Do not open your Apple Watch Ultra

The Apple Watch Ultra has just started to hit the hands of customers, and unlike previous Apple Watches, it has four exposed screw heads on the bottom of the device. I like to take a look inside my tech, whether it’s adding a thermal buffer to a MacBook Air M2 to improve performance or just seeing what’s inside to do operate the technology. The moment I saw the screws on the bottom of the Apple Watch Ultra, I knew I wanted to take a look inside. But I probably shouldn’t have…

The bottom of the Apple Watch has four P5 pentalobe screws. These are the same type of screws that hold the bottom of the MacBook, and while they’re not as common as a Philips or flathead screwdriver, Pentalobe screwdrivers aren’t uncommon either. After removing these four screws, the first complication arose – there is a very small o-ring around each screw. These are undoubtedly among the extreme waterproof ratings of Apple’s high-end smartwatch. As I went to re-screw those initial four screws, it proved almost impossible to tighten them without the o-ring partially slipping out of place.

Nevertheless, I continued, well aware at this point that part of the water resistance of the watch could be compromised. Once these screws were removed, the only way to proceed was to use a spudger and thin shims to separate the ceramic back of the watch from the titanium case. It was well sealed and by the time it pulled back that thin waterproofing was destroyed. Additionally, two thin flat cables connect the back of the watch and all of its health sensors to the battery, display, processor, and watch body. I had to be careful separating the two to avoid damaging the cables.

Pry open Apple Watch Ultra

Peeling off the back panel didn’t reveal too many internals. There was a big black component with an Apple logo on it, but the two buttons used to release the Apple Watch bands popped out, and three of the four springs disappeared into the chasm of my carpet.

With the back panel of the watch removed, there was no sort of immediate error from the watch, but understandably it couldn’t connect to my phone. There were three more screws – this time with three wings – and small metal plates holding this black component on, but once I removed them and started prying it out, it became clear that it was a bit too big of a task. There seemed to be several ribbon cables connected to the other side of it, and from the back of the watch there didn’t seem to be a good way to disconnect them. To access it, you probably have to remove the screen by softening the adhesive, then using an opening pick to separate it. This is how you could access the internals of previous Apple Watches, but the Ultra’s screen seam didn’t seem to have a great way to open it, which I was confident I could do without breaking the screen. The Apple Watch Ultra’s screen is made of sapphire crystal, which, while more scratch resistant, is potentially more prone to cracking. That’s probably part of the reason why Apple extended the Watch’s metal body around the flat sides of the display.

At that point, I put everything back together as best I could. It proved quite difficult to reattach the two cables connected to the bottom of the device. The buttons for removing the watch strap, now devoid of tiny springs, vibrate with the haptics of the watch. And, the little rubber o-rings around the screw stick out a bit. With the O-rings out of place and the adhesive gasket broken, the water resistance of the watch is certainly far from its factory standards. I definitely wouldn’t do scuba diving at this point.

Undoubtedly, in the coming days we’ll see a more complete teardown of the watch from the folks over at iFixit. They will certainly venture further into the Apple Watch Ultra than me. I’m sure someone more skilled than me could do a better job of disassembling and reassembling the watch without damaging the water resistance as much, but alas. I’d definitely recommend waiting for their guide to feed your curiosity, rather than taking your own watch apart, otherwise you might end up with a leaky (or worse, broken) version of Apple’s most durable smartwatch ever. this day.

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