Nothing separates the “haves” and the 1% like a prohibitively expensive consumer product. Whether it’s a Hermes Birkin Bag or a McLaren P1 GTR, there are some consumer goods that are almost impossible to purchase and almost impossible to knock off. It’s that exclusivity and false scarcity that you are paying for, in a sense.
The newest addition to the Pantheon of products you figuratively cannot buy is the Apple Watch Edition, which is made of 18k-solid, double-alloyed gold. But because it’s Apple, there’s even one more tier of exclusivity with the Edition, a product you literally cannot buy: The 18k Apple Watch Edition with an 18k-gold link bracelet, or as we like to call it here at TechCrunch, The Beywatch.
From what we’ve heard, select fashion-forward celebs like, well, Beyonce, Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour were given the watch by Apple, very likely in the way Ferrari distributes LaFerraris — by calling them up and offering them to select potential owners.
It’s unclear whether the above celebs and others had to pay for their blingy smartwatches. But, for Beyonce, buying a 42mm gold link band Edition is like a normal person buying a burrito, so in a sense, it doesn’t really matter whether they did. Wintour’s Vogue likely brought in so much revenue by hosting the first Apple Watch ads that it was an effective trade, even considering the unlikely possibility she had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get one on her own wrist.
The Apple Watch, it is well-documented, requires an iPhone. Which gives Wintour even more incentive to retire her flip phone.
Whether it’s Jony Ive in Milan hawking unique sport bands, or Tim Cook in Palo Alto rocking a custom red watch crown on his Stainless Steel Watch, we’ve heard that the Apple Watch will be all about limited runs and exclusive bands, but especially on its most exclusive offering: The Watch Edition. Get ready to see Watch Limited Editions (our parlance), or more customized variations of the already lavish product.
Seeding a special version of the watch to celebrities and fashion icons, the world’s most desired customers, is a turning point for Apple and tech as a whole. Consumer technology, both hardware and software, functions as a commodity, priced per pixel or per gigabyte. But with luxury and lifestyle brands, pricing is based on cachet, as former Burberry CEO and current Apple VP Angela Ahrendts and former Yves Saint Laurent CEO and current Apple VP Paul Deneve inherently understand.
My co-editor Matthew Panzarino writes: “The argument that Apple is doing something awful by offering a more expensive item that works the same way as a lesser expensive item is stupid.” I don’t think it’s stupid per se, but I don’t think it’s accurate: The argument treats the Apple Watch as a commodity. A piece of cloth is also a commodity. But when that cloth is a Hermes scarf, it also functions as a palliative for status anxiety, and for that people will pay a premium.
By marrying the two, commodity and cachet, in the Watch Edition, Apple has created the perfect form of aspirational capitalism and thirst: I can’t get an Apple Watch Sport for months, but Beyonce is rocking an all-gold Apple Watch Limited Edition at Coachella, in a photoshoot seraphic enough to excite even the most reverse of snobs.
I’m just jealous.
I’m just human.
Don’t judge me.