Which Apple Watch should you buy? Is the new for 2021 Apple Watch Series 7 worth its premium price tag, or should you stick with 2020's Apple Watch Series 6, which is still on sale? Alternatively, should the budget conscious choose the lower-priced Apple Watch SE, also from 2020, or the much older Apple Watch Series 3 that launched back in 2017, but costs £199/$199. Or should you look for a tempting deal on one of the discontinued models instead?

Even if you know which Apple Watch model you want, deciding on the size, case material, colour and strap that's best for you can be a minefield, with dozens of combinations available at dozens of different prices. The choice can be overwhelming.

In our in-depth Apple Watch buying guide we explain all the options, and help you decide which model is right for you and where to get the best price.

What Apple Watches does Apple sell?

Apple currently sells four Apple Watch models: the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 3. It's the biggest range of Apple Watches the company has ever sold.

(Apple has discontinued the original Apple Watch, Series 1, Series 2, Series 4 and Series 5. However, you may still be able to buy them second-hand or refurbished - in fact, Apple sells them in its own Refurbished Store.)

The sheer variety of Apple Watches doesn't stop with the different generations though. Each Watch is available with different case materials (aluminiium, stainless steel, titanium), different colour options, different sized screens, a vast choice of straps, and either GPS or cellular options. The combinations available are practically infinite (or it feels that way when you are trying to work out the various prices).

Apple Watch colours and materials

The current models differ in the features they offer and their specs. There are also some differences in terms of materials and colours: the Series 3 and SE are available in aluminium only (silver or Space Grey for the Series 3, plus gold for the SE), while the Series 6 and 7 come in aluminium (silver, Space Grey, gold, blue or red in the case of the Apple Watch 6, and green, blue, red, starlight and midnight for the Apple Watch 7). 

The Apple Watches are also available in stainless steel (silver, graphite or gold - both Watch 6 and 7), and titanium (titanium or Space Black for both watches).

Apple Watch 7 finishes

Apple Watch Sizes

There are are a mixture of sizes among the Apple Watches currently on sale. The measurements below refer to the height of the case, slightly confusingly, rather than the diagonal of the screen, as you might expect. You'll find a large and a small screen size for each Apple Watch - those with smaller hands may prefer a smaller watch face, but remember the larger watch face of the Series 7 was made possible by reducing the bezels around the screen, not by making the Watch larger.

  • The Series 7 is available in 45mm and 41mm.
  • The Series 6 and SE come in 44mm and 40mm.
  • The Series 3 offers either 42mm or 38mm.

Apple Watch Straps

There are also multiple straps available for each watch, which complicates the pricing further. These include Nike's sporty straps and fashion straps from Hermes for the well-heeled to consider.

Apple Watch Cellular options

In the case of the Series 7, 6 and the SE you can choose whether you want to pay extra for cellular connectivity, or if you're happy with GPS only. There is currently no cellular version of the Series 3 (unless you buy a second-hand device).

Is now a good time to buy an Apple Watch?

Apple generally launches new watches in the autumn so it was no surprise when Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 7 in September 2021. However, there is as yet no guidance on when the 7th generation Apple Watch will be available to buy. It seems that Apple has encountered manufacturing problems with the new design. We expect it will be on sale in time for Christmas 2021 though.

Obviously the best time to buy depends on when you are thinking about buying an Apple Watch. If you are considering buying one and it's August 2022 then you will probably want to wait for the next generation to launch - either to buy that one or because the other Watch prices may drop. We cover this question in more depth in a separate article: When is the best time to buy an Apple Watch?

Where to buy an Apple Watch

You can pick up the Apple Watch 7, 6, SE, and Series 3 direct from Apple. Prices start at £199/$199 and in 2020 topped out at £1,449/$1,499 for the luxury models (such as the Apple Watch Hermès, Silver Stainless Steel Case with Single Tour Deployment Buckle).

You can also buy the Apple Watches from third-party retailers, such as John Lewis, Currys, Argos and Very. These sellers may still offer models which Apple itself has stopped selling, such as the Series 5, although stock is likely to be limited.

For the latest offers worth your consideration, check our roundup of the best Apple Watch deals.

