Ceramic Apple Watch Series 5 still looks great two years later

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I’m bracing myself for the comments section as I confess that, almost 2.5 years after it was first launched, I bought a ceramic Apple Watch Series 5.

I would like to put it on record that this whole thing started in a perfectly innocent fashion …

New usage, new Watch faces

I initially saw the Watch as being all about at-a-glance information. For most of my Apple Watch ownership, then, I’ve almost exclusively used the Infographic Modular face.

But I realized recently that this isn’t really the way I use it these days. For weather, for example, I usually want to know that while getting ready to go out, so my usual approach is a “Hey Siri, what’s the weather?” question – and there’s always a HomePod within range to respond.

Outside the home, my Watch is only glanceable when I’m wearing rolled-up shirt sleeves, which is typically about two months a year maximum in the UK. In winter, when it’s under four layers, it’s actually easier to slide my phone from an outside pocket.

I do use my Watch for a variety of tasks, but none of the key ones are about displaying information. If I were to rank the roles my Watch plays in order of importance, it would look roughly like this:

  • Express Transit for public transport
  • Other Apple Pay (I can double-tap the button without uncovering the Watch)
  • Wrist taps when following map directions
  • Answering my phone if it rings while I’m in another room at home
  • Siri requests if I need to speak quietly (otherwise HomePods respond)

The fact that I don’t need to see much information gives me much greater flexibility on Watch faces, so I’ve been experimenting with different – and much more minimalist – ones.

I settled on the most minimalist of the Simple face: all-white, with four small complications. (Well, okay, the most minimalist would have been no complications, but that was a touch too far!)

I ended up loving this, and it struck me that a minimalist all-white face must look amazing with the white ceramic model.

I’d rejected this model at the S3 and S5 launches as absurdly overpriced, but I wondered what a used S5 might be going for these days.

My gadget math

I’ve always been of the view that gadgets, like any other expensive luxury, don’t need to be justified. If they bring you enough pleasure, and you can afford them, then why not?

All the same, things do have to pass that “enough pleasure for the money” test, and to be honest none of Apple’s premium materials had done so for me. They’d always struck me as way overpriced for a device I’d probably upgrade after a couple of years.

But it turns out that I don’t upgrade every couple of years any more. My Apple Watch purchase history has gone Series 0Series 3 (for faster Siri), Series 4 (for larger size), and paused there. I’d skipped the S5, S6. and S7.

I’ve always calculated the costs of significant expenses on a “monthly cost of usage” basis. For example, if I buy a device for $1,000 and can sell it two years later for $600, then the total cost of ownership was $400. Divide that by 24 months, and it cost me $16.67/month. That’s the cost I look at when figuring out whether I can justify the cost of something: Is it worth that much per month to me?

On that basis, I was willing to spend more – even the rather crazy price of a ceramic model (which hold their value rather well). But since a new ceramic Watch isn’t an option, that left me looking at used Series 5 models.

They are still expensive. Some sellers are using their scarcity to ask more than they cost when new! Others are asking – and getting – rather close to the original purchase cost.

But I struck it lucky. I’ve long since learned that the quality of photos in eBay listings make a huge difference to the final price. I spotted an ad with absolutely terrible photos, some of them not even in focus. I assumed that probably meant the seller was trying to hide damage, but I messaged to ask for better photos, and it turns out that wasn’t the case. I picked up the watch for half the original price.

First impressions

When I’d first seen photos of the first ceramic Watch, I hadn’t been that impressed. Indeed, I thought it looked a bit like plastic. It was some time later that seeing it for real changed my view, especially when paired with a white band.

But even that didn’t really prepare me for how much I was going to love it when it arrived. At the time I ordered it, I’d taken comfort from the fact that I could almost certainly sell it for the same price or more if I decided against keeping it. But the moment I held it in my hands, I knew I was keeping it!

The watch came with a selection of bands, including the original supplied white sports band. However, keen for the ultimate seamless white look, I opted to buy the white Solo loop from Apple.

White ceramic watch + white Solo loop + all-white Simple face = wow. It looks absolutely stunning.

It does look great with the black solo band too:

It came with a few other bands, including the gray Nike band. It’s a pretty enough band, but I don’t think it suits the watch:

It also came with a black leather loop band. That works well, though this particular example is not in great condition:

Maybe I’ll change it up once in a while, but I think either black or white looks best, and nothing looks as good to me as the seamless white look of the Solo band.

I’ve said before that I didn’t see the always-on display as a big deal, as I always turn my wrist to look at it, and it’s always on when I do. We’ll see if I change my mind on that, but a couple of days in, I haven’t yet. I mean, it strikes me as mildly nice-to-have, but no more than that. I’ll also need to see how the battery life fares with the feature on.

Coming from the S4 Sport, the other differences are:

  • Sapphire crystal rather than Ion-X glass
  • Cellular support
  • 32GB storage instead of 16GB

To be honest, none of those mean much to me. I’ve never cracked or scratched the glass of my Sport watches; I always have my iPhone with me, so won’t bother putting a SIM in the Watch – and for the same reason don’t need the storage boost, as I’m never going to store music on the Watch itself.

My S4 is now a dedicated sleep tracker

While the ceramic S5 has held its value well, the same isn’t true of the aluminum S4! That turned out to be worth so little that I decided I might as well keep it and use it as a dedicated sleep tracker. My nightly routine now is to swap watches between wrist and charger when I go to bed.

I’m honestly not sure whether I’ll keep this up, but since the watch is worth only slightly more than the trade-in Apple would offer me, I’ll hang onto it for now.

Crazy or not?

Am I crazy? I think not. I absolutely adore the Watch, and am confident I’ll find it a worthwhile expense when amortized over the time I keep it. Twitter appears to agree with me.

But I’m sure some of you will disagree! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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