It has been more than two months since Apple first unveiled the new Apple Watch, and we know little more about it today than we did back in September when we got our original tantalizing glimpse. When the product was announced, we were told that it would be released in three different flavors – Watch, Watch Sport, and Watch Edition. We were also told that it would be coming in “early 2015,” and would have an entry level price of $350. Since then, there has been a lot of rumors and speculation about the device, which has the potential to become the catalyst that makes smartwatches go mainstream. But the Apple Watch could also come with a hefty dose of sticker shock too, as the top of the line model is likely to fall into the very expensive “luxury” category costing thousands of dollars. When Apple let slip the starting price of the Watch, they were careful not to say exactly which model would be priced at $350 when the device is actually released. We have since learned that the Sport version would come in at that price point, as it will be built out of lower cost materials like anodized aluminum, and scratch resistant glass. It will also ship with a colorful soft band designed specifically for exercise. In contrast, the standard Watch will be made of classic stainless steel, while the Edition version will be made from 18k gold.
Knowing that the less-expensive Sport model will hold down the low end of the Watch line-up has led to a lot of speculation about the prices of the other two models. A recent article suggests that the stainless steel version will come in at abut $500, while the Edition could top out at $5000, or possibly even more. This has of course caused a great deal of disbelief amongst some consumers, many of whom were wondering who would buy an Apple Watch in the first place. These pundits point to the bevy of Android Wear watches that are available now, and carry a price tag of $300 or less.
What those critics don’t understand however, is that Apple isn’t competing with Android Wear at all. Instead, the tech-giant is going after the entire watch market, and has set its sights on everyone from Timex to Rolex. In other words, Apple isn’t interested in spitting out a low-end tech device that is affordable to the masses. Instead, they want to offer a solid entry-level model, as well as something that competes with the finest watches that Switzerland has to offer. Whether or not the Edition can live up to those lofty goals has yet to be seen.
If you’re not familiar with the high end wristwatch market you probably don’t know that there are timepieces that cost tens of thousands of dollars. In this incredible world of luxury, a $5000 watch is actually seen as a bargain. And if the rumors of Apples high level of quality with this product are true, the Apple Watch Edition could do quite well in this competitive market segment.
If the speculation on the pricing proves to be accurate (which Apple rumors haven’t in recent years?), I think we can expect a slew of articles from tech sites, and the mainstream media alike, suggesting that Apple has completely lost its mind. A $5000 watch is going to go over like a lead balloon with the general public, and articles about the demise of Apple will make for fine click-bait. But in the market for which it is intended, the Apple Watch Edition has the potential to be the “must-have” item upon release. A high-tech status symbol for the 21st century that seamlessly blends beautiful design, with amazing functionality.
It is also important to note that Apple isn’t likely to sell too many $5000 watches, and they already know that. Quite frankly, no one sells a lot of timepieces at that price point because the market just isn’t that large in the first place. Instead, Apple will make waves at the lower price tiers, with the Sport model likely proving to be incredibly popular.
At this point, we don’t know when Apple will announce its final pricing for the Watch, but it likely won’t happen until after the first of the year. One thing is for certain however, they aren’t going to base that pricing on what is happening in the Android Wear segment, but will instead look at the prices of all watches, in all categories. The company has a plan for the iWatch, and the true extend of what they have in mind has not been shown yet.
Given that the Edition version will be a low volume (if coveted by Apple and fashionistas) market, and given that Apple tends to re-iterate and significantly their gear annually, I’m wondering if Apple will dedicate the (not insignificant?) engineering R&D resources to make the guts of the solid gold model swappable to the newest electronics, given that the form factors of subsequent releases are likely to become thinner and generally more svelte, and the the form factor will therefore change over time….
….granted, a two year old 18K Apple Watch will do everything it did, and be able to run at least the next two releases of the OS, but buyers will a) chafe at not having the latest and greatest version and b) not be as inclined to re-buy as iPhone, iPad and even Mac buyers are today (tho’ Macs have become largely at 3-4 year hold item for most users)…
And if they do accommodate that segment, would they offer the switch-out guts to the whole Apple Watch market…?? That would certainly be something new in Apple world, however the network of stores and their online store give them a path to offer the service…
There has been some speculation that Apple will make the Watch an item that is easy to upgrade, or at the very least offer a trade-in program. Spending thousands of dollars on the gold version, only to find it obsolete in a few years does sound like a recipe for disaster. Even a $350 Sport edition shouldn’t be meant to be upgraded every two years or so. We’ll have to wait to see how this is addressed, but with the recent news from the WatchKit release that the Watch is essentially a second screen for your phone, perhaps the worries about upgrading are a bit overblown.