If you're trying to choose a new smartwatch, the original Apple Watch Ultra and the new Apple Watch Ultra 2 are both tough, powerful devices worthy of a place on your shortlist. At first glance they look identical though, so we're here to help you choose which is the right one for you.
If price is your main concern, you should know that the two devices were both the same price at launch, but being a year older, the original Apple Watch Ultra can now be found for much less at third-party retailers like Amazon. If you know where to look, you can save around $80 / £80 off the list price.
There are three main differences between the two. The first is materials; the Apple Watch 2 is made with 95% recycled titanium, and if you choose the Alpine Loop or Trail Loop band, is now carbon neutral. Its screen has a significantly higher maximum brightness (3,000 nits compared to 2,000 nits for the original device). Finally, it has a new processor that delivers faster performance and enables new features like Double Tap gestures for one-handed use.
If you've already made up your mind, we've found the best prices on both the original Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 GPS watches for you right here. Otherwise. read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between the two.
Unlike Apple Watch Series devices, all Ultra watches have LTE, so there's no cheaper option with Wi-Fi connectivity only. The original Apple Watch Ultra launched at Apple's product showcase on September 23, 2022. It was priced at $799 / £849, but can now be found for as little as $729 / £669.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 was unveiled on September 22, 2023 for $799 / £849. At the time of writing it's occasionally been available for a small discount at third-party stores like Amazon, but the saving has never been more than $50 / £30.
The packaging for the two watches looks almost identical. Whichever one you choose, it's made entirely from white card, with no glue so it's easy to recycle. Inside the main package you'll find two slim boxes, one containing the watch body and charger, and the other your chosen strap. There's also a quick start manual to show you the basics.
The only difference is a small green logo on the side of the Apple Watch Ultra 2's box, which you'll notice if you've chosen either the Alpine Loop or Trail Loop. This signals that your new watch is carbon neutral. The Ocean Loop isn't carbon neutral yet, but hopefully Apple will manage to achieve that next year.
With the displays off, the Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2 look the same. Confusingly, both watches only say 'Apple Watch Ultra' on the back of the case, so they're totally indistinguishable until you switch them on.
Both devices measure 49 x 44 x 14.4mm, and the second-generation device is 0.1g heavier (61.4g compared to 61.3g), so it's impossible to tell the difference on your wrist.
Both have a ceramic back and titanium case, but the case of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is made using 95% recycled titanium, which helps contribute to its carbon-neutral status. The new metal looks exactly the same, with a soft satin finish.
Both watches come with the same Apple Watch Magnetic Fast Charger, which is supplied in the box. It has a woven cable and a USB-C connector. You can also use a MagSafe Duo Charger or Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock if you have one.
Both watches use the same bands, and there are three styles available: the lightweight Trail Loop (which has a Velcro fastening), the Alpine Loop (which is secured with a G-hook), and the silicone Ocean Loop (which has a buckle).
There have been a few changes though. With the release of the Apple Watch Ultra 2, the company also released all three bands in new colors, including the navy/beige/orange Trail Loop shown here. The new Trail Loop and Alpine Loop are also carbon neutral.
Both watches have sharp Retina displays with a resolution of 410 x 502 pixels. The key difference is that the Apple Watch Ultra has a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits, while the Ultra 2 maxes out at 3,000 nits. That difference might not be immediately apparent though, because the watch has an ambient light sensor that adjusts the screen brightness automatically to give optimum visibility in different conditions. This is more power-efficient than just blasting out full brightness at all times.
The Ultra 2 can also be dimmed to just one nit at night (much dimmer than the original Apple Watch Ultra) so you can check it without disturbing your partner or dazzling yourself.
The biggest difference between the two watches is the processor. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 uses the company's new S9 SiP (system in package) chip with with a 64-bit dual-core processor.
S9 SiP doesn't just make the experience of using the watch smoother and faster overall, it also enables some extra features, including Double Tap gesture for one-handed use. At the time of writing these are only available to beta testers, but I have the chance to try them on a visit to Apple's London headquarters in Battersea Power Station. Just raise your wrist to look at your watch, tap your forefinger and thumb together twice, and the watch will perform the primary action on screen, whether it's answering a call or opening your Smart Stack.
Another new software feature made possible by the S9 SiP is faster access to Siri, which you can enable by double-pressing the Digital Crown.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 comes with a new Modular Ultra watch face that makes good use of the available screen space, and can be customized with different complications. The default face is the same Navigator design used by the original Apple Watch Ultra, but you can easily switch to the new one in the Watch app on your phone, or via the Settings app on the watch itself.
- The best Garmin watches: all the latest models tested and rated
All the latest inspiration, tips and guides to help you plan your next Advnture!
Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.