I think the decision process should run a bit like this:
- Are any of the watch cases aesthetically superior in your reckoning to any others? Are any practically superior?
- How soon will you be replacing this watch? For how long a period of time will you ‘benefit’ from the improved aesthetics of your preferred case?
So, first: are any of the cases superior to the others? It’s a rare buyer who wants to spend enough to get a gold case for the first version of this product line, in my estimation. For most of us, the choice is between the aluminum “Sport” case and the stainless steel “Apple Watch” case.
My experience suggests that the stainless steel case is much nicer-looking than the aluminum case. Apple’s excellent product photography minimizes the difference between them a bit in my opinion; in real life, the aluminum case is matte, dull, and looks rather ordinary, more or less like an old iPod mini or nano. The stainless steel case is striking (without being ostentatious), approaches the physically beautiful, and is quite versatile. It’s definitely attractive enough to offset some of the gadgety-ness of the product.
One way to put this: I’d happily wear the stainless steel case — swapping bands, perhaps — with either a t-shirt and jeans or a suit and tie at a formal event. I’m not sure the aluminum case is as flexible; it just looks very sporty and plain, and might not be as suitable in fancier settings. How sensitive you are to this concern will vary.
I think it’s safe to say that for most of us, the stainless steel case has some practical and aesthetic advantages. Are these worth the ~$200 increase in price you’ll pay over aluminum models? That has to do with (1) your budget, (2) your lifestyle and modes of attire, and (3) how long you’ll wear the watch
So, second: how soon will you replace this watch?
In my opinion, Apple Watch is very much a “v1” product, perhaps closer to an “MVP” than Apple has been in many years. That is to say: you should expect that subsequent versions will have significant and even category-defining features which will be highly desirable to owners of the first version . It is likely that you’ll want the next version. It may be one year away, or two, but in either case you should consider the ~$200 cost of jumping from aluminum to stainless steel spread over that time and consider whether it’s worth it for you. It comes to about $8/month or $16/month depending on your predicted ownership term.
If that’s “worth it” to you, go for the stainless steel. If not, grab an aluminum one and spend more on the more mature v2, v3, or later version that you intend to own for a long time.
(As for bands: there is a coming deluge of 3rd party options that will provide better choice and value than Apple’s options; to save money, you could order whichever case you like with a “Sport” band and plan to upgrade to a 3rd party band later. Of course, if you love one of Apple’s bands, you’re all set!).