Apple Watch Gets The Ultra Treatment (and an Action Button!)

The Apple watch deviates from its original profile for the first time today in a new model that receives the Pro Ultra designation. We’re still a little unclear on what that term means when it comes to watches, but Apple may have the strongest case yet (other than the Speedmaster, perhaps?) for using the term. Alongside the new Series 8, which was also introduced, the Ultra is targeted at a slightly different user. If the regular Series 8 is like the Pelagos 39, the Pro is more akin to the OG, 500M, helium escape valve equipped Pelagos. That is to say, it’s niche. The Apple Watch Ultra is for extreme environments, and the people that willingly traverse them. And like many of the great dive watches out there, it will likely end up on plenty of sedentary wrists, as well.

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The Apple Watch Ultra gets a robust 49mm titanium case, which includes a new crown (and button) guard. The screen is flat, and gets a sapphire crystal to cover the expansive screen underneath. The other case wall gets a new “action button” that’s customizable depending on your activity. The crown itself has also been redesigned, getting thicker, deeper grooves for easier handling in rugged environments. This is an Apple Watch with plenty of visual punch to accompany the suite of professional features.

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The Ultra is cool and exciting in the same way as extreme, over-engineered tool watches like the Sea-Dweller or Planet Ocean Ultra-Deep, but it’s a bit more flexible than those heavy weights. It’s been built to handle hot desert like environments, as well as the depths, though to a “mere” 100 meters. Sure, it’s missing the old-world charm of those mechanical objects, but its purpose driven approach appeals to me in a level that the regular Apple Watch just never has. It’s a dive computer, a highly accurate compass, and a hundred other things that the suite of sensors will allow developers to create tools around.

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It’s the ultimate wrist bound gadget that might not have you ditching your Explorer, but it might take the place of your weekend beater or better yet, encourage you to pick up some new physical activities with which you can properly use the watch. Of course, it’s not the only such tool, as plenty others exist from the likes of Garmin or even Casio. We’ll do some more testing on that front when we’re able to get our hands on one.

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Perhaps the most exciting component of the Apple Watch Ultra release are the new strap designs. Watching the trio of strap options be revealed had me wishing for similar innovations from other watch brands. We’ve seen more emphasis being placed on quick release systems from other watch brands, but haven’t seen anything new when it comes to the actual straps themselves. Where’s a high-end velcro strap from IWC? A trick rubber loop system from Omega? Or a canvas loop system from Rolex? Each strap Apple Introduced for the Ultra would be a major talking point if released alongside the latest tool watch from any of these brands.

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The Apple Watch Ultra is all the things I love seeing in a rugged smartwatch, and provides a platform that I, and I presume many watch enthusiasts, prefer over the daily companion style regular Apple Watches.

The Apple Watch Ultra is available to order today, and will ship around September 23rd. Pricing on the Ultra starts at $799. More from Apple.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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