There have been six generations of Apple Watch, all available in a variety of screen sizes, connectivity options, case materials and straps, spanning from a couple of hundred pounds to literally thousands. Anyone else remember the original £8k/$10k Apple Watch Edition? While not all are available to buy directly from Apple – the company only sells the Series 3 and Series 5 – there is still a big choice to make: do I get the latest generation Apple Watch, or should I consider a refurbished older model?

While you might scoff at the prospect of buying what is technically a second-hand Apple Watch, the company’s refurbishing process is much more rigorous than most third-party retailers. In fact, apart from the packaging, we don’t think you’d be able to tell the difference between a refurbished and new Apple Watch. And when you take the potential savings into consideration, buying a refurbished Apple Watch becomes a more tempting option.

We break down everything you need to know about buying a refurbished Apple Watch from the Apple Refurbished Store right here.

What’s the difference between a new Apple Watch and a refurbished one?

Technically speaking, Refurbished Apple products are pre-owned, but with such a meticulous refurbishing process undertaken by the company, it’s unlikely you’ll even notice.

It’s not to say that the product has been used for years on end – it could’ve been used by a journalist for review purposes, or it could’ve been returned by a customer that decided on a different make or model. Even if it was returned for being faulty after a period of use, Apple rectifies any issues before being sold on, providing a product that’s essentially as new.

When you buy a refurbished Apple Watch directly from Apple, you’ll get the same one-year warranty that you’d get when buying a brand-new Apple Watch, along with all the manuals and accessories that come with the smartwatch.

The only noticeable difference is the packaging; refurbished Apple products come in a plain white box with no branding or imagery. We imagine this is something to do with stopping untrustworthy customers from buying a refurbished product and trying to resell it as new, but only Apple knows the real reasons why. Perhaps it’s just cheaper…

Apple replaces the battery and case for every refurbished unit as standard, but it goes further than that. The company promises that all refurbished Apple Watches are in full working order, and each unit is thoroughly tested to guarantee this. Any parts that were defective when the Apple Watch was originally returned will have been replaced, and the Watch would’ve been thoroughly cleaned and inspected to make sure it holds up to Apple’s high standards – it doesn’t just apply to brand-new products!  

Like with new Apple products, you’ve got the option of extending the warranty from one to two years by taking out AppleCare+ for your refurbished Watch. This provides two years’ worth of technical support, 24/7 access to Apple experts and hardware coverage for two accidents, although there’s an additional £49/$69 fee for repairs.

What Apple Watch models are available from Apple’s Refurbished Store?

With an ever-evolving stock, it should come as no surprise that products available in Apple’s Refurbished Store change quite frequently. You’ll want to check back regularly if the particular model of Apple Watch isn’t available when you first look.

At the time of writing, you can pick up refurbished Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4 models in both GPS and cellular configurations, and both are available in a variety of colour options – in the UK at least. Those in the US seem to have a more limited choice at the moment, with only three variants of refurbished Series 3 available, and a single refurbished Series 4 model.

As we say, keep checking if the combination you want isn’t there right now, and if you want to save some money on an Apple Watch, we recommend keeping an eye on our roundup of the best Apple Watch deals.

So, is it worth buying a refurbished Apple Watch?

If you’re on the hunt for the latest Apple Watch Series 5, you’ve got no choice but to buy directly from Apple or a third-party retailer, but if you’re happy with an older Apple Watch Series 4 – or even Series 3 – you might be able to pick up one with a larger screen, cellular connectivity or a premium watch strap for less than the price of a new Apple Watch. We think it’s certainly worth considering, as refurbished products look as good as new and, packaging aside, your experience will be identical to that of a first-time buyer.

In fact, members of the Macworld UK team have bought products from the Apple Refurbished Store in the past and have been happy with the quality on offer, so we can recommend the store first-hand.

If you’re struggling to decide on which Apple Watch is best for your needs, we recommend taking a look at our Apple Watch buying guide.