In the microscopic spaces between its patented 18-karat gold alloy casing and its cutting-edge circuitry, the “Apple Watch Edition” contains a contradiction. Expensive jewellery and high-tech gadgets both serve as status symbols; but while a classic watch derives value from its age and timelessness, a tech item does so from its newness and timeliness, and these cannot coexist. You could see Apple’s luxury watch as a kind of existential joke—a timepiece (or at least a device masquerading as one) whose own worth is gradually destroyed by the very thing it was built to measure.
This clash of value systems in the same physical object underlies the outrage that the watch, priced at up to $17,000, has sparked in some quarters. (“Perfect for douchebags,” one watch aficionado ranted.)
But why should it? People with the means to buy a disposable gold watch will happily spend similar sums on fleeting experiences—a first-class plane flight, an exotic wine, a luxury safari—that generate far more (and more toxic) waste. Other than an imperceptible bump to gold prices, what does it matter if a few thousand gold watch casings end up buried in drawers, or even as landfill? And there’s much uglier, and more expensive, useless jewellery out there. As long as people are going to flaunt their wealth, this is far from the most douchebaggy way to do it.—Gideon Lichfield
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
Swansea’s plan to harness the tides. An unlovely and economically depressed Welsh town is now an unlikely pioneer in alternative energy. Cassie Werber went to visit the site of the ambitious—and, because of its cost, controversial—tidal power project.
The battle that’s a key to modern Africa’s history. Hannah Giorgis writes about her grandfather’s hometown of Adwa, Ethiopia, the site of an 1896 battle in which an African force for the first time defeated European colonizers, and set an example for other anti-colonial movements on the continent.
Fashion’s new holy grail: the Instagram moment. Fashion designers have always aimed for spectacle in their runway shows. Jenni Avins charts how they’re now striving to create the scenes that will make their clothes go viral with the snap of a cameraphone, in the latest example of how social media are subtly changing the world around us.
The problem with the casual workplace. Startup culture, flat hierarchies, and technological innovations are making modern workplaces more flexible and fluid, but the loss of some of those old structures is also reopening space for sexual harassment, argues Vivian Giang.
A Quartz experiment. HBO NOW is a forthcoming streaming TV service in the US. But a lot of things about it are still uncertain. So Adam Epstein wrote an article using an experimental format that signals which facts are known and which ones are up in the air. Let us know what you think of the approach.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
An interactive guide to Israel’s West Bank settlements. With its mix of reporting from the ground and time-lapse satellite imagery, this New York Times report does more than most to explain why the repetitive flare-ups about settlement-building under Binyamin Netanyahu keep happening—and why they’re so sensitive.
The legacy of Selma, in Selma. The Alabama town became a shorthand for America’s civil-rights movement. Yet the high school that produced many of the freedom marches’ young leaders is still as segregated as ever. Victor Luckerson reports for Time on where things went backwards.
Syria’s conflict has created a generation in crisis. In the week when the UN reported that Syria’s war has plunged 80% of the population into poverty and cut life expectancy by 20 years, Fusion offers an in-depth look at what it means for the country’s young—as well as some lessons learned from Rwanda’s conflict a generation ago.
A guide to dealing with middle age. This speech by the writer Andrew Solomon is headlined “advice for young writers,” but it’s really advice for anyone on living, aging, and pursuing one’s dreams; and it’s also a reflection how, amid the importance we accord to technology, language remains the thing that makes it all meaningful.
The pernicious power of pseudoscience. At Five Books, Nigel Warburton interviews the philosopher Stephen Law on books about pseudoscience in its various forms, why it’s so attractive, and how to maintain scientific skepticism while leaving room for wonder and the unknown.
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