Compared: Apple Watch Series 6 Graphite versus Apple Watch Series 5 Space Black

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited September 2020
Along with specification changes, Apple also altered its darkest color option for the Apple Watch Series 6, switching out Space Black for Graphite. We check out how truly different the change is for those wanting an all-black Apple Watch setup.

Apple Watch Series 5 Stainless Steel in Space Black (left), Apple Watch Series 6 Stainless Steel in Graphite
Apple Watch Series 5 Stainless Steel in Space Black (left), Apple Watch Series 6 Stainless Steel in Graphite


The new Apple Watch Series 6 is offered in a choice of three materials, but with a wide variety of colors. While the new Red color arguably got the most attention, a quiet change was made to the stainless steel case for its black model, switching out the previously-available Space Black option in favor of a new version, Graphite.

Given the name, it is intended to be the black-colored variant of the range, but it is a departure from the Space Black offered in the Apple Watch Series 5. The change to Graphite is also unusual as it only applies to the stainless steel model, with the titanium case still offered by Apple with a Space Black coating.

There is an exception to this, as it is possible to get a Space Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 6, but only when bought as one of the Hermes editions, making it relatively expensive.






This change may be a small subtle difference for many, but as some people have already acquired Space Black accessories to go with their Space Black Apple Watch Series 5, the switch to Graphite may be a bit of a problem for some.

With that in mind, AppleInsider compared the Graphite stainless steel Apple Watch Series 6 against its predecessor, the Space Black stainless steel Apple Watch Series 5, to see exactly how much of a change has taken place.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE vs Apple Watch Series 5 - Specification

Apple Watch Series 6Apple Watch SEApple Watch Series 5
Price (starting)$399
Lowest Apple Watch 6 prices
$279
Lowest Apple Watch SE prices
$399
Lowest Apple Watch 5 prices
Sizes40mm, 44mm40mm, 44mm40mm, 44mm
DisplayAlways-On RetinaRetinaAlways-On Retina
LTPO OLED
Case MaterialsAluminum,
Stainless Steel,
Titanium
Aluminum
Aluminum,
Ceramic,
Stainless Steel,
Titanium
ProcessorS6S5S5
Heart SensorBlood Oxygen Sensor
With ECG
Second-generation
optical heart sensor
Second-generation
optical heart sensor
with ECG
Water Resistance50m50m50m
Battery LifeUp to 18 hours- Up to 18 hours
RechargingWirelessWirelessWireless
ConnectivityWi-Fi,
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth 5.0
802.11n 2.4GHz,
Bluetooth 5.0
Other SensorsGPS
Compass
Barometric altimeter
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
GPS
Compass
Barometric altimeter
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
GPS/GNSS,
Compass
Barometric altimeter,
Accelerometer,
Gyroscope,
Ambient light sensor

Graphite Apple Watch Series 6 vs Space Black Apple Watch Series 5 - Case changes

Just looking at the cases alone without bands, the difference is subtle enough for people giving it a close examination, though lighting conditions will also help or hinder telling the two colors apart. Under even studio lighting, the difference is very apparent, with Graphite being lighter.

If you put the cases together, you can tell the Graphite Apple Watch is lighter than the Space Black
If you put the cases together, you can tell the Graphite Apple Watch is lighter than the Space Black


In some light, the Graphite can border on seeming silver, such as in bright sunlight. Given there's a Silver version of the Series 6 on sale, it could make some Apple Watch buyers torn between purchasing Graphite and Silver at first glance due to the vague similarity.

Even so, it is still noticeably lighter in different environments, and it really demonstrates why Apple opted for Graphite instead of a name using the term "black." If there wasn't a Series 5 in Space Black nearby to directly compare against, most would consider Graphite to be near enough black-colored for their style.

Though it is lighter than the Space Black, Graphite is still quite dark. When put against the aluminum Space Gray model, the Graphite Stainless Steel model is not only darker, but also much shinier than the matt finish of its lower-priced counterpart.

