Be brave, Apple, pitch iWatch at the luxury market

No product has given me a headache quite like the Apple iWatch. Apple hasn’t yet confirmed that such a wearable gadget exists, but given the flow of rumours swelling from a trickle to a surging torrent in recent months, I’m inclined to believe that the California phone maker is about to launch a wearable.

But what will the iWatch be, what will it do, and who will it be aimed at?

Smartwatches so far - including those from Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony - have all followed a similar theme; a touchscreen on your wrist displaying notifications delivered over Bluetooth from your smartphone, and a microphone to issue commands and take calls.

These devices look like they’ve come straight from the set of a sci-fi film, appealing to those who want the newest technology and all (or at least most) of the features of a smartphone on their wrist. These are people who do not currently own a wristwatch, and if they do it’s more likely to be a digital Casio than a mechanical Tag Heuer. Nothing wrong with that, but to me it seems unlikely that someone who owns a mechanical watch (someone who may even have a collection of watches) will give a smartwatch, with it’s touchscreen and its Bluetooth, a second look.

An easy way out? No, I want bravery from Apple

And yet this is the audience I’d like to see Apple target - the watch fan (or horologist, even), the person who admires the mechanics and design of a watch and who sees their timepiece as much a fashion statement as their shoes, their clothes and their haircut. Apple could follow the crowd with a watch similar to the Samsung Gear 2, or even the more attractive Motorola Moto 360, but I think doing so would be to sell itself short. That’d be the easy way out.

I want to see bravery from Apple and I want to see it price the iWatch higher than the competition - high enough to justify a design, build quality and use of materials far superior to that of any other smartwatch. The most recent iWatch rumours centred on Apple poaching the vice president for retail at Tag Heuer, amid plans to market the iWatch as “Swiss-made”. This for me is the smoking barrel pointing towards Apple taking an entirely different approach to Samsung and others.

'Swiss-made'

Yes, the iWatch will have Bluetooth to connect to your iPhone, and, yes, it will track your fitness. It may even vibrate to remind you of upcoming events and when your phone is ringing, but it will look less like a smartwatch and more like a smart watch. That way, Apple can slap on its customary high price tag (“but other Swiss-made watches all cost upwards of £1,000, iWatch is only £499”...) and take a giant leap into the fashion market. iPhone, iPads and MacBooks are as known for their looks and build quality as their performance, so why not capitalise on this and use the iWatch to stretch Apple’s brand beyond technology?

If Louis Vuitton and others can sell iPhone cases with weighty price tags, then why can’t Apple work the other way and sell gadgets into the luxury market? As an extreme example of luxury and tech successfully colliding, Vertu sells smartphones for more than £10,000 and is a profitable company.

Time to 'Think Different' again

The iWatch is far and away the most interesting product Apple has worked on for years - on par with the iPod and the iPhone. It will take the company into new markets and new parts of our lives. Apple needs the iWatch to be a success and for this it needs to be different. The company’s old slogan of Think Different has never been more relevant.

 

 

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