Top Apple Watch Selling for $17,000; Gold Alloy Debated

Swiss watches are getting some company on the high end.

The Apple Watch Edition, the company’s top-of-the-line timepiece designed with a new 18k gold alloy, will be priced from $10,000 to $17,000, the company announced, following a March 9 presentation emceed by CEO Tim Cook.

All the watches will be available April 24, though only in nine countries, including the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, and China. (Switzerland is not one of them.)

Only one non-Apple U.S. store has been announced to be carrying it: Maxfield in Los Angeles, a boutique that stocks accessories. It will also be stocked at fashion boutiques like colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, and The Corner in Berlin. On April 10, Apple is making it available to preview or try on at other high-end stores—Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Isetan in Tokyo, and Selfridges in London—reportedly with shop-in-shops.

The two highest-priced watches displayed on the company’s site are the 38 mm version in 18k yellow gold with a bright-red modern buckle, and the 38 mm version in 18k rose gold case with a rose gray modern buckle. Both sell for $17,000. Other versions sell for $15,000 and $12,000. The bottom of the high-end line retails for $9,999. (See full line here.) 

Depending on the band, the entry-level Sport model is priced at $349 and $399, and the mid-level model—the plain old Watch—will set buyers back $549 to $1,099.

But in the jewelry business, most were mulling the limited-edition Edition, and in particular the gold it’s using.

The company’s site featured a video about the 18k gold, which it describes as a proprietary alloy designed to be twice as hard as regular gold, using silver, copper, and palladium. Apple design head Jonathan Ive declares in the video that each Edition case is hand-polished by “highly skilled jewelry artisans.”

Yet, while the presentation featured videos on the aluminum used in the entry-level watch, and the steel in the mid-level model, it did not show the video about the gold. 

At press time, it wasn’t clear if Apple was using the same gold described in a widely cited patent from December for a gold metal matrix composite that uses ceramic particles.

The Edition will not be sold in every Apple store and will be available in limited quantities. Some have speculated that Apple will make the “guts” of the watch replaceable, to at least replicate the long lifespan of other high-end timepieces, but that was not referenced during the presentation.

Among the features of the new watch: 

– Its face is customizable, and users can add details to it, like the date, the world clock, a stopwatch, and the time of your next meeting. 

– Wearers can receive and dictate messages and emails, and make (brief) phone calls on it, thanks to a built-in speaker and microphone.  

– A feature called “Glances” allows wearers to access most-wanted information.

– It tracks users’ daily activity; Cook seemed particularly high on a feature that reminds wearers to stand up if they have been sedentary too long.

– The watch has the ability to settle bills with Apple Pay.

– Users can interface with Apple’s voice-controlled Siri feature. 

– Any notification you can get on your iPhone will appear on the Watch, including news and sports reports.

There are also “thousands” of new apps, Cook said. Among them are apps that let you call an Uber car, read the news, and even close your garage door when you’re away.

The two big drawbacks: It can only be used with an iPhone nearby (and it must be an iPhone 5 or later), and it only has about 18 hours’ worth of battery life. The watch is “splash- and water-resistant but not waterproof,” meaning you can wash your hands with it, but not submerge it. The leather bands are not water-resistant.

The new update to the iPhone operating system will include an Apple Watch app—which reportedly cannot be deleted.


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JCK News Director

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