This rumored Apple Watch 9 upgrade could make a huge difference

Apple Watch Series 8 shown on wrist
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Certain Apple Watch Series 9 models could mark the debut of a new manufacturing process Apple is reportedly testing, which may result in faster and less wasteful production of Apple Watch units.

This rumor comes from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who said Apple is experimenting with 3D printed materials for the stainless steel Apple Watch. The Apple tipster said the process has been in development for “at least three years,” and targeted for the upcoming Apple Watch Series 9.

While aluminum is the most popular (and most affordable) Apple Watch material choice, the stainless steel version offers a more premium-looking and scratch-resistant choice. By transitioning to precise 3D printing, less scrapped material is needed to bring the stainless steel Apple Watch to life. 

Apple has made a number of changes over the years to manage its environmental impact, replacing a large majority of its plastic packaging with paper, which is easier to recycle. In April, the company also shared an update on its efforts to make every Apple product carbon neutral by 2030. Limiting the amount of wasted materials on the production line seems to align with the mission. 

What about Apple Watch Ultra 2?

Gurman said that there’s “no guarantee” the first batch of Apple Watch Series 9 units will be manufactured with the 3D printing process. The smartwatch is all but guaranteed to be announced at the Apple September event on September 12, alongside the iPhone 15 family.

But in addition to the Apple Watch Series 9, an Apple Watch Ultra 2 is believed to launch. The Ultra’s use of titanium is one of the expected design differences between the Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2

What’s more, there’s a tip from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 will pack 3D printed mechanical parts, possibly including the Digital Crown, Action Button and Side Button. Kuo said the move would “improve the production time and reduce the production cost.”

Beyond the time, cost and environmental benefits of 3D printed parts for Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, there could be user-facing advantages, too. For example, 3D printed parts could possibly make the next Apple Watch models more lightweight.  As reported by Macworld, a Weibo user with a previous track record for Apple rumors said the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra will have “weight loss.” 

The Apple Watch Ultra weighs 2.16 ounces, making it the heaviest Apple Watch despite the titanium's light weight. Even fractions of an ounce can make a difference in comfort for something you wear constantly on your wrist. If the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can shed some weight, it could be a stronger contender for best smartwatch of the year.

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.