Graphite Apple Watch Series 6 vs Space Black Apple Watch Series 5 - Accessories

While the Graphite Apple Watch may not necessarily be compared against its Space Black counterpart all the time, the shade difference may be more apparent on a day-to-day basis if it is paired with existing accessories. It is likely that someone who has invested in a collection of Space Black accessories may want to use them with the new Apple Watch model.

Depending on the band, this may not necessarily be an issue, but one telltale area are the lugs that slot into the Apple Watch casing. Black lugs on a band or strap will seem much darker than the Graphite case color, which will stand out when closely examined.

Black lugs on a band or loop will look dark on the Graphite Apple Watch.
Black lugs on a band or loop will look dark on the Graphite Apple Watch.


Unless you're extremely particular about color matches and deep down are troubled by the mismatch of black lugs against the slightly lighter casing, there's not much to worry about, and most other people won't really notice it either.

A more obvious issue would be if the main body of the band is black, as that may make the Graphite casing stand out as lighter. For existing owners of a Space Black Milanese Loop wanting to reuse it, this may be a small problem.

The Graphite Milanese Loop for the Apple Watch Series 6 on a Space Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 5
The Graphite Milanese Loop for the Apple Watch Series 6 on a Space Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 5


The level of this can be demonstrated in reverse in this photograph, which shows the Graphite Milanese Loop on the Space Black Apple Watch Series 5. The texture does help hide the disparity, but you can still tell there's a lightness change.

Obviously, the Graphite Milanese Loop matches the Graphite Apple Watch Series 6 perfectly.

Is this a problem?

The problem of shade changes between generations of device isn't a massive issue, but it can be irksome. If you have spent a lot on accessories so you can have the perfect black Apple Watch configuration, the slightly lighter Graphite model could be a nightmare, though most will probably shake it off as a minor inconvenience.

Though the Graphite is a little lighter, it and the Space Black still communicate 'Black Apple Watch' to onlookers.
Though the Graphite is a little lighter, it and the Space Black still communicate 'Black Apple Watch' to onlookers.


There are ways around it for those desperate for perfection, but that typically involves considering alternative options. You could get a matching Graphite Milanese loop to get over most of the hurdle, or alternately you could pay more to shift to the titanium models or Hermes if Space Black is an absolute must-have personalization.

For the vast majority of Apple Watch owners, they will probably acknowledge the difference, embrace it, and then carry on using their existing accessories.

Apple Watch 6 pricing and deals

Apple Watch 6 prices start at $399, with the latest deals and discounts on new styles, as well as closeout Series 5 models, at your fingertips in our Apple Watch Price Guide.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    Couldn’t care less and miss the white ceramic edition. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 11
    Almost talked myself into the Graphite SS watch this round, but after reading up on the differences in the glass/sapphire — the sapphire being far more likely to shatter even if it's more scratch resistant, and nearly $300 to replace the screen (w/o AC+), just decided to stick with Aluminum. Aside from a few tiny dings and scratches, I have yet to severely mar my Aluminum/glass watches so far. Also, I very much like the Sport band so the matte finish goes well with that anyway. 

    That said, I *love* the screen on the 6 having upgraded from the 3. Nice improvements all around.
    watto_cobraGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 3 of 11
    What about durability of the colour? A lot of the value of Space Black was the extremely scratch-resistant diamond-like coating (DLC). Does graphite have DLC too or if not, how durable is it against scratches?

    I still use the black link bracelet from my Series 0 and it looks pretty good scratch-wise.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 11
    Shouldn’t the prices reflect both starting prices of 40 mm and 44 mm Watches?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 11
    seanjseanj Posts: 265member
    Same issue exists between the rich gold colour of the Series 4 & 5, and the lighter, cheaper looking gold colour of the Series 6.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 11
    Couldn’t care less and miss the white ceramic edition. 

    Me too!
    Although I don't personally miss the white ceramic edition.   But, my friend just started wearing her son's Series 3 (after he abandoned it) but, since it's a fairly harsh dark grey in both watch and band she only wears it as an exercise tracker and removes it when getting dressed up to go out.

