With Tuesday’s Apple Watch full reveal, customers have finally gotten a closer look at the tech giant’s foray into wearable technology. The watch, which starts shipping April 24, is being hailed as a potential category killer that will not only trump other smartwatches from such makers as Samsung but also may supplant traditional wristwatches.
See more Paris Fashion Week’s Front Row
“It’s not just with you, it’s on you,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday in San Francisco. The company’s watch offers a slew of features when paired with an iPhone: phone calls, texts, fitness tracker, mobile payment, plus third-party apps from Instagram to Uber to Shazam. True to Apple, the form is just as important as the function. While there’s a sport version with a plastic strap (starting at $349) and a midrange selection with steel or leather bands (from $549), Apple is also bringing out a limited-edition model in 18-karat gold ($10,000-$17,000), a clear bid to turn its product into a high-fashion/luxury item. The sector is a lucrative one. Last year, the Swiss watch manufacturing industry exported goods totaling around $22 billion, an all-time record (a number of Swiss manufacturers are bringing out or readying their own smartwatches, and some could conceivably partner with Apple as well).
But will luxury watch collectors go for an 18-karat gold smartphone for the wrist? The Hollywood Reporter spoke with four watch lovers — a pro basketball player, an A-list fashion stylist and two top television producers — to get their initial reactions. (None have yet had an opportunity try out an Apple watch.)
THE LUXURY WATCH COLLECTOR: A-list stylist Jeanne Yang, whose clients include George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale.
WILL SHE BUY IT? “Oh, I would, absolutely.”
Yang, a collector of timepieces by such makers as Rolex, Cartier and IWC, tells THR she was an early adopter of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. “There were so many genius things about it. I don’t like to always have a phone in my hand. The watch gave me an extra hand. My husband loved it — I didn’t miss three out of four of his calls. It buzzed on your hand.”
She believes the Apple Watch will take that convenience even further — and that its added style elements could very well make it “a grand slam homerun,” giving Swiss watch companies a run for the luxury-consumer money. “Every art director, every photo editor or architect is gonna want one. Most of the people who are Apple people are into aesthetics. They will probably pay for that $10,000 gold watch. The Apple watch won’t compete with the Pateks or the Cartiers, but those smaller, [less expensive] watches may go the way of the Betamax.”
Yang says having to charge the Apple watch regularly may be a stumbling block (“That’s the X factor”) — and she doubts it will ever have the timeless value of a handmade mechanical timepiece. Her collection includes some that are more than 40 years old and have only increased in value over time. “For watch collectors, it’s about the movement, it’s about the beauty of the face. It’s not just about making a gold wristwatch.”
THE LUXURY WATCH COLLECTOR: TV producer Craig Piligian, CEO of Pilgrim Studios (The Ultimate Fighter, Ghost Hunters, Dirty Jobs, American Chopper)
WILL HE BUY IT? Yes, but just for fun.
Piligian tells THR he sees the Apple timepiece as a novelty. “I don’t think it compares to magnificently made Swiss watches, but it takes you back to those days of Dick Tracy, the watch phone. I collect all kinds of watches, and anyone who has Apple products has to have an Apple watch.”
Piligian — who has a collection of about 15 luxury timepieces, including an 18-karat yellow gold Rolex Sky-Dweller, several Panerais and a white-gold Patek Philippe Moonphase — says the idea of an Apple watch in gold intrigues him. “I wonder, though, can they update the tech on the gold watch. You don’t want to buy a gold watch and in two years it’s obsolete. A handmade Patek will last you forever. So will a Rolex. They are timeless pieces of art if you buy them right.”
THE LUXURY WATCH COLLECTOR: Danielle Gelber, executive vp of Wolf Films and the executive producer of the NBC dramas Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.
WILL SHE BUY IT? “Umm, no.”
The producer will save her money for another Cartier, her favorite luxury watch brand (she has at least five of them.). “I’m definitely torn — it’s a Dick Tracy gee-whiz gadget and the first iteration of something that potentially will be amazing. But for me personally what I value about watches is the artistry, the beauty, the singularity, not the mass manufacturing. And the technologically plugged-in element of it doesn’t beckon me.” Watches for her aren’t about telling the time. “It’s about having beautiful jewelry, having a piece of exquisite artistry on your wrist and that you know has a history behind it.”
Even so, she’s not going to bet against Apple’s ability to change the game: “One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs of all time is, ‘A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.’ “
THE LUXURY WATCH COLLECTOR: Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard JJ Redick.
WILL HE BUY IT? No.
Redick — who has an elegantly refined watch collection focused on classic pieces by Patek, IWC, FP Journe and Rolex — says he would try an Apple watch out “for a few minutes but I can’t see myself owning one.”
He gives two reasons: “My love of mechanical wristwatches outweighs any convenience gained by wearing a digital smartwatch — I’m not putting away any of my vintage Rolexes to wear a smartwatch. Secondly, I like putting my phone away and not having a reminder around of texts, emails and phone calls that need to be returned. We are already an extremely digitally connected society. I don’t need to wear that connection around.”