On Apple Watch pricing and strap swapping

There's a lot we don't know about Apple Watch. We don't know how much it will cost, beyond the $349 price tag Apple's hung on the entry-level Sport model. We don't know if any other straps will be made available, including gold links to match the gold Edition. We don't know if we'll be able to buy additional straps separately so we can take advantage of the stellar strap-swapping mechanism Apple has included in all the collections. We know the broad strokes, but we know few if any of the fine details.

Our own Kevin Michaluk, a watch enthusiast most of his life, has been guessing/hoping the Apple Watch Edition will start at $10K and could go higher. In point of fact, he wants it too:

Personally, I'm hoping Gruber's initial prediction is on par with Apple's official Watch Edition pricing. A $10,000 (or even more expensive) Apple Edition Watch is an Apple watch I'll actually want to wear. And, strapped to my wrist at that price point, I hope it will give me the same emotional pleasure as the other traditional luxury watches I already own.

Gruber — John Gruber of Daring Fireball — restated his own predictions today:

I can see which way the wind is blowing. For months I've been asking friends who might know — or know someone else who might know, or even know someone who knows someone who might know — whether my guess of $5,000 is too high for the Edition starting price. The answer has always been "No". But the way I've been told "No" has given me the uneasy feeling that I've been asking the wrong question. I should have been asking if $5,000 is too low.I now think Edition models will start around $10,000 — and, if my hunch is right about bands and bracelets, the upper range could go to $20,000.

Gruber's not certain if the bands will be sold separately, or if they'll be used as pricing tiers. It's possible they'll be both.

Jordan Kahn of 9to5Mac believes they'll be available separately as well:

Apple does in fact plan to sell an array of bands as separate accessories for the Apple Watch at launch, according to sources. Claims have recently circulated that Apple might solely sell the Watch in pre-assembled collections, reducing their potential for customization, but our sources say that Apple's retail outlets will be stocked on day one with individual straps so customers can easily mix and match the looks of their Watches.

A range of price points and the ability to "upgrade" straps makes the kind of sense that does. We won't know for sure, however, until Apple makes with the final announcements.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

