Ever since Apple announced the Apple Watch last year, there have been speculations about the pricing of the watches. But among the prices of the three watches, the Apple Watch Edition’s was the one most talked about.
Initial estimates were way off, and it wasn’t until Gruber wrote his first post about it that people realized that real gold, the stuff that Apple is using on the Watch Edition is expensive. Like, really expensive. Five US dollar figure expensive.
This was good as it prepared everyone for the eventual shock, the actual announcement, which came today with $10,000 being the starting price for the Apple Watch Edition.
Now here’s the thing. This isn’t the first expensive watch out there. Watches, and I mean the worth talking about, have always been expensive. There is a lot of craftsmanship that goes into these devices. Just watch someone hand assemble a complicated chronograph and you’ll realize that it’s less of a job and more of a art putting something like that together with that level of precision every day. Add to that the quality of materials that usually go into these things and their bulletproof (not in the strictest sense of the word but you get the drift) nature these things often end up costing a fortune.
Expensive watches have always been more than just timekeeping. It’s a fashion statement and to quite an extent, a status symbol. Celebrated watch brands have distinctive design language that to the untrained eye might look the same but are about as distinctive as the design languages of BMW, Mercedes, and Audi cars. These are items of luxury, made with care and craftsmanship by companies with decades of experience. The brand name is often enough to signify the importance of the watch.
This is the kind of league Apple will be playing with, with its Apple Watch Edition. But here’s the thing, gadgets (and make no mistake, the Apple Watch definitely is a gadget) and watches are different things. Gadgets are almost disposable; you practically buy a new one every couple of years. Even if you don’t want to replace them they usually end up making themselves obsolete after a few years. And manufacturers keep churning new versions every year, making it more tempting to replace your old one.
That’s not the case with watches. Sure, companies launch new ones every now and then but even if there is a newer one out doesn’t make your current one any worse. It’s not going to get slower every year. It’s not going to lack any major feature that the new one has. You can use it for a decade or more; all you have to do is take care of it and replace the battery (some don’t even require that) and it will probably outlast you.
So how does Apple plan to compete with that? How is Apple going to convince people to spend upwards of $10,000 on something that rapidly loses its value every year? One of the good thing about traditional watches is that they tend to roughly maintain their value with passing years. A well worn traditional watch is actually about as endearing to its owner as a new one. That’s not the case with gadgets; there is almost an instinctive urge to replace them with newer versions every few months. If I buy a Rolex today, I know I’m sorted for many years to come. But with Apple Watch, a part of me knows there will be a newer, better version next year.
I’m not going to predict the doom of Apple Watch Edition here but this is a tricky market Apple is entering. It would be difficult to convince existing watch connoisseurs to adopt the Apple Watch. Even with all the gold it’s still too gimmicky on the inside and doesn’t seem to have the charm of a traditional chronograph. Apple will likely go after the rich young crowd, who have the money to spend and want something modern and, well, less boring. Somehow I feel women would be more attracted to this than men. The Apple Watch Edition has a very elegant and somewhat delicate design that makes it seem more feminine than the traditional chunky men’s watches. Also, I can see women of all ages wear it but can only imagine maybe younger men but definitely not any man over 40 having this on his wrist.
It would be interesting to see how it pans out for Apple. The Apple Watch Edition is definitely not going to be a big seller because of its price but I want to see what impact it has on the premium watch industry. I don’t feel like predicting its doom but at the same time I have a hard time imagining it replacing traditional watches any time soon. If I was Rolex or Omega, I wouldn’t worry for a few more years at least.