How much does the Apple Watch cost?

Most Apple products have a really simple pricing structure. You select a standard product, then have the opportunity to add optional extras and upgrade components.

When it comes to the Apple Watch, things aren't quite that simple. There are lots of options. In fact, we might say there are too many options.

Because of this it can actually be difficult to get an idea of what an Apple Watch might cost you. Sure, you can get an Apple Watch Series 3 for £199/$199, but what if you wanted the Apple Watch 6 with a nice leather strap? How much would that cost you?

You can go to Apple's website and configure your own combination of model, body colour, strap and so on using Apple's widget. But to make it easier for you to see at a glance what the various Apple Watches cost, take a look at the charts below.

Prices for the Apple Watch Series 7

Apple hasn't announced when the Apple Watch Series 7 will be available to buy yet, so pricing information is difficult to come by. We anticipate that they will be similar to the prices shown for the Series 6 below, which in turn are likely to see a decrease - or be discontinued.

Prices for the Apple Watch Series 6

The Watch 6 is available in aluminium with a silver, Space Grey, gold, blue or red finish; in stainless steel in silver, gold or Space Black; or in titanium in a titanium or Space Black finish.

Material Strap 40mm, GPS 44mm, GPS 40mm, cellular 44mm, cellular
Aluminium Solo Loop £379/$399 £409/$429 £479/$499 £509/$529
Aluminium Sport Loop £379/$399 £409/$429 £479/$499 £509/$529
Aluminium Sport Band £379/$399 £409/$429 £479/$499 £509/$529
Aluminium Braided Solo Loop £429/$449 £459/$479 £549/$499 £559/$579
Aluminium Modern Buckle £429/$499 £459/$479 £549/$499 £559/$579
Aluminium Leather Link £429/$449 £459/$479 £549/$499 £559/$579
Aluminium Milanese Loop £429/$449 £459/$479 £549/$499 £559/$579
Aluminium Link Bracelet £679/$699 £709/$479 £779/$729 £809/$829
Steel Solo Loop n/a n/a £649/$699 £699/$479
Steel Sport Loop n/a n/a £649/$699 £699/$479
Steel Sport Band n/a n/a £649/$699 £699/$479
Steel Braided Solo Loop n/a n/a £699/$749 £749/$799
Steel Modern Buckle n/a n/a £749/$799 n/a
Steel Leather Link n/a n/a £699/$749 £749/$799
Steel Milanese Loop n/a n/a £699/$749 £749/$799
Steel Link Bracelet n/a n/a £949/$999 £999/$1,049
Titanium Solo Loop n/a n/a £749/$749 £799/$799
Titanium Sport Loop n/a n/a £749/$749 £799/$799
Titanium Sport Band n/a n/a £749/$799 £799/$849
Titanium Braided Solo Loop n/a n/a £799/$849 £849/$899
Titanium Modern Buckle n/a n/a £849/$899 n/a
Titanium Leather Link n/a n/a £799/$849 £849/$899
Titanium Milanese Loop n/a n/a £799/$849 £849/$899
Titanium Link Bracelet n/a n/a £1,049/$1,099 £1,099/$1,149

Buy the Apple Watch Series 6 here: Apple Store.

 

Apple Watch 6 deals

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Prices for the Apple Watch SE

The Watch SE is available in aluminium only, in a silver, Space Grey or gold finish. You get a decent range of straps, too.

Material Strap 40mm, GPS 44mm, GPS 40mm, cellular 44mm, cellular
Aluminium Solo Loop £269/$279 £299/$309 £319/$329 £349/$359
Aluminium Sport Band £269/$279 £299/$309 £319/$329 £349/$359
Aluminium Sport Loop £269/$279 £299/$309 £319/$329 £349/$359
Aluminium Braided Solo Loop £319/$329 £349/$359 £369/$379 £399/$409
Aluminium Leather Link £319/$329 £349/$359 £369/$379 £399/$409
Aluminium Milanese Loop £319/$329 £349/$359 £369/$379 £399/$409
Aluminium Modern Buckle £369/$499   £419/$599  
Aluminium Leather Loop   £349/$479   £399/$579
Aluminium Link Bracelet £669/$699 £699/$729 £719/$799 £749/$829

Buy the Apple Watch SE here: Apple Store.

