The juxtaposition is tremendous: Everything that's cutting edge and smart meets all that's traditional and watch. It's the Apple Watch Hermes Series 4, and absent Edition this year, it's the new highest end wrist computer in Apple's lineup. I've been using the Series 4 going on two months now, and for most of that time, the Hermes version, with several Hermes bands new and old, to go with it.

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The original Apple Watch Hermès was announced in September of 2015, roughly six months after the sport, steel, and gold editions shipped. An historic partnership, it brought together and perfectly balanced the best of Apple's advanced mobile technologies and Hermès' classic leatherwork. For me, it was an even better representation of high-end silicon-meets-fashion than the yellow and rose golds.

It was Apple's first partnership for the Watch and, to this day, one of only two it's ever made. The other being Nike+ on the fitness rather than fashion end of the price range. That the two of them, and only the two of them, persist to this day show just how selective Apple is when it comes to partnering on the watch. And how committed.

Now, three years later, the partnership continues to grow, and in some surprising new directions.

Apple Watch Hermes Series 4 The Watch

From a hardware perspective, Apple Watch Hermes Series 4 is, not surprisingly, and Apple Watch Series 4. Specifically, a polished steel Apple Watch Series 4 in almost every way. The only difference is the inclusion of the Hermes brand on the back, around the black ceramic plate.

Historically, the polished stainless steel hasn't been as scratch resistant as the diamond-like carbon coated space black — which seems damn near impervious at times — and likely not even as resistant as the physical vapor deposition coating on the new gold colored steel watch.

In the weeks that I've been wearing mine I've accumulated a very few, almost unnoticeable scratches on the outer side near the buttons. They don't bother me. As I've said before, I like the Millennium Falcon style used materials look. But, if you don't, it's always something to keep in mind.

Apple Watch Hermes Series 4 The Faces

For software, the only difference remains the distinctive Hermes watch face that you can only get with the Hermes watch casing. (Sadly, Hermes bands don't come with unlock codes for the watch face.)

Apple and Hermès collaborated an an additional typeface a couple years ago. This year, they've added an entirely new look: two tone looks in Feu (indigo/white background with orange type), Rose (deep pink/indigo background with light pink type), and Ambre (Red/Pink background with yellow type). The background colors split with the minute hand, adding a little dynamism to the design.

There's only one complication spot, and only four options for it: Off, Date, Stopwatch, and World Clock. But the Hermes face isn't about being informationally dense. It's about being Hermes.

It still looks terrific, even three years on, and the new colors give it vivid new life. I switch to it whenever I want less Apple and more Watch, classy yet casual. It remains, to my eyes, the best looking analog watch face across the entire product line. And now it looks even better.

Apple Watch Hermes Series 4 The Bands

Every new Apple Watch Hermes series comes with new, distinctive bands. Some of the best, if most expensive bands Apple offers. They're all hand made, all Hermes leather, and all about as classic watchy watch as you can get.

And while they don't all appeal to my personal tastes, every year I tell myself there's no way I'm getting another one, not when the terrific Nike+ bands start at just $50, inevitably, every year, there's at least one or two styles that I find absolutely irresistible.

For Series 0, it was the cuff. For Series 2, the single deployant, for Series 3, the rallye, and now, for Series 4, the tri-color single tour. And yeah, I've gotten a new one or two every year because once they've come and gone for a season, they're often well and truly gone. A few remain over the years, but sometimes not in the same colors, and once in a while a style gets cycled out completely.

I don't love all of the Hermes straps. The double cuff was overly complicated to my eye, and the only tri-color I like is the Feu, with indigo and blanc bands and feu loops. But I like it so much it prompted me to once again order the Hermes Watch. So, well played.

The complete collection this year includes, with the 40mm stainless steel case:

  • Indigo/Craie/Orange Swift Leather Double Tour
  • Bordeaux/Rose Extrême/Rose Azalée Swift Leather Double Tour
  • Fauve Barenia Leather Double Tour
  • Bleu Indigo Swift Leather Double Tour
  • Bordeaux/Rose Extrême/Rose Azalée Swift Leather Single Tour
  • Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour

The 44mm stainless steel case:

  • Indigo/Craie/Orange Swift Leather Single Tour
  • Bleu Indigo Swift Leather Single Tour
  • Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour
  • Fauve Grained Barenia Leather Single Tour Rallye
  • Ébène Barenia Leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle
  • Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle

You can still get the Feu double and single tours separately — I've had the single for a couple years and love it — and there's also a just-released 40mm Ambre/Capucine/Rose Azalée Swift Leather Double Tour and 44mm Ambre/Capucine/Rose Azalée Swift Leather Single Tour.

The only downside is that the colored leathers never start off as soft and supple and never end up aging and patina-ing as well as the raw leather straps. They look better, they just don't feel as good. But that's the story of fashion.

I also wish Apple and Hermes wouldn't restrict some styles to some sizes, since anatomy and taste aren't bound to small and large stereotypes.

I've been wearing the tri-color since I got it, because it's new and because it looks so damn good. But, I can see myself going back to the cuff and the deployant, and probably the rallye as well for extended periods just because of how great they feel.

While Apple Watch Hermes bands are, as I said, the most expensive bands Apple currently offers, I should point out they're not expensive by Hermes standards. If you get a non-Apple watch from Hermes, be it single or double tour, you'll likely pay a lot more for the strap that comes with it. They're also not expensive by watch standards. I have several friends who collect and they have some truly obscene, if not downright offensive stories about how much they've paid for classic straps.

