Should you get the aluminum, stainless steel, or ceramic Apple Watch? Here's how to pick!
Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 3 come in your choice of three different materials with distinct properties and price points all their own. The Series 1 and 3 both come in anodized aluminum — the same material Apple uses for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. On the higher-end, Series 3 offers stainless steel, which is heavier but stronger and a favorite of many watch-wearers, along with white and grey ceramic, a more scratch-proof — and expensive — option than steel. So, which should you choose?
- Price points
- Heavy materials
- Scratch and damage resistance
- Color matches
- Who should get the aluminum Apple Watch?
- Who should get the stainless steel Apple Watch?
- Who should get the ceramic Apple Watch?
The different Apple Watch materials all come with different price points, depending on which model you want.
- Aluminum starts at $249 for 38mm Series 1 ($329 for GPS-only, $399 for GPS + Cellular)
- Stainless steel starts at $599
- Ceramic starts at $1299
If price is your most important consideration, aluminum is your best option.
- 38mm: 25g (Series 1), 26.7g (GPS-only), 28.7g (GPS + Cellular)
- 42mm: 30g (Series 1), 32.3g (GPS-only), 34.9g (GPS + Cellular)
Stainless steel weights:
- 38mm: 42.4g
- 42mm: 52.8g
- 38mm: 40.1g
- 42mm: 46.4g
If you want the lightest Apple Watch possible, you want the aluminum Apple Watch.
Scratch and damage resistance
Unfortunately, with great lightness does not come great hardness. Here's how the different materials hold up to damage.
- The aluminum Apple Watch is the "softest" and the anodization could scratch or chip
- The stainless steel Apple Watch is much, much harder, especially the black model with diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating
- The ceramic Apple Watch is even harder than steel but is potentially easier to shatter if dropped onto a hard surface
If resistance to damage is the absolute most important thing to you, the stainless steel watch in general — and the space black version in particular — offer the best combination of scratch-and-shatter resistance.
Apple Watch comes in a variety of colors, depending on the material:
- Silver aluminum
- Space gray aluminum
- Gold aluminum
- Polished stainless steel
- Space black stainless steel
- White ceramic
- Grey ceramic
When you buy additional bands, though, the lugs won't always match the case.
- Sport, Woven Nylon, and Sport Loop bands have colored lugs
- Leather buckles and loops have polished stainless steel lugs
- The stainless steel link bracelet and Milanese loop have polished stainless steel lugs
- The space gray steel link bracelet and milanese loop have space black lugs
- The ceramic Sport band has ceramic lugs
If matching the lugs to the case is important to you, stainless steel offers the widest possible compatibility; alternatively, you can learn how to switch up the lugs yourself.
Who should get the aluminum Apple Watch?
- into physical fitness and you want the lightest Apple Watch you can get
- going to be rough enough with it — or likely to lose it — and want the most affordable replacement option possible
- not sure about Apple Watch and want to try it out at the lowest cost-of-entry
- simply loving the way the bead-blasted aluminum gold option looks
You should get the aluminum Apple Watch.
Who should get the stainless steel Apple Watch?
- love watches and want something heavy but not too heavy
- want something classic on the outside but ultra-modern within
- need a watch made out of strong materials like stainless steel and sapphire crystal
- want the widest range of matching bands possible
- need a watch but aren't precious about your metals
The stainless steel is for you.
Who should get the ceramic Apple Watch?
- money is no object
- you're into ceramic watches in general
- you want the most scratch-resistant surface possible
- iPod-white or dark grey is your jam
- you simply want something that stands out in a crowd
You want the white or grey ceramic Apple Watch.
Your Apple Watch pick?
If you're still not sure which Apple Watch you should get, check out our Apple Watch help and discussion forums. Otherwise, let me know which material you're choosing and, once you have it, what you think of it!
Updated September 2017: Updated to reflect options for Apple Watch Series 3.