    A less harsh white would work for her much better.   But, on the other hand, even if the white ceramic was still offered, she would not be willing to pay the premium to get one.
  • Reply 7 of 11
    Almost talked myself into the Graphite SS watch this round, but after reading up on the differences in the glass/sapphire — the sapphire being far more likely to shatter even if it's more scratch resistant, and nearly $300 to replace the screen (w/o AC+), just decided to stick with Aluminum. Aside from a few tiny dings and scratches, I have yet to severely mar my Aluminum/glass watches so far. Also, I very much like the Sport band so the matte finish goes well with that anyway. 

    That said, I *love* the screen on the 6 having upgraded from the 3. Nice improvements all around.

    I've been pretty happy with mine.
    But, it did get a decent 1/4' scratch that's noticeable and some random scuffs when I tripped over a leaf covered rock while out running last fall.   Would a sapphire crystal have saved it?   Perhaps.   But, the scratches don't impair any functionality in any way and their only effect is really my knowledge that my perfect watch got a scratch.   So, i agree:  the extra cost simply doesn't justify it.   I just tell myself to get over it. 

    For me, the Apple Watch is meant to be used.   It's not a pretty toy to be brought out to impress people.   It's more like a tool than a piece of jewelry.

    And plus:  the Apple Watch is still an emerging piece of tech gear that has been progressing rapidly while prior models go obsolete quickly.   It's not a long or intermediate term investment so wear and tear are not major factors.  But, as the product matures and stabilizes that will become less and less true.   I always thought it strange that somebody would sink $10,000 into a gold Series 0 that was going to be dated a mere 12 months later.
    edited September 2020
  • Reply 8 of 11
    noelos said:
    What about durability of the colour? A lot of the value of Space Black was the extremely scratch-resistant diamond-like coating (DLC). Does graphite have DLC too or if not, how durable is it against scratches?

    I still use the black link bracelet from my Series 0 and it looks pretty good scratch-wise.
    DLC actually stands for diamond-like carbon. Yes, the graphite finish is DLC.

    A lot of really dark DLC coatings involve plating the object in chrome first, then applying the DLC coating. This helps it bond more consistently, but chrome plating is ridiculously bad environmentally. Maybe graphite is the darkest they could get with an acceptable rejection rate without chrome?

    Almost talked myself into the Graphite SS watch this round, but after reading up on the differences in the glass/sapphire — the sapphire being far more likely to shatter even if it's more scratch resistant, and nearly $300 to replace the screen (w/o AC+), just decided to stick with Aluminum. Aside from a few tiny dings and scratches, I have yet to severely mar my Aluminum/glass watches so far. Also, I very much like the Sport band so the matte finish goes well with that anyway. 

    That said, I *love* the screen on the 6 having upgraded from the 3. Nice improvements all around.
    Sapphire shatters when you hit it hard enough, but that point is about where glass shatters, too. Ion-X glass should isolate a crack a little better, but if an impact would shatter one, it would probably shatter the other.

    I have occasionally forgotten to take off my stainless Series 3 and later my space black Series 4 while working on a car, either in the engine bay or underneath. Both screens look new. The stainless Series 3 picked up the fine scratches any highly-polished stainless steel object picks up, but nothing longer or deeper. The space black Series 4 looks brand new all around with zero visible scratches on screen, case, or bracelet.

    I don't really deal with carbide drill bits or abrasives harder than garnet, so I expect the space black Series 4 to keep looking just like this until I eventually replace it.
    edited September 2020
  • Reply 9 of 11
    I've invested nearly around $5,000 on Hermes 44mm bands when I bought my Hermes S3 watch 3 years ago,  which was a blunder, and never happening again. And sometime the thought scares me that if Apple will ever ditch or change the watch size completely and made all Hermes bands incompatible with the future releases or whenever I plan to upgrade. That will leave me no choice to either try to sell them way cheaper, and never think about going anything above base model as older models go obsolete very quickly, or I just cross my finger, take a risk and wait until I plan on upgrading, maybe series 9 or something :) I just truly love Hermes watch faces. 
    edited September 2020 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 10 of 11
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,121member
    Several issues.