Apple Watch SE deals

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Prices for the Apple Watch Series 3

Not too many options here. The Series 3 is available in aluminium only, in a silver or Space Grey finish, with a white or black strap.

Material Strap 38mm, GPS 42mm, GPS
Aluminium (silver or Space Grey) Sport Band (white or black) £199/$199 £229/$229

Buy the Apple Watch Series 3 here: Apple Store.

Apple Watch 3 deals

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Which Apple Watch should I get?

With all these combinations to choose from, it's tricky to know where to start.

The first big decision is picking a model. Will the mid-range Apple Watch SE meet your needs? Are you prepared to pay substantially more for the Series 6 model and its deeper feature set? Or do you need to save money and settle for the older Series 3 model?

Should I buy the Apple Watch 7?

Right now you can't buy an Apple Watch 7 because Apple hasn't started to sell it yet, but we expect that it will soon.

When the Series 7 hits the shops our recommendation to buy it depends on which Apple Watch you are upgrading from. If you are considering switching from the Series 6 we would say do so only if you attach great importance to the display, because there are some important changes there.

Another benefit of the Watch 7 compared to the 6 is the fast charging function, which is likely to prove extremely helpful in everyday life. This was already a benefit of the Series 6 compared to its predecessors, so if Apple lives up to its claims for the Watch 7 this sounds enticing. We will only know for sure when we get one to test. 

Aside from fast charging and the display though the Apple Watch 7 offers no new health features, aside from improved fall detection, so if health is your main concern you will probably be fine with the Apple Watch 6.

Should you upgrade from an Apple Watch Series 5? As with Series 6 vs 7, the differences are quite sparse, but you'll gain blood oxygen measurement at least. If you can wait another year for Series 8 you can expect new health features.

With a Series 4, switching to Series 7 seems more attractive: In addition to the larger and brighter display, the display on it is always visible, oxygen is measured in addition to ECG, and also during sleep. The battery is larger and charges faster, plus the memory is twice as large - 32GB.

If it's an Apple Watch Series 3 you are upgrading from the recommendation is clear: Switch.

Should I buy the Apple Watch 6?

Best Apple Watch buying guide: Apple Watch Series 6

Apple is still selling the Apple Watch Series 6 - for now. We don't know whether it will continue to sell the 2020 Apple Watch after the Series 7 goes on sale though. If it does continue to sell the Series 6 then you can expect Apple to drop the price. If Apple discontinues the Series 6 then you can expect other resellers to drop the price. Whatever happens the message is clear - don't buy an Apple Watch Series 6 right now.

Should the Apple Watch 6 see a nice price drop then it might prove to be a good purchase. When it arrived in 2020 the Series 6 trumped it's launch partner, the SE, thanks to its S6 chip (compared to the SEs S5 chip). The Series 6 also had a U1 chip for ultra wideband which isn't available on the SE and 3 don't get this chip.

The Series 6 also has an always-on display - like the Series 7. You still wake it up with a tap or by raising your wrist, but even when 'asleep' it shows a dimmed, simplified and less frequently refreshed version of your watch face.

The standout feature of the Series 6 was the means to measure blood oxygen and take an ECG. Taking an ECG was a feature in the predecessor, the Watch 5, but it's absent from the SE.

The other thing that the SE and Series 3 lack is the wealth of choice when it comes to materials - you can choose from multiple materials and colours for the clock itself. Of course with all the choice there is the potential to spend a lot of money on your Watch - for example, if you fancy the titanium watch with a link bracelet it will cost you up to £1,099/$1,149. But some people will be happy to spend that - and more - on a watch. There really is something for everyone.

Should I buy the Apple Watch SE?

Best Apple Watch buying guide: Apple Watch SE

Starting at £269/$279 it doesn't cost a lot more than the Apple Watch Series 3, but if you spend a little more you could get something even better: the Apple Watch Series 6 starts at £379/$399, and the Series 7 is likely to have a similar pricing structure when it goes on sale.

