Which Apple Watch Should You Buy?

a watch with a digital display
Which Apple Watch Should You Buy?Amazon, Apple

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Honestly, who is actually buying an Apple Watch right now? There are only so many possibilities at this point. First, let's say you have an old model and need an upgrade. You bought another brand that isn't quite Apple enough—and now you're doing what you knew you would do: make the crossover. Or, simply, this is your first time ever getting a smartwatch. Whichever it is, in true tech company style, there are a million models with random names—so how the fuck do decide which one is right?

Deciphering the differences in Apple Watch models is tough because there are tons of old options and we're always playing the game of waiting for the new one. Thankfully, the Esquire tech editors are your on-call gadget experts. We'll give you the short and sweet lowdown.

A little spoiler for what's ahead: The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best overall. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is our favorite rugged smartwatch. And, the Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) is one of the best sports watches on the market. We'd buy all of three of these before dipping into the back catalog of Apple Watch Series 8 or earlier. Those are fine if you have them, but the price of a new one isn't worth the inferior performance.

So with that, see how we broke down the best Apple Watch models—so you know exactly how to spend your money.

Apple Watch Series 9

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This story is filled with a lot of no brainers, and this is the first one. Ready? The best Apple Watch all-round is the regular old Apple Watch. It sounds lame to say, but it's true.

It's the best all-around because it has the most range. If you want a fitness watch, you can get it with a sport band and do that. If you want to dress it up, you can pay extra to get the stainless steel Milanese band shown in this picture. The case can be Aluminum if you're on a budget, or it can be stainless steel for a more hefty feel. Simply put, this is the best Apple Watch for most people.

And what has Apple introduced in the Series 9? The standard stuff like faster processing, a brighter screen, better battery life, and more sustainable packaging. But there was one big feature that Apple threw in with the Series 9. It's a nifty Double Tap feature. When wearing a watch, a quick tap-tap of your thumb and index finger acts like a primary button. It allows you to answer or end calls, stop timers, and pause/play music with one hand. It's a small feature that requires a lot of science to enact, and it's cool that Apple pulled it off.

So wrap that all into one package, and you've got a great case for the standard Apple Watch. I wouldn't scale down to an Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 8, or earlier unless you are on a seriously tight budget. Even then, you can get a basic non-cellular Apple Watch for $399, and a used Series 8 would run you about $300 anyway. This Series 9 is a great deal.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Apple-Cellular-Smartwatch-Stainless-Milanese/dp/B0CSV7J283?ref_=ast_sto_dp&th=1&psc=1&tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10054.g.60746908%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Apple Watch Series 9</p><p>$699.00</p>

Apple Watch Ultra 2

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We've been tooling around with the Apple Watch Ultra 2 for a while now, and it's one of the best updates Apple has ever made. The original Apple Watch Ultra (released 2022) wasn't anything groundbreaking. This one, however, is exactly what Apple meant to put out when it entered the rugged watch world.

It has all the specs an outdoors user would want. For divers, it's kitted out with water resistance to 40 meters. (Though divers are still divided about the watch's usability and interface.) For alpine types, it sports better measurements for climbs and descents. For cyclists and runners, it allows for connection to third-party bluetooth measurement devices. Plus, an extended 36-hour battery life makes it more useful on weekend expeditions. The only thing it's missing to compete with the likes of Garmin is a solar charging. Though there's no word on when the Apple Watch Ultra 3 is releasing, that's a feature I'd look out for.

In the city, it's also the most capable Apple Watch in the lineup. The screen is bigger, brighter, and better. The titanium case makes it ridiculously light and strong, even as a larger device. Though I wouldn't recommend it for someone not getting after it in some sort of sport, it's definitely an option.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Apple-Watch-Ultra-Cellular-49mm/dp/B0CSVMMBRM?ref_=ast_sto_dp&th=1&psc=1&tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10054.g.60746908%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Apple Watch Ultra 2</p><p>$799.00</p>

Watch SE - 2nd Gen

If it's purely health tracking you're after, the Apple Watch SE (released in 2022) is what you should get. Under the hood, it's pretty much an Apple Watch Series 8. You get heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking, and decent water resistance. You can get a model with cellular if you like working out sans phone, or keep it with the more affordable GPS model.