    first is the color. All my Watches have been Space Black SS models. The 6 is Graphite. Really, most of the time you won’t see a difference. It depends on the angle of the light, mostly. If you look at the watch straight on from the top, you can’t see a difference, unless you look closely, and the lights are at an angle. But even then, it’s just briefly. With my black SS bracket, which, unfortunately they discontinued this year (the best watch bracket from any manufacturer, at a fraction of the cost!), I can see the difference, again, only if I look specifically for that difference. Yes, again, at angles, the difference is there, but briefly. Much of the time, such as now, as I’m looking at it, it looks exactly the same. If I turn my wrist around, I can see the graphite look, and it is lighter than the bracket. But again, you’re moving around, so that comes and goes. Most people won’t be able to tell the difference, unless you’re showing it to them.

    whatever it is, it looks good on the bracket, even though the lugs are darker because of the closeness of the parts. Really, the tiny edge of the lugs aren’t positioned so that anyone will see them unless they look for them. The color is exactly like a solid graphite bar. I’ve got some of those, and a side by side comparison, after I polish up some of the surface of the bar, is virtually the exact color. Considering that carbon is graphite, it makes sense.

    ok, two, sapphire vs hardened glass. I’ve had several high end mechanical watches for decades. I sold them a couple of years after getting my first Apple Watch, as I found myself wearing the Apple Watch more often. After a time, it didn’t pay to have the watches cleaned and lured every couple of years, because that cost bought me another Watch in SS, every year. Yes, you have to have maintenance on expensive mechanical watches or the friction will cause wear on the delicate brass gears and the pinions.

    anyway, all of those watches have sapphire faces. Despite that I wore them in my shops, they never got scratched, or cracked. But I did buy a Tournoue quartz titanium case model for my daily wear in my lab, because SS will rot from some of the chemicals. Even though that watch was relatively expensive, 35 years ago, it only came with a “hardened mineral glass” cover. I had to take the watch in almost every year to get the heavily gauged, and once, cracked cover replaced.

    I've smacked my Watches too many times to count, and never damaged the sapphire face. I’m not saying that it can’t happen, because if you smack it hard enough, it will. But it’s pretty thick, and pretty strong. Not a real issue.caladanian said:
    Couldn’t care less and miss the white ceramic edition. 
    Really? I assume you bought that then?
  • Reply 11 of 11
    dk49dk49 Posts: 185member
    zimmie said:
    noelos said:
    What about durability of the colour? A lot of the value of Space Black was the extremely scratch-resistant diamond-like coating (DLC). Does graphite have DLC too or if not, how durable is it against scratches?

    I still use the black link bracelet from my Series 0 and it looks pretty good scratch-wise.
    DLC actually stands for diamond-like carbon. Yes, the graphite finish is DLC.

    A lot of really dark DLC coatings involve plating the object in chrome first, then applying the DLC coating. This helps it bond more consistently, but chrome plating is ridiculously bad environmentally. Maybe graphite is the darkest they could get with an acceptable rejection rate without chrome?

    Almost talked myself into the Graphite SS watch this round, but after reading up on the differences in the glass/sapphire — the sapphire being far more likely to shatter even if it's more scratch resistant, and nearly $300 to replace the screen (w/o AC+), just decided to stick with Aluminum. Aside from a few tiny dings and scratches, I have yet to severely mar my Aluminum/glass watches so far. Also, I very much like the Sport band so the matte finish goes well with that anyway. 

    That said, I *love* the screen on the 6 having upgraded from the 3. Nice improvements all around.
    Sapphire shatters when you hit it hard enough, but that point is about where glass shatters, too. Ion-X glass should isolate a crack a little better, but if an impact would shatter one, it would probably shatter the other.

    I have occasionally forgotten to take off my stainless Series 3 and later my space black Series 4 while working on a car, either in the engine bay or underneath. Both screens look new. The stainless Series 3 picked up the fine scratches any highly-polished stainless steel object picks up, but nothing longer or deeper. The space black Series 4 looks brand new all around with zero visible scratches on screen, case, or bracelet.

    I don't really deal with carbide drill bits or abrasives harder than garnet, so I expect the space black Series 4 to keep looking just like this until I eventually replace it.
    How are you so sure that the Graphite model has DLC? Is there any mention from Apple on this?
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