This early prototype shows what the Apple Watch could have been

Apple Watch Series 9
The Apple Watch 9 (Image credit: Future)

We don't know much about the development journey that the Apple Watch underwent before the final version made its debut back in late 2014, however, a newly-unearthed prototype from several months prior shows what could have been.

Apple device collector Giulio Zompetti has got hold of a prototype Apple Watch unit that reportedly dates from December 2013, and they’ve shared images of it with 9to5Mac.

As a reminder, the original Apple Watch went on sale in April 2015, following an unveiling in September of 2014. So this prototype is almost 18 months older than the device shipped to buyers, but actually the design isn’t drastically different, suggesting that Apple may have settled on the approximate form and aesthetic quite early on, spending the rest of the time polishing it and developing the software.

Subtle differences

That said, it’s not identical. As you can see in the images, this Apple Watch prototype’s Digital Crown is a slightly different shape, and it’s running SwitchBoard – a launcher that Apple uses internally to test hardware features.

The biggest difference though isn’t a visible one, as Zompetti claims that the charger doesn’t work with any other Apple Watch models, despite looking similar to the current charger.

It’s unclear what changes Apple made to the charging mechanism before release, but visually, at least, this is a very similar wearable to the original Apple Watch, and not drastically different even to the latest models, other, arguably, than the Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Perhaps this is a sign that it’s time the Apple Watch got an overhaul, and it seems Apple might have the same idea, as some reports suggest that next year’s Apple Watch 10 (or Apple Watch X as it might be called) will get a significant redesign.

So the Apple Watch 10 might be worth waiting for, but if you can’t wait until September (when it's likely to launch) to strap on one of the best Apple Watches, take a look at the best Black Friday Apple Watch deals in the meantime.

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James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.