In-depth: How Apple makes Apple Watch

“Apple is the world’s foremost manufacturer of goods. At one time, this statement had to be caged and qualified with modifiers such as ‘consumer goods’ or ‘electronic goods,’ but last quarter, Apple shipped a Boeing 787’s weight worth of iPhones every 24 hours,” Greg Koenig writes for Atomic Delights. “When we add the rest of the product line to the mix, it becomes clear that Apple’s supply chain is one of the largest scale production organizations in the world.”

“Apple continues to operate with Willy Wonka levels of secrecy,” Koenig writes. “In the manufacturing world, we hear rumors of entire German CNC mill factories being built to supply Apple exclusively, or even occasionally hear that one of our supplier’s process experts has been ‘disappeared’ to move to Cupertino or Shenzhen. While we all are massively impressed with the scale of Apple’s operations, there is constant intrigue as to exactly how they pull it all off with the level of fit, finish and precision obvious to anyone who has examined their hardware.”

Apple Watch Edition in 42mm 18-karat yellow gold with midnight blue classic buckle
Apple Watch Edition in 42mm 18-karat yellow gold with midnight blue classic buckle

“One of the more interesting things one notes in the videos is that the internal structure of the gold Edition models seems to include a pocket feature not present on the Watch or Sport. It is hard to say if this exists to stiffen the Edition or if Apple is removing a bit of the dense gold alloy in order to reduce the weight of these models,” Koenig writes. “There have also been rumors of a 6 pin port hidden under the top strap lug channel, used for burn in and diagnostics. It remains to be seen if this port will exist on the shipping Watches, or if Apple will delete these ports on production units. In the Aluminum video, we see finished Sport watches laid out with the ports clearly shown, but it is just as likely that these videos were shot months ago during production line setup with prototype watches.”

“I do have a theory that the port may remain on the Sport models because I suspect the ‘movement’ on the Sport is installed in the case permanently with adhesive. As such, it stands to reason Apple might maintain a diagnostics capability to troubleshoot issues at the Apple Store before simply trashing the defective unit and handing the customer a new one. With the Watch and Edition lines, it would make more sense to simply pull the movement out and replace it.”

Apple Watch
On the back of Apple Watch’s case, a ceramic cover with sapphire lenses protects a specially designed sensor that uses infrared and visible-light LEDs and photodiodes to detect your heart rate. Apple Watch uses this sensor, along with an accelerometer and the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone, to measure myriad types of physical movement.

“Apple could very easily have forgone forging to create stainless steel cases, just like everyone else. Hardening gold alloy with cold working could have been eliminated, putting them on par with the rest of the industry. Nobody will see or feel the inside pocket for the microphone on the Sport, yet it has been laser finished to perfection,” Koenig writes. “I see these videos and I see a process that could only have been created by a team looking to execute on a level far beyond what was necessary or what will be noticed.”

Much, much more – metallurgy, excellent illustrative images, and many other insights – in the full, highly recommended article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The insides of your non-Apple PC, your non-Apple cellphone, and your non-Apple tablet all look like crap. If you don’t understand why that’s important, you deserve to be stuck using those things until you figure it out.

You’re asking, where does aesthetic judgment come from? With many things—high-performance automobiles, for example—the aesthetic comes right from the function, and I suppose electronics is no different. But I’ve also found that the best companies pay attention to aesthetics. They take the extra time to lay out grids and proportion things appropriately, and it seems to pay off for them. I mean, beyond the functional benefits, the aesthetic communicates something about how they think of themselves, their sense of discipline in engineering, how they run their company, stuff like that. — Steve Jobs

I think the same philosophy that drives the product has to drive everything else if you want to have a great company. Manufacturing, for example, […] demands just as much thought and strategy as the product. If you don’t pay attention to your manufacturing, it will limit the kind of product you can build and engineer. Some companies view manufacturing as a necessary evil, and some view it as something more neutral. But we view it instead as a tremendous opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. — Steve Jobs

We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build. When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through. — Steve Jobs

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Chris” for the heads up.]


    1. Samsung is never going to make such a precise device.

      Gill Bates suggests the inside looks don’t matter, but in fact those inside surface are what holds and makes all the components consistently held and sealed, which is absolutely needed for a reliable high quality “watch” which lasts a long time.

    2. Ah yes, the perfect Samsung, Lenovo, Dell or Microsoft customer. Those companies would not exist if not for those whose ignorance only outweighs their poor taste.

  1. “When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through. — Steve Jobs”

    I love this! I’m an aquarium guy, and feel the same way about what sits in the cabinet under the tank. Yes, the door is closed to keep it hidden from even the owners 99.9% of the time, but there is no reason to be lazy about routing the electric and plumbing in as neat a manner as you can and keep things looking clean and tidy under there.

    Now on to the full article… 🙂

    1. Okay, if you agree that the attention to detail *inside* your device is as important as outside, you have to read the full article. I was blown away. Highly recommended, indeed!

  2. After reading the full article I was impressed with the quality and care given to each model. No shortcuts. Their watches are made with the same care that was given in the construction of cathedrals of ages past. Care that was given to areas never to be seen. Doing something just because it’s the best way to do it. No shortcuts or compromises. 😀

  3. AppleWatch really seems like a well-crafted device whether most consumers go for it or not. It’s a shame the industry pundits don’t appreciate the time and effort that Apple puts into its products. Apple would likely give most aerospace companies a run for the money when it comes to design and craftsmanship. And this is just for consumer products. I’m typing on my 2007 MacBook Pro which I’ve used practically every day since I bought it. It’s not the most powerful computer around but it works satisfactory enough for my needs. I took it apart to replace one fan and replace the hard drive for a larger one.

    I honestly don’t understand why people have so many gripes against paying what Apple asks. I paid around $2600 and it’s been running for over seven years. That’s pretty good amortization of cost if you ask me. It doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of falling apart so I think it can have a useful life of several more years as long as computing demands don’t increase too much.

  4. “Apple continues to operate with Willy Wonka levels of secrecy.”

    Oh for the love of Oompa Loompas, that’s just not a fair comparison. Mr. Wonka lets entire camera crews join long guided tours of his factory. Haven’t we all seen the videos?

  5. Just watched all three movies on Apple’s Watch page, Gold, Steel and Aluminum.
    If I heard and read correctly, Apple’s metallurgists engineered better alloys than what existed before this.

    Think about that for a moment.

    Apple just stepped into another industry and improved their materials. Nice.

    1. If you haven’t gone to the original article for this, please do, it is a fascinating read, especially if you are an engineer.
      The complexity and thought process to mill these watches is mind blowing.
      I’ll end with this process, “laser machining”.

  6. How can you not go ga-ga over what these people do? The care they take, the level of precision, the, dare I say it, innovation? I’m wondering if the $39 Chinese knockoffs employ the same or similar processes, (Last sentence is sarcasm.)

  7. Bs. The inside of a pc, or Mac look generally the same, different components, but overall the same. Get real MDN. Or crack open both and take a look. A chip is a chip already. It is the ENGINEERING that is different.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.