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The $10,000-Plus Apple Watch Edition: A Luxury Timepiece Now “Obsolete”

In the realm of luxury watches, the allure often lies not just in their timekeeping capabilities but in their potential to become cherished heirlooms, passed down through generations. Whether it’s a timeless Submariner, a classic Nomos, or an elegant Omega, traditional luxury watches hold their value and can even appreciate over time. They serve as reminders of the relentless march of time, the importance of punctuality, and the intricate craftsmanship behind their mechanical movements.

However, this narrative takes a different turn when we delve into the world of smartwatches, particularly Apple’s foray into the luxury segment with the Apple Watch Edition. As of September 30, 2023, Apple has officially moved the original Apple Watch models, including the “Edition” variants that once commanded prices ranging from $10,000 to $17,000, to its internal “obsolete” list. What does this label signify? When a product is labeled as “obsolete” by Apple, it essentially means that the company will no longer provide parts, repairs, or replacement services for that product.

To put this into perspective, even if you had purchased one of these golden Edition watches with grand hopes of it becoming a future family heirloom, that dream now faces a harsh reality. The golden Edition watches, including the solid-gold variants, ceased to be available for purchase as of September 2016 when Apple introduced a comparatively sensible ceramic Edition, priced at $9,000 less. To make matters worse, software updates for these watches were discontinued in July 2018, just over three years after their initial release, coinciding with the introduction of watchOS 5.

Fast forward to today, and it’s highly unlikely that any of these golden Edition watches are still functional. The batteries in these nearly eight-year-old first-generation smartwatches are unlikely to hold a charge, at the very least. Attempting to replace the battery yourself, unless you possess both extravagant wealth and surgical precision with a scalpel, is not advisable. Furthermore, the swelling of an aging battery could pose risks to the watch’s display, making it a potential safety concern.

The quiet and unceremonious end of the Apple Watch Edition, a product that once sought to be seen and celebrated, marks an intriguing contrast. Apple had initially bestowed one-of-a-kind Edition watches upon celebrities like Beyoncé and design luminary Karl Lagerfeld. These exclusive watches featured all-gold link bracelets, propelling the Edition’s already lofty pricing into stratospheric realms. Purchasing an Edition watch was no ordinary transaction—it entailed setting up a private one-on-one session in a select Apple Store located in major metropolitan areas or having an Edition couriered to a store near you. In addition, Edition owners were provided with “an exclusive, dedicated Apple Watch Edition phone line for two years of 24/7 technical support,” according to a report by Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac.

The transition from Apple’s standard Watch models to the Edition models was anything but inconspicuous. Apple Stores showcased these exclusive timepieces behind locked drawers, with store employees required to unlock them for interested customers. The appointments for trying on these watches, whether at the 14th Street store or the flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City, were orchestrated with precision. For instance, the Edition watches were presented two at a time, each enclosed in custom boxes that doubled as charging cradles. The Edition experience was designed to be exclusive and extravagant.

However, as these Edition watches made their grand entrance, the lingering question remained: How long could one reasonably expect a $10,000-and-up watch to be supported by Apple? The uncertainty surrounding this fundamental question gave rise to debates among tech enthusiasts and watch aficionados. On one side, there were those who saw the Edition as a “Rev.1” Apple product—a part of the company’s standard hardware lifecycle. They pointed out that the Watch, like any other Apple device, would eventually become obsolete due to evolving technology. Others argued that the Edition was never about functionality; instead, it was a symbol of luxury, a status statement that flaunted the fusion of precious metals and global wealth.

The sales figures of the gold Editions confirmed that they were indeed exclusive, with only “low tens of thousands” sold, primarily in the two weeks following their launch. Apple’s marketing initially positioned the Watch as a luxury timepiece with precise timekeeping abilities. However, over time, the narrative shifted, and the Watch evolved into a versatile notification hub and a fitness companion. Notably, Jony Ive, the renowned designer behind Apple’s iconic products, departed from the company a few years after the Watch’s underwhelming launch. Some inside reports hinted that the lukewarm reception of the Watch created a rift between Ive and the company.

The challenge for luxury goods is to stand the test of time, to remain relevant and functional years after their purchase. Yet, the Edition was faced with a unique set of challenges. Its functionality was inherently tied to a specific iPhone, with no guarantee that future iPhone models would support it. Furthermore, its seven-year parts availability window was unlikely to see much demand as the product aged. Ultimately, the value of an Edition watch lay not in its utility but in the status symbol it represented. Today, it remains as a piece of gold—a symbol of extravagance and exclusivity, albeit one that is challenging to convert into raw value.

In conclusion, the Apple Watch Edition’s journey from luxury timepiece to obsolescence is a reflection of the evolving nature of technology and luxury. While it may no longer serve as a functional smartwatch, it retains its allure as a symbol of opulence and a chapter in Apple’s history.

FAQs

  1. What was the significance of the Apple Watch Edition?
    • The Apple Watch Edition was a luxury variant of the Apple Watch, featuring precious materials like gold and priced significantly higher than the standard models. It was designed to cater to customers seeking exclusivity and luxury.
  2. Why did Apple discontinue support for the original Apple Watch Edition models?
    • Apple discontinued support for the original Apple Watch Edition models due to the evolving nature of technology and changing consumer preferences. As newer models were introduced, the original editions became obsolete.
  3. How many Apple Watch Edition units were sold during its availability?
    • Only a limited number of Apple Watch Edition units were sold, with sales figures in the “low tens of thousands.” It was a niche product due to its high price tag.
  4. What differentiated the Apple Watch Edition from the standard Apple Watch models?
    • The Apple Watch Edition featured premium materials like solid gold and had a much higher price point compared to the standard models. It was marketed as a luxury timepiece.
  5. Is there any way to make an original Apple Watch Edition functional again?
    • It is highly unlikely that the original Apple Watch Edition models can be made functional again due to battery issues and discontinued software support. Attempting to replace the battery may pose risks to the device.
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