67 Comments
  • I can't see too many men buying the gold edition of the Apple Watch. Is it me or does it look too feminine?
  • Eh, I would buy it just to buy.
  • I guess you've seen it in person already?
  • I have thought for a while that we haven't seen all the straps. I think the gold one will get a gold expansion bracelet for sure, which will make it look like a chunky gold Rolex. That will sell for men I think.
  • That will be $20,000.
  • Nope not initially. The straps that are shown with the gold edition are the ones that will be available with the watch. Apple does not have any gold bracelets planned to come out at launch. There might be a third party coming, but not Apple.
  • Honestly, if you know anything about Apple's past products.. like 1st edition Apple IIe, that sold on eBay for $25k recently.. You'd understand, for many who do buy it, it's a long term 'investment'.. It won't matter one lick to them if the technology is out of date in 3,5 or10 years.. it's more about having a collectors item they can sell later or show off on a display.. Really, it's much less about tech when you talk Gold Edition..
  • Completely agree Sent from the iMore App
  • What is the predicted cost of the Apple Watch Proper? If the Space Black Stainless Watch with Space Black Stainless Link is under $500, I'll consider it. Any more and I'll have to wait & see what Pebble has to offer in their reported next revision.
    .
    To me, a watch is purely functional, not fashion. I don't want it to be huge clunky ugly, but the idea of this guy hoping it will cost >$10k is nuts to me. I respect his point of view, I just don't relate. Sent from the iMore App
  • I would feel like an idiot paying $10,000 or up for the Apple Watch Edition, it is basically the same watch, they literally are just swapping out the same "core" and putting it in a gold/sapphire chassis. It's unlike traditionally made watches where the internals in the higher end watches are vastly superior to their $100-$500 counterparts.
  • You are apparently not that familiar with high end watches, where that is exactly what they do when switching from a steel case to a solid gold case. Note that the gold value alone in the Edition watch will be in the thousands.
  • I swear to god if the Watch Steel is higher than $500, I'm going to hire a mobster to slap Tim Cook. I'm not very fond of the Watch Sport.
  • I think the watch will be about $500 or under (the steel one), but the steel expansion bracelet will be another $500 on top. You have to figure that being Apple, they will charge at least $40-$60 just for the rubber sport bracelet. The leather straps will probably be in the $100 range, and the expansion bracelet and milanese loop will be several to many hundreds. At least. When has Apple EVER made a "cheap" accessory? The ones I buy all the time are the earbuds and the covers for iPads. Both are simply made, made in the hundreds of millions, and made by robots, so there is no reason for them not to be dirt cheap. However, neither lasts longer than six months of daily use without giving up, and both are rarely less than $100 once the taxes and fees on top are paid.
  • I don't know why you're getting downvoted. Makes good sense. My bet: the plastic-banded Watch will probably be in the $500-750 range, with most band combos landing the final bill (watch + fancy band) closer to $750-1000. I'm curious, though, if there'll be a premium on the black/grey watch bodies. Hope not, 'cuz I'm hankering to eventually nab the Sport in black for not TOO much more than the silver aluminum.
  • I like the space black too but I was thinking about getting EITHER the Apple watch and then buy a green sports band OR buy the Apple watch sport and then buy the space black stainless steel witch ever is cheaper i guess. So is this possible?
  • I don't respect his point of view. I think it's offensive and selfish.
  • I've see two original Picassos next to each other in a private residence of a billionaire. Tens of millions each. Some people have more money than I do, I'm cool with that. My family is not starving.
    .
    But think of the ratio of their money to yours. For the sake of math, let's say you have 10,000 in the bank. For someone with 200,000 in their account, buying a $10,000 watch is like you buying a $500 watch.
    .
    Those Picassos are like when I buy a video game. What will really make you think is: I worked in a $5m vacation house getting $10m worth of renovation for winter vacations only. That's like your or I buying a $15 house. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'd like to redact my math on the Picasso : video game equation. Sent from the iMore App
  • A surgical steel watch with sapphire crystal, even if it is not a smart watch is very difficult to get at $500. These are materials used in high end watches like omega, Tissot, Victorinox priced at $700-$2000 even without the "smart" part or any force touch technology on the sapphire. The quartz I.N.O.X watch ad you might see this page is $750. Apple watch sport is what is targeted at the average consumer who never wears a watch. The steel models are targeted at watch enthusiasts who want quality materials. I think the steel models will be at least $800 and up.
  • I am not a watch aficionado, nor am I familiar with the traditional pricing. I'll take your word for it, sounds like you know what you're talking about. I only hope Apple can offer it at a lower price bc of mass-production. We'll see. Either way, I'm good with my Pebble for now! Sent from the iMore App
  • You have a very ugly photo of the Apple Watch, no idea if intentional or not.
  • This screams try hard
  • Two words: "Brand Whoring." If Apple is going to just add thousands of dollars to the price of the watch, because: fashion ... then there is no reason to believe any of their other prices are fair either. If Apple is going to arbitrarily restrict our options based solely on how much we are going to pay, then there is no reason to trust them on anything else either. This kind of crap is what the big fashion brands do. They abuse their customers because they think it's funny, they know they can get away with it, and all their customers are rich anyway. If Apple's going that way and joining the ranks of those a-holes, then what's the point of supporting them at all? It's masochistic and beyond dumb to support someone who's screwing you over at the same time.
  • "This kind of crap is what the big fashion brands do. They abuse their customers because they think it's funny, they know they can get away with it,..." So you're essentially implying the customers of fashion brands are brain dead? Let's assume that that's true. Who's at fault? The company taking advantage of a buyer's idiocy or the buyer for being a clueless idiot? Goes both ways. In other words, companies can only get away with things if customers let them get away with it.
