Everyone has questions about the Apple Watch. What will it cost? How long will the battery last? How well will third-party apps work? But I have a completely different question:
Where's the jewerly counter?
When I buy a watch, I want to try it on. See how it feels. Test out different bands, styles and sizes. And the more I think about it, the Apple Store as it is currently configured is a terrible place to buy a watch.
And that's why I think the most expensive versions of the watch will never make it to Apple Stores, or any other mass market retailer for that matter.
The base Apple Watch Sport will cost around $350. And I'm sure you'll buy those like an iPhone or an iPad. They will be on display at your local Apple Store and when you are ready to buy one, they'll bring a box out from the back. And you'll probably be able to get them at other retailers, too, like Best Buy and Target.
But the more expensive models — ones that cost thousands of dollars — will never make it to the Apple Store. Or Best Buy. Or Target. Because quite frankly, that's not how you buy a $10,000 solid gold watch.
Expense watches and jewelry are sold through a network of high-end fashion retailers and small jewelers. And it would make sense for Apple to work with these retailers to sell the most exclusive models. I would imagine that at launch, there will only be a handful of locations in the world where you can buy an Apple Watch Edition. (The lack of leaks coming from these retailers would tend to indicate that it's a very small, very selective network.)
But what about the regular non-sport, non-edition Apple Watch? The stainless steel versions? Where will you be able to buy those? John Gruber's detailed and logical post on Apple Watch pricing estimates these will cost at least $1,000. That's an expensive watch to sell though the Apple Store, but I do think they will carry them. And I would assume that high-end fashion retailers will carry them as well.
(As a random aside, what if one or more versions of the Apple Watch were available exclusively through the Apple Store? Maybe the Milanese Loop?)
- Apple Watch Sport will be available at the Apple Store and other retailers like Target and Best Buy.
- The Apple Watch will be sold through the Apple Store and a select network of high-end retailers.
- And the solid gold Apple Watch Edition will be sold in exclusive high-end retailers only.
I'm still skeptical about the buying experience for the more expensive watches at the Apple Store. There's no room for a jewerly counter.* And when the Apple Store is crowded — and it's always crowded — I can't imagine an Apple Store employee pulling out watches for a customer to try on. And I can't imagine a customer buying a thousand dollar watch without ever having tried in on.
I'm sure Apple has a solution for this. I'm sure they are aware that a crowded Apple Store is a less than ideal experience for purchasing a high-end watch. I can't wait to see what they come up with.
*Unless they completely redesign the Apple Stores...