Designer watches are big business - I’m in New York and about to attend the spring/summer 2015 show of Michael Kors, a designer who has made a billion (several times over) in large part off the back of a chunky gold-toned timepiece retailing in the accessible few hundreds.
Of course, many are willing to pay many times more, in part for the practicality of the piece, sure (for men especially, a watch doesn’t carry the crass loadsamoney allusions of, say, a blinged-out identity bracelet), but also for their individual style cachet. Frequently, that's the all-important part: in practical terms, a Swatch and a Rolex do the same job, but the choice between them says everything about the wearer, their status, and their aspirations.
I wonder where Apple hope their Apple Watch will fit into that equation: as practical aid to everyday life, or predominantly as style accessory. There is always a focus on the latter with Apple - it’s what had made their products so popular with design aficionados. When the iPod was first launched, the designers Karl Lagerfeld and Hedi Slimane (then at Dior) offered custom-crafted cases to house single or multiple devices.
For winter 2012, Lagerfeld designed an iPad-housing briefcase case for Fendi, the first of many such designer offerings. In a sense, this was homage to Apple, to the tech product beautiful. But in a practical sense, it also provided something to tote the accessory around in bearing an all-important brand name.
The slight issue with the Apple Watch, therefore, is that it’s already portable, and, presumably, Apple hopes the lure of their brand name and design is enough for buyers to covet, without needing to package it inside a big fashion brand. There are plenty of variations: three styles, a clutch of coloured straps and variable faces. It remains to be seen if the Apple design is enough of a pull stylistically - and and the name as status symbol - to really make an impact on the timepiece market. I don’t think Rolex are quaking just yet…
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