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Apple Watch debut in Paris attracts more fanboys than fashionistas

Company holds Fashion Week show at upscale boutique, but not everyone is sold

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The Apple Watch went on display this morning at Colette, a high-end Paris boutique that consistently attracts swarms of the hipper-than-thou. The event marked the first time that the watch has been shown to the public since company CEO Tim Cook unveiled it at a media event in California earlier this month, though it remained a decidedly hands-off affair. The watches were kept behind glass displays on the ground floor of the store, and visitors were not allowed to touch them.

Yet the chance to even look at the Apple Watch drew a sizable crowd to Colette — home to $1,200 sneakers, a $30,000 Snoopy watch, and $13 water — though it might not have been the demographic Apple was hoping for. The company has been tirelessly marketing its wearable to fashionistas ahead of its 2015 launch, and its decision to stage a pop up-style event during Paris Fashion Week was clearly another attempt to brand the Apple Watch as a must-have accessory; Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour posed for photos at the store this morning alongside Jony Ive and Marc Newson. The Colette cognoscenti are the exact crowd that Apple wants to win over, though it’s not clear whether it made any inroads today.

Colette was unsurprisingly busy by the time I arrived around noon. The front entrance was manned by black-suited bouncers — security’s been tight ever since the boutique was robbed of $800,000 worth in watches earlier this year — and small crowds had gathered in front of the window displays, making life difficult for bag-toting tourists and lunch-breaking businessmen. In the center of each window were three white pods, each holding an Apple Watch, displayed against a background of colorful balls that slowly inflated and deflated. Passersby snapped photos with their smartphones as skinny pretty people milled about smoking cigarettes, but a much bigger crowd had amassed around the corner, where visitors were lining up for their chance to see the watch in person.

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Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Jony Ive, and Marc Newson were on hand for today's event. (Image credit: Suzy Menkes / Instagram)

The line wasn’t iPhone 6-big — it stretched for about a third of a block while I was there — but it moved at a glacial pace. There were about 30-40 people, by my rough estimate, and almost all were young, white men. Their dark, understated attire stood in stark contrast to the flashy skinny smokers around the corner, and at least a few of them were die-hard Apple fans. A 26-year-old engineering student named Kevin said he knew he wouldn’t be able to touch the watch when he went in, but wanted to see it up close and personal after weeks of following media coverage. Standing in front of him was Ben, a 20-year-old Apple Store employee who rushed to Colette today after he woke up and read about the event online. He’d been waiting for an hour when I spoke to him, and was only a few people away from the entrance. Both Kevin and Ben said they’d pay up to €400 for the Watch. That’s far lower than Colette’s luxury watch offerings, which range in price from $678 to $30,000. Apple has said prices for its watch will start at $349, though there has been speculation that its 18-karat gold Edition collection could retail for thousands.

Things were noticeably more hectic inside, where a different platoon of black-suited bouncers had corralled the Watch watchers into a small, roped-off area. The watches were displayed with different wristbands on a wooden table that was covered in glass, and there were some Apple employees standing around to entertain questions, but most people just hovered around the display and took photos. A tall wall separated the watches from the rest of the store, where customers were browsing through design books and hats to the "oonz-oonz" of terrible dance music.Outside the front entrance I started chatting with a tall, dreadlocked Frenchman named Gregory, who had just seen the Apple Watch with his two young children. A self-professed "Apple addict," Gregory said he had reservations about the watch when it was announced, but left Colette today feeling confident that he’ll buy one.

"I think they should stick with what they know and do well."

"I would have liked to touch it, to use it," he told me, pausing to grab his toddler before she walked out into the street. "But I have more information now about its functionality, the different screen-sizes… And I think for $349, that’s worth it for an Apple product."

But for some of the non-Apple addicts — the well-coiffed men and women walking around the rest of Colette, the trendsters that Apple has pandered to so carefully — the Watch bonanza was a bit more perplexing.

"I think they should stick with what they know and do well," said Glenda, an older, Louis Vuitton-wearing American woman who was shopping at Colette today. "Not fashion." Glenda spends most of her time traveling these days, but she used to run her own women’s boutique. She acknowledges that things have changed since she was embedded in the industry, though she doesn’t see fashionistas latching on to a gadget.

"I don’t think people who are fashionable are particularly techie — they’re fashion-forward," she added, as her friend opened her matching Louis Vuitton bag at the checkout counter. "I just think this is a nuisance."

Marco and Diego, two well-dressed 20-somethings from Milan, were similarly unenthused. "I don’t think I need it," Marco said as he stood in line. "But maybe it’ll be like the iPhone — a status symbol that people will want. I don’t know, I don’t wear watches."


Visitors waited for up to an hour to catch a glimpse of the Apple Watch.