  • The Max I would pay, for any edition is $500. Anymore than that and its cutting on my beer, jeep, triathlon and music hobby.
  • That wouldn't even cover the cost of the gold in the 38mm Edition. Stay thirsty my friend.
  • I'm interested to see how all this plays out. Yes it can be argued that luxury watches fetch high prices, but this is still a piece of technology that in two years will have a "slow processor", worn out battery, and will be upstaged by the latest and greatest--just like our phones and iPads. It's not timeless like my dad's traditional wrist watch. Sent from the iMore App
  • It's out of my league, but I believe the kind of people who throw down $10k on a watch without blinking do so regularly. An annual or bi-annual lifecycle isn't going to worry these kinds of people. In fact, the first generation Edition will probably become collectable.
  • I'm actually referring to those in the middle (not those who don't blink at spending 10k on a watch every couple years). More like someone dropping like a $1000 or so on an Apple watch, a notch up from the sport watch. How do they afford the upgrades that come with technology? Sent from the iMore App
  • Fair nuff - I certainly couldn't. (Not that I'm likely to buy one. It would be most benefit at work and I'm stuck with Android there).
  • The guts of the watch are built as a single unit. Who's to say it won't be upgradeable in-store for a small service fee? It would be akin to your dad bringing his traditional watch in to be cleaned at regular intervals.
  • Who else thinks the Apple Watch should have come with a white face option?? Sent from the iMore App
  • It's an OLED technology screen. It draws no current when the pixels are off (in black).
  • I had doubts about Gruber's theory when he thought a leather band would be more expensive than the Milanese loop. Kahn's "report" (unnamed source?) is how I assumed it would work. Certainly some bands (gold accents) will only be available for some models, but the majority would be interchangeable. At some point Apple will license the magnetic attachment so that accessory makers could get involved. I can't even begin to guess how much a Hermes watch bracelet would cost. I think the critical question is just how much gold content is in each watch. How thin have they been able to make it without sacrificing strength? The 42mm models will obviously have more gold, so there will be price differences by size on the Watch Edition. Aside from the gold content, we know the component costs must be sub-$200. Apple has an unwarranted reputation for exorbitant pricing. They will certainly get a good margin on these things, but no way are they going to take the route of the high-end watchmakers who charge $50k+ for their watches. In other words, 50-80% margins instead of 1000% margins. I also think that people who invest $thousands on a watch and bracelets deserve something more than a 2-3 year product life. If they are going to weigh the watch cases individually for gold content, they must be able to separate all the other components aside from the case itself. Why not offer watch "servicing" that replaces everything except the case and bracelet? Like service from Rolex et al, it won't be cheap. But it will extend the life of their investment for at least a few years.
  • Is the watch the only Apple product that doesn't have a visible logo on it? Can you think of any others?
  • Look on the back bud.
  • Entry level at $350. Retarded. Sent from the iMore App
  • Waiting for the Android Central article. "Switch to Android so your watch doesn't cost more than your phone" But they won't write it. Because they aren't petty af. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • What's wrong with a watch — if it's made of gold — costing more than your phone? Lots of things cost more than phones. Different people place different values on different objects.
  • As long as it has a longer useable life than the phone. Sent from the iMore App
  • Nothing wrong with that at all. But does this fit with Apple's business model? Go back to the criteria you had going when you discussed if there was enough demand for an ipad mini. Or bigger screened phones. Apple sells in the millions. Good luck with a 10k watch. But being a limited edition, I don't expect many sales and it really doesn't deserve that much coverage. "Apple's goal is to mainstream computing. They want to sell hundreds of millions of devices that delight exactly the type of consumer usually left frustrated and alienated by technology." Let's remember that phones are still subsidized or financed by carriers for the most part. iPad sales are flat. I don't think consumers have an ideal price target in mind for an apple watch. But you can bet it isn't over 500. This is where the talk should focus.
  • There's something to be said about buying the Sport edition to dip your toe in the water. As many people realise, this first generation product is a starting point, so personally, I wouldn't want to slap down a grand plus, before I figure out if it's really useful for me, and if I enjoy wearing it to the point that I feel it is worthwhile.
    I also think that fashion is the hook in the  Watch eco-system. I'm not saying the actual smart-watch component is necessarily a throwaway item, but it is obvious that it will be outdated within a few years. As Apple adds more sensors, functionality and processing power - and as long as the band attachment system remains the same - then people are more likely to commit to it long-term if the smart-watch components are reasonably priced. The investment in watch-bands might be the exclusive element, and if they licence the attachment mechanism it could become something very different. Sent from the iMore App
  • "There's something to be said about buying the Sport edition to dip your toe in the water. As many people realise, this first generation product is a starting point, so personally, I wouldn't want to slap down a grand plus, before I figure out if it's really useful for me, and if I enjoy wearing it to the point that I feel it is worthwhile." 100% agree with this.
  • I agree, but $350 to just dip your toe in is just plain stupid. Sent from the iMore App
