CHICAGO — I grabbed the black suit jacket I was married in because I wasn’t sure how to dress for a private appointment to try on a $10,000 gold watch.
My look is challenging to class up. The clean-shaven head, long goatee and ample belly blend in better at a biker bar. But I felt halfway respectable-looking when I walked into the Apple Store in Chicago’s upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood for a Saturday morning hands-on showing of the Apple Watch Edition.
Not many Apple Stores are scheduling appointments for the 18-karat gold Edition, but the ones that do provide extra-special attention. I had a friendly guide, two floor supervisors who came by to shake my hand and thank me for my patience, and a couple of hawk-eyed security guards.
Some of the stores catering to prospective Edition customers bring them into a private room, but that wasn’t the case for me in Lincoln Park. This Apple Store is one big, open space, so for my private showing with the guide and security detail, I was escorted to a corner of the building that was quiet and empty.
There was a little bit of a wait and seemingly urgent talking being done on two-way radios. My guide explained the watches are kept in a safe. Apple has always had relatively high prices on its computers and phones, but this is its first foray into a luxury product, so the radio chatter, the safe for watches and the bouncers are a new part of the sales script.
A blue, velvet-lined box was brought to my private corner of the store. The salesman pulled off the lid and a corner of the gold-frame case — I requested the 42mm with a black leather band — seemed to catch some window light and glint as if a Holy Grail had been unveiled.
‘Can we turn it on?’
The guide placed the watch in my hands and I immediately noticed the heft.
I looked forward to trying one on and exploring the functions from my wrist. As I fumbled with the clasp, my guide quickly got his hands on the band and adjusted it to the proper tightness.
I admired it, rolling my wrist around to see it from all the angles. “Can we turn it on?” I asked. He said sure and pressed the digital crown. The face remained black. He pressed it again. No foot-tapping Mickey Mouse or butterfly. Just blank.
My guide remained calm and I offered that the safe was probably not designed to charge watches overnight. He seamlessly shifted me over to the nearby hands-on watch station to walk me through some of the apps and unique features.
A half-hour passed. I was never pressured to order, nor was I hurried out of the store. I could handle the watch as much as I wanted and take pictures of it on my wrist. I was invited to return for another hands-on session.
The gold and the $10,000 starting price tag does not make Apple Watch Edition a luxury timepiece in a traditional sense. Luxury watches are built to tell time for a long time and be passed on to another generation.
That doesn’t seem to bother eager buyers in China, where supplies on the first day of preordering the Edition sold out.
But the Edition should not be purchased as a keepsake to pass on. You buy it for a flash of gold and the feeling that you are Dick Tracy meets Donald Trump.
Even in gold, the Edition is ultimately disposable technology. Turn it on and the clock begins to tick — on its own limited lifespan. The battery has a limited life cycle and there is no telling what future technology will eclipse the computing power of this watch generation, rendering it obsolete.
One thing’s for sure, though. If you are going to charge $10,000 for a smartwatch, be sure to charge it before showing it off. I mean come on, I put on a suit jacket.