Jony Ive denies that Apple is turning into a luxury company

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Hermes Apple Watch bands are now available on their own.
Apple couldn't wait to hop into bed with French luxury house Hermès.
Photo: Apple

Jony Ive sure loves his designer goods, but don’t suggest to him that products like the new high-end Apple Watch Hermès are turning Apple into a luxury company.

“We don’t think in those terms,” Ive says in a new interview. “I’m not comfortable with words like exclusive.”

This from the guy who made a $17,000 smartwatch!

The quote in question comes from a Wall Street Journal article, detailing Apple’s association with high-end French fashion house Hermès.

It contains some interesting insights, such as the fact that Apple valued the Hermès collaboration so much that it even approached the company about it before it had publicly acknowledged the Apple Watch’s existence. Jony Ive and execs at Hermès agreed to team up over lunch in Paris. As you do.

“It’s something highly unusual for Apple to do — to talk about an unannounced project,” said Ive. He also said Apple would be open to working with Hermès again.

What makes the Hermès collaboration a bit different is that Apple is actually playing second fiddle to the fashion house in some ways. As the article explains:

“To display the time, Apple adapted three fonts Hermès has long used in its watches. When the watch face displays the Hermès user interface, neither the Apple name nor logo is visible.

Allowing Hermès’ symbols to upstage Apple’s is a first, Mr. Ive said. “I’ve been at Apple 23 years and this is conspicuous and singular. I’ve never known anything like this,” he said.”

At the end of the day, I understand Ive not wanting newspapers to cast Apple as a luxury company, particularly at a time when it’s continuing to expand into new markets — where it’s even proved willing to cut its own profit margins to get devices into the hands of customers.

With that said, who is he kidding? I don’t think the Apple Watch Edition was a bad idea by any means, but it seems like Cupertino is clearly moving in a more upmarket direction with its products. The divide between making products for a select few high-end customers and democratizing technology for the masses is one that Apple has always wavered on.

For the most part, it gets it totally right. But when you hire the former CEO of Burberry to run your Stores, and have fashion designers turning the already high-end Apple Watch into a pocket watch for their Spring Collection… well, that gives off a certain image.