  • IF Gruber's prices are right regarding the Watch Sport and Watch models (~$1000 for the latter), then I'm sorry but the Watch could be headed for a backlash (or at least not as blockbuster an uptake) and this ties in with the New Yorker Ive profile about the pushback he received within Apple regarding positioning these devices for the uber-wealthy or not so wealthy. Really a stainless steel Apple watch, which I assume to be the standard midrange model, costing 1k just breaks that $500 psychological barrier. The trick with Apple so far has been that they've been able to avoid these kinds of missteps, premium enough but not so expensive that it turns off your core customer base. But the more I think of the article, and how it made clear that this was Jony Ive's pet project plus there was an instructive comment in there about how 'he's always been a bit bling', and Jony's taste for luxury automobiles, the more I get uneasy about this Watch. It could be a punt too far. As for the Watch Edition, I think the market and price bracket it seems to be aiming for are generally of no import/consequence to the rank and file Apple customer. Time will tell.
  • "According to [unnamed] sources..." - always an eyebrow-raising statement. Toss that in somewhere, and you're basically in the clear to spout off any/everything you think as damn near fact. I'll just wait and see... Sent from the iMore App
  • Here is the problem. Unlike a Rolex or a or Omega, this is a piece of technology. A piece of technology which will get old and outdated. This is where Android may have it figured out a little better. If I have to spend $200 to $250 very couple or even few years because my watch is no longer supported, that's one thing. If I have to spend $500 or $1000 that's quite another. Though I own watches in the $1000 range, they will tell time and be useful essentially forever. The same cannot be said of  Watch. I understand that my phone costs more but a watch is not something I really want to have to upgrade every couple of years. I dunno, that is why the use case for is stronger for just a fitness band. Sent from the iMore App
  • Mechanical clocks, pocket watches, and wristwatches were all at the bleeding edge of high technology at one time or another. Each was supplanted by their successors. The "piece of technology" that is the smartwatch may be the next step in the evolution of fashionable timepieces.
    The Apple watch will still look good and tell the time for many years after its initial purchase, just like a mechanical watch, even if it is never upgraded.
  • No, Alex. Not rational at all, despite your moniker. Sent from the iMore App
  • It would be crazy for Apple not to sell the watch bands separately - the band aftermarket will be more profitable than the watches IMHO, and Apple loves profit...
  • "A $10,000 (or even more expensive) Apple Edition Watch is an Apple watch I'll actually want to wear. And, strapped to my wrist at that price point, I hope it will give me the same emotional pleasure as the other traditional luxury watches I already own." -Kevin Michaluk I understand the appeal of a superlative product crafted with attention to detail from the finest materials - objects of beauty, performance, and timeless allure. I also understand that "the best" is generally not affordable to most. Such is life. But when we go beyond yearning for "the best" and begin lusting simply for "most expensive" and "most exclusive" I'm sorry to say I just find that obscene and grotesque. Desiring a premium product, not despite its high price but because of it, is the epitome of soulless, empty materialism and selfishness. It is a human attribute that should be shamed and rebuked, not celebrated or admired.
  • Thank you! Finally someone nailed it with a great response! Kevin is just plain retarded. I was on CB for years, and he's always been like that. People would just shake their heads at his musings and just skip to the next article. Well, except the BB fanatics. But they're just as nuts as he is. Sent from the iMore App
  • There is no way that the edition will sell for 5000 or more. My guess is that it will be 1500 at most.
  • Solid 18K gold for $1500?
  • Do you remember Rene price speculations for 1st iPad or new Mac Pro ? Apple usually sets prices 50% of what press predictions are, my guess is 3000-5000 for Edition.
  • However if you do the math, assuming Apple would have 70% margin on Edition and 50% on Sport (pure guess) we have price about 1850$ of Edition Aplle Watch, so I wouldn't be surprised if they charged even less than we all think.
  • Do you know how much gold costs?
  • Yes I Know, 18k gold for one Apple Watch Edition costs 853$:
    http://www.cultofmac.com/312832/heres-much-gold-get-18k-apple-watch-edit...
  • "A $10,000 (or even more expensive) Apple Edition Watch is an Apple watch I'll actually want to wear. And, strapped to my wrist at that price point, I hope it will give me the same emotional pleasure as the other traditional luxury watches I already own." -Kevin Michaluk But at $5,000 he wouldn't want to wear it? Hey Kevin, spend that money on a penis enlargement. To date, you've been treating the symptoms and not the real problem...
  • These prices are great and all, but I REALLY want to know what the upgrade cycle is going to be, when will the second gen come out, I wouldn't want to waste a lot of money on the first one (unless I'm a watch enthusiast or just rich). If they are going to come out with a new Apple watch every 3-5 years it's worth it for the average person to buy the standard watch instea of the sports version
  • Omg whoever made this article is stupid, Apple wouldn't release an item that is $10k, Why would people spend 10k on a first gen watch. And average people cant buy a 10 thousand dollar watch. And the amount of gold in the watch is a little above $800. Not including the technology built in. It will be in the 1000s not 10k
  • How do you calculate $800 for a solid gold case at 42mm size?
  • Apple officially reveals on Apple.com that you can use a watch from Edition or standard Watch collection with white plastic white band, so Gruber is all wrong about Apple Watch stuff.
  • From what I read Apple ordered 3 million aluminum watches, 2 million steel and 1 million gold... I highly doubt that Apple can sell 1 million gold watches at a price point of 10K + Sent from the iMore App
  • If Apple does sell 1 million $10k watches - $10B in revenue - then conventional wisdom would take a nose dive. The thing is, Apple can be unconventional sometimes. I want to say I highly doubt it too, but if they do manage to pull it off, then someone must have golden balls. Sent from the iMore App
  • If Apple sells 1M units at $10k each, I don't want to live on this planet anymore. Sent from the iMore App
  • I think Im going to get the Sport model (cheaper one) if all of those wristbands are compatible with it. Sent from the iMore App