Should you buy a refurbished Apple Watch?

 Should you buy a refurbished Apple Watch?.
Should you buy a refurbished Apple Watch?.

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If the idea of a refurbished Apple Watch as a way to get one of the smartest wearables on your wrist is appealing, it's worth giving it some thought. Sure, it represents a way to make a saving on what is a pricey device – and you may be able to save money while still enjoying the peace of mind that comes with buying direct from Apple – but is that all there is to it?

Aside from saving you money, a refurbished Apple Watch can be a more responsible choice, as the materials in the device are being reused rather than wasted. Plus, it offers a way to get an older model that may no longer be sold by Apple.

But with refurbished models available from third parties as well as from Apple, and some variation around what constitutes a refurbished Apple Watch, it's worth knowing what's what before you commit to spending your money.

If you want one of the best running watchesor the best smartwatches, or simply want a way to afford that top-end Apple Watch Ultra 2, this guide is designed to help you make an informed decision.

Apple Watch 2
Apple Watch 2

What is a refurbished Apple Watch?

The terminology here is important in understanding what you're going to get when you pay for a refurbished Apple Watch. The name may leave you thinking this is a used model that's been given a spit and polish before being flogged on – and in the case of some Amazon sellers that's not far wrong. But by and large, if you're buying from Apple or a reputable third-party like Best Buy, Music Magpie or newer names like BackMarket, you'll get a clear description.

Be sure to read the description of service, as it will give you an idea of the grade of watch you're getting. At one end of the spectrum this could be a returned Watch that wasn't even taken out of the box, while at the other this could be a well used model with screen marks and a battery that's coming to the end of its life.

So be sure to know what you're getting before you dive at what appears to be a cheaper-than-most price. There's likely a reason for that.

What to check on a refurbished Apple Watch

Two of the main concerns when buying a watch that's not new are screen quality and battery health. Screen quality is often graded, so you'll know if there are any marks on the display, like scratches or worse. Battery health isn't always listed, but it's important.

An Apple Watch will top out at a day of decent use, and needs charging nightly, so you don't want one that's going to struggle to even offer that meagre usage. You'll want battery health, if listed, to be above 80% as a minimum. Once it drops below that level, which it will after a certain number of charge cycles, it will begin to degrade, which means the battery never charges fully, and only gets weaker as time goes on.

General marks to the case and strap are also worth considering. Again, this will likely be rated in most cases, but since it can be general – for example, A, B or C categories – you may not know the exact degree damage. So it's worth keeping in mind how perfect you want your watch to look relative to how much you are willing to spend.

Refurbished Apple Watch
Refurbished Apple Watch

Should I buy my refurbished Apple Watch directly from Apple?

You do get some reassuring clarity when buying directly from Apple, and in some cases you might not even pay much more than you would if buying from third-party sellers.

As standard with all Apple Certified Refurbished watches you get a one-year warranty, free delivery and – crucially – free returns up to 14 days, if you're not happy with what you get. The watch will have been tested by Apple, cleaned, and upgraded to the most recent compatible version of the operating system. If any defective parts were found they'll have been replaced with genuine Apple components.

All watches also come in a new box, and with all the accessories and cables you'd expect to get when buying new. You can also pay extra for an Apple Care policy for longer-term cover (up to three years) for your product on top of the warranty.

If you're not buying direct from Apple, be sure to check that your seller is putting used watches through the same processes as above, or similar ones, to be sure you're getting a device that's in the best possible condition.

Who can refurbish an Apple Watch?

This is a tricky one, as technically a refurbished watch is simply one that's been brought back to a certain standard of quality. That standard is decided by the company selling it, which is why it's so important to know exactly what that is.

Many companies work to a grading system, with A denoting a watch that's usually near new, with no visible imperfections – these will be the most expensive refurbished models. Grade B devices will generally have some signs of wear, but these will be mostly minor, and shouldn't affect the watch's usability. Grade C watches will usually show signs of wear, such as scratches or scuff marks on the screen and/or casing, but, again, they should be fully functioning in terms of software and hardware.

The above is only a rough guide, and it's important to carefully check the returns and warranty policy of the company you're buying from. Ideally, you should have the option to return your watch if you're not happy.

refurbished Apple Watch
refurbished Apple Watch

Is a refurbished Apple Watch sustainable and affordable?

Undoubtedly, buying a refurbished Apple Watch will save you money over splashing out on the latest model. Since updates are often incremental, and given that a lot of new features are added to existing models via software updates, it can make sense to get an older model, particularly if you're not likely to use some newer features – for example improved water resistance – that could end up being a waste of money. If you're also getting a warranty and returns support, buying refurbished becomes an appealing alternative to buying new.

It's also a smart move when it comes to sustainability, as you're reusing a product that might otherwise be discarded. However, the reality is that this isn't going to do a great deal to slow down the production of new watches from Apple, and a refurbished watch still needs to be packaged and shipped, which consumes resources. Overall, though, it's a win both for your wallet and for the planet.

Where can I buy a refurbished Apple Watch?

Aside from Apple itself there's an ever-growing selection of third-party resellers offering refurbished Apple Watches. These include: