Here’s to the crazy ones: Apple Watch Edition

If you’re planning on buying a gold Apple Watch Edition, you either have to be rich or crazy. Preferably, a bit of both.

With a starting price of $10,000 and rapidly going up to $17,000, this is not something you buy because you’re lusting after Apple’s latest gadget. If it’s the technology you want, even the cheapest Apple Watch will do. The truth is every Apple Watch has identical internal components and an identical face. There is not one thing you can do with a gold Apple Watch — other than admire its color — that you can’t do with the considerably cheaper ($350-$1100) other models.

So who will — or who should — consider buying a gold Apple Watch?



To answer that question, first let’s ask a more general one: Why buy any expensive luxury watch?

First off, it’s clear there is a market for these watches. Let’s take Rolex for example. These watches come in a range of models and prices, with a likely median around $10,000. Despite the low oxygen levels at these altitudes, estimates I have read indicate that Rolex sells several hundred thousand watches each year!

Admittedly, that number is not impressive in comparison to something like iPhone sales. But no one expects that level of sales for a luxury item. It’s a successful niche market, much like the one for luxury cars.

So who are these people? It obviously helps to be rich. If you have enough money that $10K for you is like $100 for the rest of us, you can buy a Rolex and not care what it costs. But you don’t have to be that rich to justify a luxury watch. People who are merely well-off (but far from the top 1%) might decide to splurge on one. Such people might spend upwards of $10,000 on a big vacation, for example. They could decide they’d rather have a Rolex and skip the vacation. For what it’s worth, I fit comfortably into this category. I’m certainly not a member of the super-rich, but I could buy a Rolex tomorrow without experiencing any financial strain.

But I wouldn’t do so — because I don’t place any value on having such an expensive timepiece. I can get an attractive watch that’s well built and keeps accurate time for far less money. And that’s all I want or need. I’d almost be afraid to wear a Rolex, for fear it would get lost or stolen.

Still, I can imagine at least four rationales for someone else opting to buy a luxury watch:

Materials. The metal is solid gold. And that costs big bucks. If you are into gold jewelry, this may be where you want your discretionary income to go.

• Craftsmanship. As this website explains, Rolex watches are not stamped out like the ones you buy at Target. If you value the care that goes into making a fine watch, you may want a Rolex.

Status. Like Gucci or Prada, Rolex is a status brand name. People are willing to pay extra to obtain that status. A lot extra.

Longevity. Luxury watches are designed to last. They can become heirlooms that get passed down for generations. Amortized over such a long period of time, $10K may not wind up being so expensive. And if you ever decide to sell, a “used” Rolex will likely retain a good portion of its value.

Apple Watch Edition

Okay. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s return to the original question: Why spend $10K or more to get a luxury version of the Apple Watch?

Again, if you’re so wealthy that cost is irrelevant, there’s no point in asking this question. So let’s eliminate these people from the discussion. What about the rest?

For the rest, I simply can’t see a good case for getting one. That’s why I say you have to be a bit crazy to buy a gold Apple Watch.

Of the four rationales I cited above, only one clearly applies to the Apple Watch Edition: Materials. It’s made out of gold. That’s it.

As for craftsmanship, as I already said, the Watch itself is identical no matter which one you get. Actually, at its Media Event, Apple made a bigger deal about the craftsmanship that went into the aluminum and stainless steel models (with videos about each one) than the gold model.

As for status, I don’t anticipate any great status in wearing an Apple Watch Edition. To the contrary, I can imagine people discreetly scoffing at the wearer, thinking how foolish for the person to believe that the Apple Watch is commensurate with a Rolex as a status symbol.

As for longevity, that’s the worst rationale of all. The Apple Watch is not designed to get passed on to heirs. Far from it. It’s not even designed to keep it yourself for more than about 5 years. Think about it a moment. The original iPhone came out in 2007. I bet there aren’t 10 people on the planet that are still using one as their primary smartphone. I expect the technology of the Apple Watch to advance at a similar pace. A few years from now, when Apple Watch 4 is out, the one you might buy next month will be hopelessly obsolete, almost archaic. This means you will almost be required to get a new one. It also means that the resale value of your old watch will have plummeted.

Paying $10K for a watch once is one thing. Paying it again and again every few years is something else entirely.

There is one silver (gold?) lining here. I suspect that you will be able to re-use your original band when you upgrade to a new version of the Watch (at least until Apple completely redesigns the form factor). Ideally, you will also be able to buy a Watch without a band. This will save you considerable money. But it will still be ridiculously expensive to upgrade.

To be fair, Apple isn’t planning on selling many of these gold watches. Tim Cook announced at the media event that they will have only “limited availability.” Wise decision.

Bottom line: Unless you are rich and crazy, and assuming you want an Apple Watch at all, stick with the cheaper Apple Watches this year. This is especially so when it isn’t yet clear how compelling the product will be or how much you will value it. If you wind up loving the watch, and you have the cash to spare, you can always go for the gold Apple Watch next year.

Note: The only person I know who owns a Rolex is Dave Hamilton — and I just saw that he posted his own similar thoughts on the gold Apple Watch.

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