If Apple Watch is just a fitness accessory for you, or just something to hold your wrist computer on with, then by all means stick to the sport bands and loops or whatever you can find on Amazon. If it's a watch in the watch collector sense of the word, then the Hermes bands are a great way to show it off. Especially since Apple has kept the same bands compatible with all watches going on 4 years in a row now, and hopefully for at least a few more if not many to come.

As with every Apple Watch Hermes since the Series 2, you also get a Sport Loop in Hermes Orange in every box. Leather is fantastic but not for workouts and certainly not for swims. So having the fluoroelastomer band, which you can easily swap in and out, remains a terrific addition.

Apple Watch Hermes Series 4 Two Months Later

I've been wearing an Apple Watch Series 4 with watchOS 5 for just over 10 weeks now, including a couple weeks with the aluminum, gold steel, Nike+, and now, for the last month, Hermès. I like the lightness and the feel of the aluminum models best but the look of the stainless steel, since that's still the only material that actually matches all the lugs on all the bands Apple sells.

Lug mismatches bother some people not at all and others immensely, all other things being equal, I'd still rather they match than don't, and still wish Apple would find some way to support better matches for the blacks and golds.

The taptics — the taps you get to alert you to notifications — still feel better to me than previous generation steel watches, which is great.

I love the bigger, edge-to-curved-edge display. I went back to wearing my Series 3 for a few days because the best way to tell if you really benefit from a new feature is to take it away, and it suddenly felt small and cramped in a way it never did before.

I missed everything about how expansive the new display was, most of all the new Infograph faces that I've come to use as dashboards for my day. Rumor has it Apple is going to be adding updated versions of some of the classic complications, like Messages and Mail, to Infograph as well, which will only make it better.

I use the new Hermes face whenever I go out all fancy like as well, but not really any of the other faces, including the new fire, vapor, and water faces, unless I'm doing a tech demo to show off the new big screen design.

I still wish the Photos face offered more complications, since it's the closest thing to a custom face generator we have on Watch right now, and I still miss Time Travel, which was removed with watchOS 5, making the big calendar complication on Infographic modular especially the poorer for it.

Performance with the new 64-bit Apple S4 system-in-package is so good I don't even notice it any more, which is an astounding thing to find myself saying after years of forgiving various degrees of slower performance because it was a tiny, highly contained watch computer. I can also typically make it through one-and-a-half to two days on the battery, unless I do more than one workout a day. Sure, it's a brand new battery, but it's also powering a better processor and bigger screen, so I'm still counting that as impressive. Yup, most impressive.

I've only used Walkie Talkie a few times in the wild over the last month — when I've been visiting friends and not wanted to shout between rooms. It still takes a while to connect and, since I'm so used to standard voice, the staccato of push-to-talk can be flummoxing. So, I end up just using FaceTime audio instead, and it works great, especially with the new mic placement and louder speaker, and of course with AirPods.

Everything just works great with Apple Watch and AirPods. Well, I was having some trouble with the Podcasts app hogging all the available space on my watch, but Apple seems to have fixed that with the last update. Though the fix does seem to have made daily shows like mine a little harder to keep locally if you aren't actually listening daily. So… listen daily, or stream, would?

The new Siri, which no longer needs you say Hey when you raise it up, is still hit and miss for me. It goes long stretches working perfectly fine then seems to go on break just often enough that I've reverted to pushing the crown to activate, because that works always.

Also, while I luckily didn't get bit by any of the recent update bugs, remote restore is something Apple really has to figure out for watchOS and soon. When you seal away the hardline, you take on the responsibility of ensuring there's a softline that works in its place. Something through the Watch app for iPhone or even — gasp — iTunes on Mac and Windows — the future has to have recovery and DFU before it forces any calls or trips to Apple. It just does.

I've left fall detection on and haven't had any false positives though some of my friends and family have. A friend of mine fell down the stairs and got hurt last week. And fall detection worked perfectly for her. She didn't end up having to call 911 but she did feel like, as expensive as the Watch is, the feature made it invaluable.

The ECG/EKG feature, the single-pad equivalent electrocardiogram, which Apple announced alongside the Series 4 as coming to U.S. customers later this year is still pending. No word or updates on that yet.

The workout detection, both starting and stopping, continues to be my favorite feature. I'm hoping its making me better about remembering to start and stop workouts but it also might just be learning me helplessness. I'd be totally fine with me just doing the workout and the machine handling all the tracking. There have been one or two occasions, typically when I've been traveling and doing outdoor walks back to back, that second walk wouldn't get auto-started, so I do still keep some track on my own. Especially now that winter has fallen, everything is covered in layers of ice and snow, and it's getting harder and harder to hit the pace requirements necessary to set off the outdoor walk workout. Snowshoe option, anyone?

Apple Watch Hermes Series 4 Conclusion

It isn't any one feature, ok, yeah, the display, but seriously, that sets the new Apple Watch apart. As always, it's the sum of the many moving parts, each getting better and more polished as hardware and software moves on. Almost all of the best new features of watchOS 5 work every bit as well on Series 3 and even 2 as they do Series 4, which is part of the overall value Apple offers for its products.

2 months later and almost 4 years in, the Apple Watch's killer features have changed somewhat for me. It used to be all about convenience. Now it also saves lives. But it does both better than ever. And, ultimately, that makes it all about time: Tracking, saving, and making sure we live to have as much of it as possible.

VECTOR | Rene Ritchie

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