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In recent weeks many column inches and newspaper headlines have been dedicated to the launch of the Apple Watch; and little wonder.

Following the success of the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, the smart watch is billed as the latest must-have product.

The near obsession with technology among today's youth shows little sign of slowing at a time where engaging the next generation of buyers is perhaps the major issue facing the antiques trade.

Antiques and collectables are unique pieces, made in small numbers, often by hand, to convey personality. The sort of cutting-edge devices that attract queues outside Apple stores seek to standardise form with function prioritised above all else. Individuality is the natural casualty.

But just as I imagine a traditional watch dealer bemused as he reads about the projected success of the Apple Watch - in much the same way that I see my father, a dealer of 19th century antiques, dumbfounded at the rise of conceptual contemporary art - I have a feeling that this could spell an upturn in the fortune of antiques and collectables.

The link may be unclear, but bear with me and I will explain.

During the formative years of the 21st century I was travelling in South America, and it was here that I first encountered an iPod.

A fellow traveller showed me the gadget and I can clearly remember my astonishment at seeing a never-ending list of music albums stored on an impossibly small device. With a significant part of my heavy luggage dedicated to a temperamental CD player and a handful of 'compact' discs, the difference couldn't have been starker.


The iPod was the very definition of the game-changer. Even though it wasn't the first MP3 player to market, it was the first to break into the mainstream.

If the change from LP record to tape to CD to mini-disk could be described as evolutionary, the iPod was like an alien invasion. Gone were the storage problems, the portability issues, the scratched CDs; replaced in an instant by a vastly superior product.

In time the iPhone and iPad followed suit, and these too have transformed the way the world works from email-on-the-go to CCTV-in-your-pocket. Little wonder that Apple recently reported the biggest-ever quarterly profit in history of $18bn, roughly equating to a massive $130,000 profit every minute.

Apple's need to feed this cash cow with new upgrades and products is unsurprising, but for the first time I am left wondering. Where is the technological innovation, the genuine problem-solving capabilities of this new Apple Watch? I fail to see any groundbreaking developments that aren't already available on a smart phone. Is the inconvenience of having to reach into a pocket or handbag, as opposed to a glance of the wrist, so great that you would shell out $349 to rectify it (or $17,000 for the gold-plated edition)?

Most likely the watch will sell, but perhaps not in the same numbers as its previous innovations.

Genuinely life-changing technology cannot be continuously rolled out on a biannual basis, and I would not be surprised if this latest move marks the beginning of the end of the explosive growth of this sector.

If that did turn out to be the case it would mark a fundamental shift. The focus of function over form can only continue so long as the function keeps improving.

Celebration of Design

So here is my point. Once the technology is established, the next progression is a celebration of design, creativity and individual flair. This mindset will surely lead to a renaissance in antiques and collectibles.

A real watch is very much more than just a portable device for telling the time. The best watches are beautiful objects of jewellery and art, crafted with precision and unique skill.

Owning a watch is by no means a necessity in the modern age; rather a watch reflects something personal about its owner, each with its own vibrancy, character and personality.

Apple believe they can standardise the watch. I have confidence consumers will soon regain their appetite and confidence to buy the unique, the one-off, the beautiful. It's just a matter of time.

Jamie Sinai is a director of Mayfair Gallery, a fine and decorative arts dealership in the heart of London.