How an in-store Apple Watch demo will make you a believer

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Apple Watch won't just be available from Apple Stores come August.
Apple is offering in-store Watch fittings to help customers figure out what watch to buy. We highly recommend it. There's a few surprises. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Like a lot of people, I took the midnight plunge and bought an Apple Watch before I’d even tried it on.

But today, I got to see the device I bought last night. I went down to the flagship Apple Store in San Francisco and tried on a range of watches.

I wish I’d done this before, because I might have ordered differently.

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One of the things I learned — you can wear the watch inside-in, like a race car driver. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

The try-on process

To try on a range of watches with the help of an Apple Specialist, you first need to make an appointment online. Most of them were booked up in San Francisco throughout this Apple Watch launch weekend, but the store is offering walk-ins. I had to wait just 20 minutes in the store to be seen.

When my turn came up, I was texted to meet with a specialist, who led me to one of the glass-topped display tables at the front of the store.

He swiped his portable iPod payment terminal to unlock a drawer beneath the display table. Inside was a selection of about a dozen watches with different bands.

There’s a special room for the gold Apple Watch Edition

The $10,000 gold Apple Watch Edition models are being shown off in a secret back room. The specialist wouldn’t be specific, but said the store converted a meeting room into a special, appointment-only display area for the high-end models, presumably for a more luxe experience than jostling with the crowds in the perpetually packed store. And maybe to stop someone running off with the golden goods.

The specialist is allowed to take just two watches out of the drawer to try on at any given time. After I tried on the first two watches, he put them away and retrieved two more — after wiping off all the fingerprints. All through the 15-minute appointment, he seemed to be constantly wiping and rewiping the watches with his microfiber cloth. All the specialists seemed to have cloths hanging from their back pockets.

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Try before you buy. I chose the bigger watch face, but I really liked the smaller one too. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Lust factor in spades

The Apple Watch has that intangible Apple lust factor in spades. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice. As soon as you strap it your wrist, you get that glow of pleasure from seeing it come alive. I wanted to play with it for hours, but of course, the specialist was standing there patiently for me to take it off.

I liked both the 42mm and the 38mm models. I got to wear them both side by side. Some say the smaller watch is too small, but I didn’t think so.

The biggest surprise was the ingenuity of the Leather Loop strap.

It’s an amazing piece of engineering. Made of segmented leather, the strap is amazingly flexible and articulate — I laughed out loud when it magically closed around my wrist.

Inside each leather segment is a tiny magnet that holds the clasp closed. It’s a great piece of technological magic.

I was also impressed with the Milanese loop — another strap that closes with magnets. Both the bands close firmly around your wrist, like magnetic snakes. There are some reports that the magnetic straps slip during exercise, throwing off the watch’s body sensors. But the magnetic clasps I tried seemed pretty secure.

Amazing engineering

I tried on a couple of the stainless steel watches, which are beautiful. The engineering’s marvelous. I geeked out over the intricate mechanism that holds the clasps — a tiny little spring button that moves with great precision.

The stainless steel link bracelet is also a marvel of engineering. Several of the links can be removed via tiny little buttons built into the backs of the individual links. You can remove about eight links, or about half the band. It’s almost mind-boggling. All that engineering for something you’ll do the first time you put the watch on and probably never again.

Although I liked the steel and leather bands, I’ll stick with my selection — the fluoroelastomer bands that come standard with the entry-level Apple Watch Sport are functional but also pleasant.

Express try-ons

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There’s an express try-on station upstairs at the San Francisco Apple store. No appointment necessary. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac.

The amazing Leather Loop

After thanking the specialist, I went upstairs to the express area. A couple of specialists had set up a back table with a selection of the Sport models with the synthetic rubber bands. No appointment necessary, and it’s a much more informal process than the appointments. You strap on a watch and it runs through a short, preprogrammed demo while it’s strapped to your wrist. I actually preferred it to the slightly stiff and formal preview I got a few minutes before. The demo shows off a ton of the watch’s features, and it’s a great way to experience the look and feel.

If you’re sitting on the fence about the Apple Watch, go down to the Apple Store and try one on. I guarantee you will order one — and that the wait for delivery will be almost unbearable.