Where does it fall short compared to the Ultra 2 and Series 9? In a few different areas. For the Ultra 2, the SE is not as qualified of an adventure watch. It's not giving you as in-depth altitude data, nor is it as water resistant. Compared to the Series 9, it's all the day-to-day stuff—processing, battery life, etc.

But like I said, if all you need is a thing to tell you how many calories you've been burning, what heart rate you hit, and how well you slept, this is a watch that can do that comfortably.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CHWZ7DJ5?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10054.g.60746908%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Watch SE - 2nd Gen</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$239.00</p>

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Watch SE - 2nd Gen



Apple Watch SE - Nike Edition

One thing I've loved from Apple recently are it's collaborative watch models. Apple's done it in interesting ways with brands that are of its same stature.

The collaborative Apple Watches don't give you any special features, but they do give you special looks. For the fitness crowd, you can get a Nike-branded Apple Watch. It's a simple Apple Watch SE with a special edition band and face screen. Functionally, it's the exact same, but it looks cooler.

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.apple.com%2Fshop%2Fbuy-watch%2Fapple-watch-se&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.esquire.com%2Flifestyle%2Fg60746908%2Fbest-apple-watch%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Apple Watch SE - Nike Edition</p><p>apple.com</p><p>$249.00</p>

Apple Watch Hermès

The Hermès line is our absolute favorite within the Apple Watch lineup. Again, same as Nike, it's just a regular watch with a designer repackaging.

This is an Apple Watch Series 9, with everything we love about that watch. But, you get the choice of four more premium Hermès bands and access to a few Hermès faces.

Does that sound like not enough for the price hike? Well then this watch wasn't made for you. This watch was made for me and everybody else that thought the Apple Watch was too dorky until they gave it the designer treatment. Will that special Hermès screen help me in anyway that's not emotional? No, but it's worth it. I'm eternally grateful to Hermès for making an Appel Watch that has designer appeal.

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.apple.com%2Fshop%2Fbuy-watch%2Fapple-watch-hermes&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.esquire.com%2Flifestyle%2Fg60746908%2Fbest-apple-watch%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Apple Watch Hermès</p><p>apple.com</p><p>$1249.00</p>

What to Look for in Different Apple Watch Models

Here are the criteria we use to compare different Apple Watches. They're helpful to think about when asking yourself "What Apple Watch should I get?"

Chipset - For the non-nerds, this is what determines a watch's power as a computer. Each year, Apple iterates on its existing chips, offering more efficient and powerful watches.

GPS versus GPS and Cellular - Essentially, if you want to use your Apple Watch without having your phone nearby, you need to spring for an option with cellular. That way, you can make calls and send messages without having your phone with you all the time.

Sizes - The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a huge watch—49mm. It's like a classic yachting timepiece. If you don't want all that on your wrist, think before buying and go try one on in real life.

Durability - Apple has perfected this with the rugged Apple Watch Ultra 2. If you're doing anything especially strenuous, go for that.

Looks - I mean, how else can I make the case for the Hermès Apple Watch. It looks 10x better than the regular version, but that's the only way it differs.

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Should I Buy an Apple Watch Series 8?

Typically, I would say the one-year-old Apple Watch model is a good value, but between the Apple Watch 8 and Apple Watch 9, I don't think that's true.

First, the Series 8 is only marginally less expensive than the Series 9. Second, the Series 9 was one of the best years for Apple Watch upgrades we've seen in recent memory—especially with the Double Tap feature. Third, if you really don't want to shell out for the newest watch, the Apple Watch SE is right there. It's practically a Series 8, but it's easier to find brand new.

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Why Trust Esquire?

We love testing and reviewing new tech, and we’ve collectively spent multiple decades with the Apple Watch lineup. Many of us use one day-to-day. That’s the thing: We test the devices we recommend, whether it’s Apple’s newest laptop, the best Bluetooth shower speakers, or the best handheld vacuums, so you can trust we’re always ensuring that our picks are the best of the best. We'll always give you the straight answer on which Apple Watch is worth your money.

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