Will The Apple Watch Be China’s New Addiction?

According to a MarketWatch report, a man named “Zeng” from Guangzhou, China told police that he was selling drugs to finance his Apple Watch purchase. He had his eye on a mid-level Apple Watch Steel version, which will start around $668 USD in China, as opposed to the starting U.S. price point of $549.

Zeng, 21, was arrested on Tuesday at a train station after trying to sell drugs to a friend. Thanks to Apple’s intense focus on China, we can probably expect more of this.

Apple has been very clear with its planned trajectory in China. The company wants to expand its current list of 15 retail stores in China to 25 by the end of the year.

Yesterday Reuters reported that Apple may face issues pushing the Apple Watch in China not only because of its notably higher price tag (the top-end Watch Edition model starts at $11k+ USD and tops out at $18k), but because of existing knock-offs in the Chinese market as well as less demand for health-related products.

Obviously, Zeng’s crime of Apple Watch passion is pretty anecdotal, but it will be important to take a harder look at these two price points as Apple enters its target market with this new product category.

The Chinese consumer on the lower end of the luxury market, as characterized by Business Insider, is looking for brands that attract at an impressive but not back-breaking price point. However, the true luxury shopper (the shopper Apple hopes will buy the gold Watch Edition) may be far more interested in the status that comes along with a watch from Breguet, or Patek Philippe, or Audemars Piguet.

At least in the world of fashion, the luxury consumer is becoming more sophisticated, fading from brands like Louis Vuitton and shifting more towards understated brands that still say luxury without the logo. Still, that bright screen (not to mention feature sets that will incite conspicuous behavior, like taking a call on your wrist) won’t help the Apple Watch keep a low profile.

Apple created the first electronic status symbols. The iPod was first and I suspect the company is now kicking itself for not making a solid gold Shuffle for the fashion-forward. But when the iPhone came along, it was the ultimate smartphone. When it came to owning a smartphone, there was no greater show of status.

With the Apple Watch, the company is treading a delicate line between a product that must simultaneously act as a status symbol and an understated luxury accessory.

Then again, at least one Chinese man has sold drugs to afford a new Apple Watch, so the question is no longer whether or not Apple’s Watch line will be a success. With the flexibility in Apple’s supply chain, the company can make it so.

The real question is whether or not the gold Watch Edition, with one foot in the tech world and the other in the realm of fashion, will win over the hearts and minds of big-spending luxury shoppers. Both at home and abroad.

Another unrelated afterthought:

The Apple Watch will likely be highly recognizable. We’ve already seen our first crime related to its acquisition. And it isn’t clear what kind of security precautions are in place should the Apple Watch be stolen. Will we see the same uptick in thefts of the Apple Watch the way we did with the iPhone before Remote Lock functionality became available?

Editor’s Note: The headline of this article has been changed since it was originally published.