With a starting price of $10,000, the Apple Watch Edition has set off a firestorm of reaction. It’s one of the most hotly debated technology products in recent history. But this is far from a pure technology product. It utilizes Apple’s manufacturing prowess and meticulous attention to detail to create a product designed for discerning watch customers who place a high value on fashion and materials. Smart and fashionable. That’s an incredibly powerful combination and one Apple hopes will allow them to sell products in the high end market. One thing is for certain, Apple Watch Edition stands alone. No one is selling a smartwatch in that pricing stratosphere. Is there a company other than Apple that can pull this off? I doubt it. Despite the naysayers, people are going to buy Apple Watch Edition. I certainly don’t begrudge those who find value, prestige and have enough disposable income to purchase one. I do think they are crazy, but it’s their right to spend as they see fit. Apple’s decision to go high end does have an unfortunate consequences to mainstream customers.
Regardless of what you may think of the Apple Watch Edition, most will agree it’s not geared towards mainstream customers. The bulk of watches sold by Apple will be either Sport or the stainless steel model, which simply bears the same name as the product line. Coming out of the event this week, the price of Edition was a big story. Having such extreme swings in price can be confusing to the average customer. It seems a bit surreal that a $349 has the very same functionality as one that costs $17,000. There’s also a matter of navigating such a wide spectrum of models and bands.
Apple’s certainly latched onto the popularity of gold and customers have responded. When gold first debuted on the iPhone, it was a hot commodity. Surprisingly, Apple underestimated the demand, which took months to satisfy. What’s followed has been moves to offer more products in gold. iPads followed and the radically thin new MacBook also comes in a gold chassis. Gold resonates with Apple’s customers and up until now, they’ve been happy to oblige.
When it comes to the Apple Watch, gold is once again on display. The first television ad is smattered with images of fashion-forward gold Apple watches. In a 60-second spot, it’s often difficult to convey lots about a product. They’ve managed to do a wonderful job showing some of the utility and features of Apple Watch. At the same time, the other half of the story is the beautifully crafted hardware, that only Apple could design. It looks and sounds like an iPhone ad. In some ways, this is great. After all, the Watch is an iPhone accessory. With this comes a sense of familiarity and expectation. All of those products are well within reach or one would suspect. When Apple shows a 60-second Apple Watch ad during Modern Family, they are courting the average iPhone user. I’m sure rich people watch sitcom comedies, but clearly this is marketing to the mainstream.
I can imagine the dismay when they happen upon Apple’s website to see it priced like a small vehicle. I get that Apple is taking its foray into the watch market seriously. Why stop at making a kick ass smartwatch? Make it in 18-karat gold, focus on fashion and attempt to disrupt the high-end watch market. Despite what seems like entirely too many models and options, they’ve left an incredible gaping void. There is no affordable option for the average customer who wants to buy a gold Apple Watch. Arguably, Apple’s most popular product color is out of reach for most. If someone is wearing the Edition, they’ll stand out. Perhaps Apple was looking to secure the status that comes with spending big dollars. I would argue that someone in that tax bracket hardly needs the security blanket of knowing they belong to a select group who have gold Apple watches. They want the absolute best. Period. Otherwise, they’d melt down their gold Rolexes, spend the money on a good party in the Hamptons and pick up a cheap knockoff in Times Square for $100. Why not offer a gold-plated stainless steel model to satiate the masses? What’s one more product SKU, one that would be wildly popular. Highlighting the Apple Watch Edition is like a cruel joke, a gut punch for someone who sees and wants a gold Apple Watch.