The Apple Watch Ultra has just arrived in the hands of customers, and unlike previous Apple Watches, it has four exposed screw heads on the bottom of the device. I like looking into my technique, be it that Add a thermal pad to an M2 MacBook Air to improve performance or just see what’s inside to make the tech work. When 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 done it…
The bottom of the Apple Watch has four P5 pentalobe screws. These are the same screws that attach to the bottom of the MacBook, and while they’re not as common as a Phillips or flat-head screwdriver, Pentalobe screwdriver are also not uncommon. After I removed those four screws, the first complication arose – there is a very small O-ring around each screw. This is undoubtedly part of the extreme water resistance ratings of Apple’s high-end smartwatch. When I screwed those first four screws back in, it proved nearly impossible to tighten them without the o-ring partially slipping out of place.
Still, I continued, knowing that some of the watch’s water resistance might be compromised. With these screws the only way to proceed was to use a Spudger and thin washers to separate the ceramic back of the watch from the titanium case. It was well sealed and the moment it was pulled away that thin seal was destroyed. In addition, there are two thin ribbon cables that connect the back of the watch and all of its health sensors to the watch’s battery, screen, processor, and case. I had to be careful when separating the two to avoid damaging the cables.
Removing the back panel didn’t reveal too much of the internals. There was a large black component with an Apple logo, but the two buttons for releasing the Apple Watch straps popped out, and three of the four springs disappeared into the abyss of my carpet.
After the back of the watch was removed there was no immediate error from the watch, but understandably it failed to connect to my phone. There were three more screws – three-winged this time – and small metal plates holding this black component in place, but once I removed these and started lifting them, it became clear that it was a bit too big of a task. Multiple ribbon cables appeared to be attached on the other side, and from the back of the watch, there didn’t seem to be a good way to disconnect them. To get there, you’ll likely need to remove the display by softening the adhesive and then separating it with an opening pick. So you could access the internals on earlier Apple Watches, but the seam of the display on the Ultra didn’t seem to have a great way of opening it that I was confident I could do without cracking the display. The Apple Watch Ultra’s display is made of sapphire, which is more scratch-resistant but potentially more prone to cracking. That’s probably one of the reasons Apple extended the watch’s metal body around the flat sides of the display.
At this point I put everything back together as best as I could. It was a bit difficult to reattach the two ribbon cables that are connected to the bottom of the device. The watch strap removal buttons, now missing some tiny springs, clatter with the haptics of the watch. And the little rubber O-rings around the screw stick out a bit. With the misplaced O-rings and broken adhesive seal, the watch’s water resistance is certainly not up to factory standards. I would certainly not dive at this point.
No doubt we’ll see a more full teardown of the watch from the folks at in the coming days I attach it. You will certainly venture further into the Apple Watch Ultra if I. I’m sure someone more skilled than me could do a better job of disassembling and reassembling the watch without damaging the water resistance that badly, but alas. I’d definitely recommend waiting for their guide to pique your curiosity rather than disassembling your own watch, otherwise you could end up with a non-waterproof (or, worse, broken) version of Apple’s most durable smartwatch.
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