Both the SE and the 6 offer the same 44mm or 40mm case size, and both are slimmer than the Series 3. As we mentioned already, Series 7, 6 and the SE support Family Setup, which could be useful if you have kids, and they also have an always-on altimeter.

The Series 6 and 7 feature an Always-On display, which the SE lacks. This means that you will be able to see the time on the watch face at all times - rather than only when you raise your wrist.

The Series 7 and 6 also offers a way to measure blood oxygen and take an ECG, two features that could be life saving. That's not to say that the SE lacks other life saving features: like the Series 7/6 (and the 3 for that matter) the SE can alert you to an irregular heart rhythm and give you notifications of a high or low heart rate.

Essentially the SE lacks an always-on display and it can't measure blood oxygen or take an ECG. If these aren't features that matter to you the SE would be a good choice.

Should I buy the Apple Watch Series 3?

Best Apple Watch buying guide: Apple Watch Series 3

Apple is still selling the third-gen Apple Watch, but that doesn't mean it's a good purchase. watchOS 8 will be here from 20 September 2021 and there are some features that may not be compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3. The Series 3 is less future-proofed, and will stop getting watchOS software updates sooner than the other Apple Watches.

There's no denying that £199/$199 is an appealing price tag, but our advice would be to pay a little more and go for the SE if you can possibly afford it, as you'll get the accumulated benefits of three years' worth of upgrades.

The SE offers a number of features missing from the Series 3 and starts at £269/$279. For your extra £70/$80 you get a newer design - the Series 3 is a similar overall size to the SE, but its screen is smaller because of the bigger bezels.

While it does have an altimeter, the Series 3 lacks fall detection, the compass and the always-on screen feature, while its speaker and mic aren't as advanced as those in the SE.

If you were thinking that at £199/$199 the Series 3 might be a good choice for your offspring, bear in mind that it doesn't support Family Setup (one of the factors discussed in our feature 8 reasons why the Apple Watch SE is a good buy).

Also note that because the Series 3 no longer comes with a cellular option you won't be able to use it to make calls or get data when you haven't got your iPhone handy. Series 3 also features a W2 wireless chip rather than the W3 in the SE and 6.

Do I need cellular?

The next big choice is between a standard GPS watch and the more expensive cellular model, which uses an electronic SIM card to be able to make phone calls and get online independently of your iPhone. As well as the higher initial price, you'll have additional running costs for data usage and network fees.

Whether you opt for the regular or cellular (GPS or GPS + cellular to use Apple's terms) mostly depends on your likely usage. If you're always likely to have both your iPhone and Watch on you at the same time, you really won't see any benefit from the cellular connectivity, so it won't be worth the cost.

However, if you like the idea of being able to leave your phone at home and still take calls and check emails - when you're exercising, for example - then you could benefit from cellular.

Upgrading from older models

We've compared the Series 3, SE, 6 and 7, but if you've still got a Series 0 (ie the original model), 1 or 2 any of the newer releases will feel like a truly dramatic improvement.

Our experience suggests that at this point the original Apple Watch is basically obsolete: all the copies we own have slowed down drastically. To give an idea of the differences in speed between the older generations, we tried turning them off and seeing how long they take to power on again:

Starting from the very first model, here are the highlights of what each model added to the formula:

  • 'Series 0' (2015): Officially just called Apple Watch, or 'first gen'. The original: where it all began.
  • Series 1 (2016): Essentially a rebadged version of the original. But it added a faster processor.
  • Series 2 (2016): A beloved upgrade. Increased battery life and screen brightness, and added GPS and better waterproofing. And a still faster processor.
  • Series 3 (2017): One big new (optional) feature: cellular connectivity. And an even faster processor.
  • Series 4 (2018): Bigger screen, thinner body, more sophisticated heart sensors and fall detection. And the fastest processor yet.
  • Series 5 (2019): Always-on display, compass, extra onboard storage. New S5 processor appears to offer the same performance as 2018's S4, although power-management improvements help with battery life
  • SE (2020): Always-on altimeter, Family Setup
  • Series 6 (2020): Always-on altimeter, Family Setup, Blood oxygen sensor, faster processor, U1 chip
  • Series 7 (2021): Larger display, better durability, faster charging, new aluminium case colours, new QWERTY keyboard

As you'll appreciate, moving up more than one step at once means you get multiple sets of advantages.

