Shiny Tech for Shiny Bodies

Jussi Parikka's e-flux text on the promotional video for the gold Apple Watch Edition struck a chord - and I will shamelessly reappropriate the beautiful gifs depicting the watch's supra-natural fabrication process that accompany it. These short loops perfectly illustrate the aura of aspirational value which Apple uses with such canniness and to such powerful effect. As Parikka says, "Liquids turn to solids, and when nature fails to satisfy, engineers custom-design alloys specifically for luxury smart timekeeping." The Apple Watch Edition blends the mythologised roles of the alchemist and the craftsperson with the bleeding edge of science, engineering and design to produce an artefact so shiny that its materiality cannot be witnessed to the casual window-shopper. To simply catch an In-Real-Life glimpse of the Edition involves booking an in-store personal appointment, a deluxe one-to-one experience between the consumer and the salesperson (Edition Expert), like a secret tryst in a Apple Store sideroom, possibly entered through an otherwise invisible doorway flush with the wooden wall panelling.

Douglas Coupland's article, titled SHINY, provides an excellent partner to Parikka's commentary. He writes:

Shiny is youth. Shiny is fertility. Shiny is uncorrupted. Shiny smells like the interior of a new car. Shiny is sixty-five golf courses in Palm Springs in the middle of the worst drought in a century.

Typically, the horologist values her/his produce so highly as a consequence of their extensive labour time, as well as their lavish use of high-end materials that are fit for purpose. A handcrafted watch is an artefact that should evade signs of temporal decay or malfunction - the extended personal contact between the craftsperson and the material of the timepiece, the design of its mechanism, its micro-fabrication, is a consequence of the pursuit of reliability and longevity. A timepiece that keeps time beyond the death of its creator, or its wearer.

With the Apple Watch Edition, we are faced with the elevated pricetag that suggests this labour time, predominantly spent in design and research, and Apple's acquisition of bespoke machines that can pseudo-mass produce the watch (although as the Edition title suggests, while machine-made they are artificially limited so as to induce a scarcity value). But there's a catch.

Coupland:

the fear of a glossy sheen is actually the fear that the surface is the content.

The Apple Watch must fall to the accelerated entropy of digital goods - the inevitable turn to technological obsolescence. Who will maintain the software that runs on the first-gen Watch Edition? In the instance of the failure of the internal computer, who is permitted to repair it? For how long will such failures be considered repairable? In that instance, the watch's ability to simply tell the time is erased, it becomes a shiny bricked bracelet, a black mirror on the wrist.


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