Every year we award our top wearables in the Wareable Tech Awards – and this year the Apple Watch Ultra was our 'Smartwatch of the Year'.
Apple caught everyone off guard when it released its super-sporty, toughened, outdoor version of its smartwatch back in September 2022, and the Ultra is certainly a niche product.
With dive-rated water resistance, multi-band GPS, and bigger battery life, there’s much to like about the Apple Watch Ultra.
However, our favorite parts of the smartwatch are what it stands for in terms of design.
The fact that the Apple Watch Ultra design splits opinion is possibly its greatest strength.
The 49mm case is too big for many people’s wrists, and the guard that protects the crown on the right-hand side is fugly and brutalist. It’s heavy and expensive, but a delight to wear and own.
The fact that the standard Apple Watch has been such a success is down to its universal appeal. It’s totally agnostic – and can be worn by men, women, young and old, the super-rich and those just making do.
But for those fed up with wearing the same watch as their friends, colleagues, and parents, the Apple Watch Ultra is a breath of fresh air.
It packs some attitude, and it says something about your personality. It’s a statement smartwatch and a bold play for a mass-market product.
It’s built for weekend warriors – those that have previously opted for the raw power of a Garmin Fenix or Epix, even if they barely bent the huge multi-day GPS battery life.
But while the Garmin Epix picked up a Newcomer of the Year award, the Ultra offers more as a smartwatch.
Firstly, it’s a fully-fledged Apple Watch experience – with the apps, payments, music, fall/crash detection – and all the features that make it such a successful smartwatch. In fact, the 49mm screen enhances the experience and the 2-3 days of battery life make it a better Apple Watch to live with.
And while the navigation features, lack of onboard mapping, and basic performance analysis features fall short of being a serious Fenix competitor, Apple has still given Garmin cause for concern.
In our run testing at the Chicago marathon, the Apple Watch Ultra outstripped the Garmin Epix regarding GPS accuracy – despite both watches having multi-band on board.
It shows that the Ultra can offer serious athletes genuine benefits – even though we might need to wait until the Ultra 2 to see more of this.
The prospect of that should give the giants of outdoor and performance cause for concern.
How we test