Going from Series 2 to Series 7, for instance, means you'll be getting the option of cellular for the first time as well as the new design and ECG feature, and the always-on display and compass. Upgrading from Series 1 to the SE adds GPS and a better screen.

You might be able to find a good deal on an older Series 5 watch below:

Apple Watch 5

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Which size of Apple Watch should I get?

The Series 3 comes in two sizes of case: 38mm or 42mm. The Series 6 and the SE are available in 40mm or 44mm. The Series 7 comes in 41mm or 45mm.

The general interpretation is that these are designed to suit an average woman and an average man's hand/wrist dimensions respectively, but you obviously needn't feel bound by that: there are no other changes to the design of the watch other than size - no explicitly masculine/feminine decorative elements or anything like that.

The measurements represent the (approximate) height of the watch face, in millimetres. That's a bit odd, because when categorising sizes of smart devices we usually refer to the size of the screen, measured diagonally from corner to corner, in inches. (The iPhone 11 is a 6.1in smartphone, for instance.) But Apple seems to have decided to do things differently for this product category.

Weight varies according to the material, size and whether or not cellular is included.

Different sizes Apple Watch screen

The size of a wearable is a crucial factor, and because of this, we would recommend that you postpone the buying decision until you can be sure which size is right for you. That might mean buying in store rather than ordering online; if you can get to an Apple Store or a reasonably well-appointed reseller then they will have watches in stock that you can try on before buying.

Finally, bear in mind that the available configurations of material/colour/strap are slightly different depending on the size - so your choice in this category will slightly reduce your options in others. We strongly recommend that you prioritise size above other considerations, however. Don't be like the shoe shopper who goes one size too big because they've been heavily discounted - the pain isn't worth it!

Which colour should I go for?

The material used determines what colour you can find the Apple Watch in.

Apple Watch Series 3 colour options

  • Aluminium: silver, Space Grey

Apple Watch SE colour options

  • Aluminium: silver, Space Grey, gold

Apple Watch Series 6 colour options

  • Aluminium: silver, gold, Space Grey, blue, red
  • Stainless steel: plain, gold, Graphite
  • Titanium: plain, Space Black

Apple Watch Series 7 colour options

  • Aluminium: green, blue, red, Starlight and Midnight
  • Stainless steel: plain, gold, Graphite
  • Titanium: plain, Space Black

The colour, unlike the material, doesn't affect the price, so pick whichever version you like best, and which complements the strap you select.

Which Apple Watch strap should I get?

As you'll have seen from our pricing guide above, there are lots of straps to choose from. Here's what each strap costs if you purchase it separately.

Best Apple Watch buying guide: Which strap?

Each of those options comes in multiple colours and finishes; the possibilities are endless. And that's not even including the Apple Watch Hermès and Nike options:

The Apple Watch Nike+ and Apple Watch Hermès have the same internals and specifications as the standard models, but distinct aesthetic appearances. The main difference is the special straps they come with, but there are some other minor differences, such as a preinstalled Nike app.

The Apple Watch Nike+, which is made of aluminium, is aimed at those who love running and are looking for a sport-oriented smartwatch.

The Hermès is made with stainless steel, with fancy straps and an Hermès stamp on the back. The various versions look lovely but start at more than £1,000. Note that these are only available with cellular.

You can style up your Apple Watch the way you like it on Apple's website.

We also have a roundup of the best Apple Watch straps.

Best Apple Watch buying guide: Hermes Apple Watch Strap

Docks, stands and chargers

The Apple Watch comes with a small, basic charger, but you may wish to buy an additional dock that allows you to charge overnight while also displaying the time. For our picks, see our roundup of the best Apple Watch stands and chargers.

Note that the Apple Watch no longer ships with a power adapter, so if you need a power brick you will need to purchase one. Read Which plug do I need for my Apple Watch? for more information.

The Apple Watch 5W USB Power Adapter (order one here for US and here for UK) costs £19/$19.