So, you’ve made the decision to buy an Apple Watch, but this is where the choices really start. Which model should you pick? What size will best fit your wrist? What type and color band do you like? And what case material should you choose for the watch itself?
The Apple Watch is currently available in three different finishes: 100% recycled aluminum, stainless steel and titanium. The price for these varies drastically, so which is your best bet? We take a closer look at the prices, specs and characteristics of each material, to help you make the right choice.
The options available to you depend on the specific model or series of Apple Watch you pick, especially when it comes to the material or finish of the case – and you can find out more in our best Apple Watch guide. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE both are only available in an aluminum finish, as are both the Series 6 and SE versions of the Apple Watch Nike edition. The premium Apple Watch Hermes is only available in a stainless-steel case.
However, it’s the Apple Watch Series 6 that offers you the greatest level of customization, including a choice of three case materials: aluminum, stainless steel or titanium.
There’s also a choice of cases for those seeking the Apple Watch Series 4 or Apple Watch Series 5. Both are still available from a range of retailers, and while the Series 4 is available in both aluminum and stainless steel cases, the Series 5 also came in a titanium option.
Apple Watch case colors
The aluminum case for the Apple Watch Series 6 comes in a choice of space gray, silver, gold, as well as a new blue and Product(Red) finish. The Series 6 is the first Apple Watch to feature the (Red) logo and like others in the (Red) range a portion of every sale goes to fund HIV/AIDS programs in Africa. The Series 3 and Nike editions have a choice of space gray and silver for their aluminum cases, while the Apple Watch SE can be bought in gold, silver and space gray.
The stainless-steel case for the Apple Watch Series 6 comes in a new graphite finish – rather than the space black of the Series 5 – as well as silver and gold. These have a high shine to them as opposed to the matte look of the aluminum cases. A brand-new coating has also been used in order to create a truer-looking yellow gold coloring. The space black stainless-steel option is still available on the Hèrmes watch.
Meanwhile, the titanium variant is offered in a brushed titanium or space black finish. These are the same as featured on the Series 5 and have a distinct look that is popular in high-end watches. If you’re after the new snazzy blue or red coating, aluminum is your only option.
Choosing a specific color is not just a matter of style. Certain colors reveal scratches and scuffs on the watch differently. Typically, silver shows off scratches less than other colors, while black shows off scratches the most. However, your watch’s ability to resist scratching in the first place varies based on the material, which we’ll look at shortly.
Apple Watch price
Each material for the case sports a different price tag. The aluminum case option is the cheapest in the range. With an aluminum case, the 40mm size Series 6 starts at $399 (£379), while the 44mm size starts at $429 (£409). With GPS+Cellular included, these are $499 (£479) and $529 (£509) respectively.
Choosing one of the stainless-steel cases bumps the price by $300. This means the 40mm size then starts at $699 (£699) and the 44mm size starts at $749 (£749). The Hermes edition, which also uses the stainless-steel case, starts from $1249 (£1199).
The premium offering is the titanium case. This option bumps the price by a further $100, so the 40mm size would start at $799 (£799) and the 44mm at $849 (£849). It means that the Apple Watch Series 6 can vary in price from $399 (£379) to $849 (£849) depending on the case material and size, and that’s before you delve into the strap options. If you have a budget in mind, your choice of case is the easiest way to narrow down your options.
Apple Watch case weight
The weight of the watch is a personal preference; classic watch lovers feel a little weight is a sign of quality, while active users may prefer something that doesn’t impede them. Of the three materials featured, Aluminum is the lightest, with this version of the watch weighing in at 30.5 grams (1.08oz) for the 40mm model and 36.5 grams (1.29oz) for the 44mm version. If you plan to work out with your watch or just don’t like a heavier feel, this is your best option.
The stainless-steel case is the heaviest of the three, tipping the scales at 39.7 grams (1.4oz) for the 40mm model and 47.1 grams (1.66oz) for the 44mm edition. If you prefer a heavier and more substantial feel to your watch, this will be the case for you.
Titanium is right in the middle, weighing 34.6 grams (1.22oz) for the 40mm model and 41.3 (1.46oz) grams for the 44mm flavor. Not too light, not too heavy. Titanium’s high strength-to-weight ratio has made it a popular choice in aerospace as well as watch design. Brands such as Tag Heuer and Omega have used it on bulkier models to keep them light on the wrist while maintaining that premium feel.
Apple Watch case durability
Your watch’s ability to withstand scratches, cracks and other damage may be the most important factor in choosing the case material. Beyond the case itself, the glass used for the display differs based on the material. The display for the aluminum case uses a substance called Ion-X strengthened glass, which is similar to the glass typically used on smartphones. Meanwhile, the stainless steel and titanium displays use sapphire crystal which is more commonly used on high-end watches.
All the materials used in the case and display are designed to be as durable as possible. But with the watch likely to be on your wrist all day, you can still bump into hazards that can scratch or scuff the case or even crack the display.
Aluminum is the softest material among the three and more susceptible to scratches. The accompanying Ion-X glass is easier to scratch or chip than sapphire crystal. However, it is more flexible and resistant to cracks and other damage if you hit your watch against a hard object. By itself, aluminum is more susceptible to corrosion. But the material used in the watch undergoes an anodizing process to make it more rust-resistant.
Stainless steel is stronger and heavier than aluminum and generally more scratch-resistant. However, the glossier finish of stainless steel will show off scratches and abrasions more clearly. The sapphire crystal display is also more durable and scratch-resistant than the Ion-X glass – almost as tough as diamond – so keys or wall scrapes won't touch it.
The titanium case is lighter than stainless steel, yet it’s durable and more impact-resistant as well as scratch-resistant. It’s certainly not scratch-proof but it will hide scratches more easily than stainless steel.
Apple Watch style
Ultimately, the factor most likely to impact your buying choice is how it looks. While the new blue and Product(Red) aluminum varieties are likely to tempt some, the stainless steel and titanium cases look more substantial and make more of a fashion statement.
If money is no object and you want to impress other people as well as yourself, the stainless steel or titanium models will do the trick. We’re big fans of the shiny finish of the stainless-steel models but watch enthusiasts are likely to opt for the titanium.
Which Apple Watch do I choose?
With all the factors to consider for case material, the decision is still a personal one. But you can boil it down to some simple criteria. If you can’t or don’t want to pay for an expensive model or want the GPS-only variant, aluminum is the right choice. But if you don’t mind splurging and you desire the most durable and fashionable material, stainless steel or titanium may be the way to go.
Remember that this is only the first decision – the real customization comes in the straps, and luckily, you’re not tied to just one choice. You can pick a sports strap for working out, a braided loop for your day-to-day and a leather or stainless steel one for nights out. The choices are endless.