well. Apart from monarchs who have quite literally free reign to bedazzle the populace with jewels and expensive timepieces, most politicians have chosen to neglect a luxury watch in favour of a simple Timex/Casio. Since the early nineties, most Presidents have chosen to wear simple affordable watches and most English Prime Ministers rarely wear watches at all. It's perfectly understandable why they do this as all it takes is one eagle eyed reporter recognizing a $10,000 watch on a politician's wrist whilst they talk about austerity measures and calling them out for hypocrisy. I can already see headlines of "Rolex-gate controversy continues!".
When time and consideration are given to purchasing a watch they can reflect a lot about us: our preference for form or function, an appreciation for technology or any number of other qualities. In a world where prospective and current politicians all try and be more relatable to the voters, what better shorthand is there for a persona than a watch? A watch is a conversation starter, a tool and an accessory all at the same time so I think it would be beneficial for politicians to start wearing one more frequently. The question of which watch is more tricky as anything too flashy and you'll seem out of touch but a beat-up drug store watch lacks a certain gravitas. For me there is a perfect solution for the vast majority of politicians, The Apple watch.
Yes, an Apple Watch. Some might say it unwise to mention the Apple Watch in a positive light amongst the watch community, a device that was meant to bring certain death to the mechanical watch. Let us remove ourselves from horological apocalyptic prophesying and think about what the Apple Watch is and what is represents. What the Apple Watch achieves more than anything else is that is successfully straddles the line between a luxury item and being commonplace. For the majority of the Western World the Apple Watch is a luxury item the same way an iPhone or iPad is, desirable yet within the grasp of most people. At a few hundred dollars, the Apple Watch isn't a $20,000 Patek which most people will never get close to owning but something affordable that could possibly humanise a politician ( I say those words very lightly). It's an unfortunate reality but there is at least one person out there who would see someone wearing an Apple watch and go "mmm... I like Apple products and this guy is wearing an Apple watch. I'll vote for them". Unfortunate but probably true.
The watch is a great talking point both in casual conservation and in relation to broader topics. I don't know about others but during my time in retail whenever I saw someone wearing the Apple Watch I would ask them about their experience wearing it. Regardless of your opinion of the watch's horological importance, it certainly is a conversation starter and a genuine positive interaction with a member of the public is worth more to a politician than any number of media buy-outs. The Apple Watch would allow politicians to segway into topics related to the tech industry, to privacy and digital presence of health-care. Republican Presidential Primary candidate Jeb Bush took this route by simultaneously extolling the virtues of his Apple watch whilst also criticising Obama-Care. Now the merit of discarding a system of health-care for a few apps and a smartwatch is a contentious issues as a DNC Chairwoman tweeted at Mr Bush saying "I had cancer. There is no app for that". Whether you agree with Mr Bush or not is another matter but at least he's making the most out of his watch!
On this device in five years will be applications that will allow me to manage my health care in ways that five years ago were not even possible. I’ll have the ability, someone will, you know, because of my blood sugar, there’ll be a wireless, there’ll be, someone will send me a signal. It’ll come here, I’ll get a double beep saying, ‘You just ate a butterscotch sundae’ or something like that. ‘You went way over the top. You’re a diabetic, you can’t do that,’ whatever. “We’ll be able to guide our own health care decisions in a way that will make us healthy. And ultimately, we have to get to a health system, away from a disease system.
Not only does the social impact of the watch help politicians but also the functionality of it as well. If you're a political staffer seeing your candidate droning on and on, why not send send them a subtle tap tap tap on their watch to get their attention? This might seem frivolous but I'm sure that anyone who has worked in politics would agree that getting someone to stop talking is just as important as getting someone to listen to them (I've never worked in politics and that is pure speculation but I've watched enough episodes of The West Wing to think I know what I'm talking about). Want an alarm to go off alerting you but don't want the whole room to know? Then simply set a silent alarm that only you can feel.
Now the risk of wearing an Apple watch or any smart device is that if you don't know ( or look like you don't know) how it works then you're doomed from the start. Ex-Speaker of the House and former Republican Presidential Primary candidate Newt Gingrich reviewed the Apple Watch for Mashable earlier this year and whether he would have done so whilst in office is unknown but in my opinion it would have been a mistake. "Excuse me, I have to feed my tamagotchi" says Mr. Gingrich whilst clumsily poking at the watch in one scene or awkwardly holding his iPhone whilst trying (and failing) to take a selfie in another. Now I'm not saying that Mr. Bush is the epitome of youth and vigour but at least he seems competent in talking about the device without coming across as out of touch.
Now I'm not saying that having an Apple Watch on your wrist is a guaranteed political success as that is a ludicrous statement and depending on the politician perhaps it might even work against them. If you're not even attempting to appear as a "normal" member of the public then why bother? Former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy is a good example, a man who left his wife whilst in office to get married to a supermodel (his polling numbers increased afterwards) wears a Patek Philippe Ref. 3940 in white gold. Former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi was seen wearing a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony worth $540,000 whilst in office. Neither of these two men strive to appeal to voters as anything other than themselves, not that Mr. Berlusconi needed to worry about the electoral result in the first place. However the undisputed Tsar of watches as political expression is Russian President Vladimir Putin who despite his modest (declared) salary has been able to amass a very impressive collection of timepieces. A $15,000 Breguet Marine, a Blancpain Leman Aqualung Grande Date, a Blancpain Leman Flyback, several other Blancpain divers and a Patek Philippe Ref. 5960 worth $18,000 all have graced his wrist over the last few years. Mr Putin has given a Blancpain away to a factory worker and once threw another into freshly poured concrete during a visit to a construction site. Rather fitting for a man obsessed with power, Mr Putin uses his watches as a political tool which function is to demonstrate just how powerful he is. Who other than a man in complete control would throw away a $10,000 watch?
Other politicians have used their watches in similar metaphorical ways. Current German Prime Minister Angela Merkel was seen sporting a watch that was confused for a Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso when in fact it was a very cheap watch worth $40. When asked why she hadn't replaced it when the crystal broke she replied along the lines of "Well it still works doesn't it?". A perfect metaphor for traditional conservative German fiscal policy perhaps? In stark contrast to his predecessor, French President Francois Hollande wears a Swatch Quarterman worth $150. Perfect for the socialist party leader who drives himself around Paris on a motorbike.
At the end of the day perhaps the most fitting reason for a politician wearing an Apple watch is that they are both quite similar. Both have a shelf life of only a few years before being retried and exchanged for the latest model that does pretty much exactly the same thing.