Kevin Michaluk is Chief Media Officer of Mobile Nations and an expert in buying expensive consumer electronics. He's been known to spend over $1000 on Porsche Design BlackBerry handsets and upwards of $500 on clock apps. A watch enthusiast for most of his adult life, he's also pledged to buy an Apple Watch Edition as soon as it becomes available, and regardless of the price. This is his story.
Case in point, the prescient editorial I published nearly a year ago on iMore arguing Apple should release an expensive version of the then-rumored "iWatch". After stating my reasons why a high-priced Apple watch would make perfect sense, I finished the article with a flourish, saying "if Apple did release an expensive iWatch I'd be standing in line to buy one the day it goes on sale." Little did I know at the time that I was committing to spending thousands of dollars, sight unseen.
I took a ribbing for that editorial from a few of my colleagues (looking at you, Derek Kessler), but was ultimately vindicated when, several months later, Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Edition. With its 18k gold or rose gold casing, the Apple Watch Edition appeared to cross — nay, leap — way over the line from tech gadget into the world of luxury timepiece.
Putting a Price on Apple's Wrist Bling
We're still waiting to learn Apple's official pricing for the Apple Watch Edition, which will determine just how luxurious of a product it truly is. Following Klause Heine's definition of luxury, Luxury is anything that is desirable and more than necessary and ordinary. In non-textbook verbiage, the more expensive the Apple Watch Edition is, the more luxurious it will be perceived to be.
Since being unveiled, there has been plenty of speculation on the pricing of the gold Apple Watches. The first arguably-reputable estimate following Apple's September 2014 event pegged the price at $1200. A few days later, John Gruber of Daring Fireball said the Apple Watch Edition timepieces would more realistically start at $5,000 and he would put his bet on a $9,999 price tag. Even the most recent rumors in the Wall Street Journal, suggest a price tag over $4,000.
When it comes to retail price in the luxury watch industry, the manufacturer is completely in the driver seat. Apple can ultimately set the price for the Watch Edition at whatever the company chooses. Gold isn't cheap, so the material costs will be considerably more than the Watch and Watch Sport models. And if Apple eventually adds gold or rose gold bands as an option, the total price could go much higher.
In the traditional world of mechanical watches, simply upgrading from stainless steel to gold on the same watch casing can easily increase the price by $10,000 or more. Beyond the real increase in selling price due to more expensive materials and (likely) higher production costs, Apple could also choose to increase the margin they realize on the sale of each Watch Edition.
The Watch Edition is in a class of its own, and the individuals willing to shell out the cash for it will absorb any additional premium Apple may choose to put on it. When it comes to pricing luxury items, it's not about the value the product offers compared to other alternatives on the market. Rather, it's about desire and selling to one's emotions.
Functionally, there is no benefit to purchasing a gold Watch Edition model over the much less expensive Watch or Watch Sport. All three models will accomplish the same tasks on your wrist. That said, for all those out there, myself included, who have the Watch Edition on their "to buy" lists, this truth simply does not matter. It's like telling an aficionado of luxury mechanical timepieces to buy a quartz or digital watch because it tells time more accurately. When moving into the realm of luxury watch pricing, It's not about what the watch does for the owner. It's about what the watch means to the owner.
My Rationale for wanting a Super Expensive Apple Watch Edition
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.
I've always loved watches, ever since I was a kid and received my first one from Santa Claus. Years later, in college, I made a hit list of all the watches I would love to buy for myself when I became successful. I have been fortunate to have now checked a few of those off the list. Today have a small collection of luxury watches that I wear regularly. I'm by no means a watch collector or watch snob — just a guy who loves watches and loves to wear them. There's a nice feeling associated with wearing a quality watch that you've purchased for yourself. It's a reward and badge of pride for working hard and smart, and a constant reminder to myself that time is precious and to always make the most of it.
As silly as it may sound, when I first heard the rumor that the gold Apple Watch may cost $1200, I was really disappointed seeing as how I had already committed to buying one. Smartwatch functionality be damned, at that price it would be hard to justify putting it on my wrist, because from a financial standpoint it would be such a downgrade from the mechanical watches I already own and love to wear. I'd rather pay more, even a lot more, for a watch I would actually want to wear.
Also, at a low price point, I feared there would be too many people out there opting to buy gold Apple watches. When it comes to smartphones, I don't care if the majority of people are using the same phone as me. A watch is very personal though, and if I'm going to spend a substantial amount on one, I'd rather not see it on somebody else's wrist every time I leave the house. The more expensive the Apple Watch Edition is, the more exclusive it should likely be.
Part of me does hope it's more reasonably priced (or that Apple puts in place some sort of a buyback/upgrade program)
As much as I'm willing to part with $10,000 (or more) to buy a gold Apple Watch, I'm not a person who likes to throw money away. And that's still my biggest fear with the Apple Watch Edition.
With a high price tag, Apple is positioning it as a luxury item, but I'm not sure that the appeal and value of a first generation Apple Watch will endure. With my current luxury watch collection, I love every watch as much today as the day I bought it. They're watches that I will still love and enjoy wearing five, ten, twenty or more years from now. They're timeless.
Because the technology of a mechanical watch isn't changing as rapidly at the technology in gadgets, I don't feel the need to upgrade my mechanical watches for fear of not having the latest and greatest. I'm completely content with owning the models I own, even for the long haul.
When it comes to tech products, I'm an early adopter who always wants to be running the latest and greatest. The Apple Watch Edition, despite being gold, is still a tech product. Tech gets dated. It serves its purpose for a year or two or three, then compared to the newer stuff on the market it begins to feel dated and ultimately becomes something you want to leave behind as you upgrade.
I don't think even a $10,000 Apple Watch can escape this fate.
This June I'm getting married. When it comes to the watch I'll wear on my wedding day, it likely won't be the Apple Watch. Looking back on the photos thirty years from now, it will look ancient. (I'll definitely take some photos wearing it though — I'm sure my kids or grandkids will get a kick out of it!).
If Apple extended the product lifecycle of the Apple Watch multiple years it could perhaps create a sense of timelessness around the product. If Apple made it more like a Mac Pro desktop where the body style doesn't get refreshed very often, as opposed to an iPhone that gets redesigned every two years, it could hold perceived value longer.
I don't think that will happen though. It's a first generation product and I'm sure Apple is learning a ton going through the development process. That's going to allow the company to make an even better second generation Apple Watch and sooner rather than later. Apple is no doubt already finalizing designs for the second generation of the Apple Watch, and working on the third and fourth too. The company can't be blamed for that. That's what they do.
At a high price point though, it would be nice if Apple came up with a solution for customers like me. Perhaps a trade-in program available to Watch Edition owners (think of it as a lease more than a purchase - every time there's a new model you can choose to give it back and get the new one or buy it out if you really want to). I just think it would be a shame to fork out that kind of money for an Apple Watch that two years from now will likely be collecting dust in drawer.
Either way, I'm buying it
I'm a man of my word, so whatever Apple prices the Watch Edition at I will be buying one. I'm sure it will get attention too as I wear it around. As a person who loves being a tech conversation-starter, the inevitable questions from strangers alone will make it a joy to own. The higher the price tag, I'm sure the more attention it will get.
That said, when it comes to watches, attention is actually the last thing I'm after (as a guy who was mugged in Paris last year for his watch, believe me when I say that). Rather, I'm chasing that enduring feeling of pride I get when I look down at my wrist and see something that truly brings me joy.
Will the Apple Watch offer me that? You'll have to stay tuned for my Apple Watch Edition Review.