TIME Gadgets

Yes, the Gold Apple Watch Will Be Crazy Expensive

Maybe not $5,000, but it'll cost you

Got a hankering for the highest-end Apple Watch, the one that comes in 18K gold? Then you better be ready to pay hand over wrist.

So far, Apple’s only officially said that the Apple Watch’s start at $350. But that’s likely the price point for the entry-level model, the Apple Watch Sport. How much will the super-fancy 18K gold Apple Watch Edition cost? We don’t know for sure yet, but a French Apple blog is claiming this week they’ll run somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000. That’s after similar rumors put it at a much more palatable if still a wee bit crazy $1,200.

“$5,000?! For a smartwatch? That’s nuts!,” a reasonable person might exclaim at this point. But $5,000 is actually a steal for an 18k gold watch. A quick perusal of Google Shopping reveals that full-18K luxury watches (not the merely gold-plated timepieces) tend to run upwards of $10,000, and can be as much as $30,000, though many of these watches use more gold than the Apple Watch will. That aside, 18K gold is expensive, and despite all its magic, Apple can’t simply will the material’s price to go down—as of this writing, one ounce of 18K gold is worth roughly $858.

Ultimately, we won’t know what the high-end Apple Watch will cost until Apple tells us. That said, that the $5,000 rumor is even remotely believable reveals who Apple is really targeting with the 18K gold Apple Watch Edition: The kinds of people who would spend on a watch roughly what I spent on my college degree. (Thanks, state school!) For the upper crust, $5,000 is a paltry sum compared to what they’re used to spending on timepieces.

Where the Apple Watch could get into trouble with these buyers, however, its in the value retention department. If I were to win the lottery tonight and go off and buy a $20,000 gold Rolex, I could probably sell the thing for at least what I paid for it 15 years from now to, I don’t know, finance a house. The Apple Watch, however, is more of a consumer tech product, likely to be subject to the same depreciations in value as aging iPhones and iPads.

Who would pay $5,000 for a gizmo that’s going to be obsolete in a year or two? That’s a question Apple needs to answer if it wants to actually sell any of the high-end Apple Watches. One idea: Perhaps it could sell them on some kind of subscription model, where consumers pay a certain amount over time to get subsidized upgrades when new models are out, similar to the model with which some wireless carriers are now experimenting.

If the gold Apple Watch Edition indeed retails for $5,000, it’ll be far from the most expensive device Apple sells. A fully-tricked out iMac With Retina 5K Display, packed with Apple’s creative editing software, costs $5,147.97. But hey, free shipping!

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