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This is how the rich will shop for an Apple Watch Edition in Paris

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Nice, but no red carpet

I was one of the first people to try on the Apple Watch Edition at this morning's preview event in Paris, and it was surprisingly normal. Previous reports suggested that Apple had developed "a unique Apple Store purchasing experience" for people who wished to try on the 18-karat edition of its new smartwatch, which is priced at up to $17,000. My experience was certainly pleasant and informative, but it was hardly the "red carpet treatment" that many expected — and some feared.

I booked my appointment as soon as I got in line this morning at around 8:15AM. The doors of upscale department store Galeries Lafayette were to open at 9, and only two other people were waiting. An Apple employee booked me with the same handset / Apple ID system used to register Genius Bar appointments, and once the doors opened and the first rush of cheers subsided, I was guided to the far end of Apple's section for my fitting. (Four sections of long wooden tables are fanned out across the second level of the building — the first three for the Apple Watch, and the last for iPhones.)

Not the Pretty Woman experience I was hoping for

A friendly and entirely competent employee ran me through the various sizes and wristbands, which were all displayed under a glass and wooden case. He asked me what I was looking for and how I planned to use the watch (I don't), and then helped me select two models to try on (the most expensive). I then had to wait around for about 20 minutes, because, as was later explained to me, the Watch Editions are kept in an entirely different part of the department store, which is huge. Once they arrived in gray leather boxes, I tried them on over one of the tan leather mats that have been laid atop the tables, but I couldn't actually use the watches because the Editions are not functional. Instead, they play a demo loop and will remain like that once the watches go on sale later this month. (The cheaper models are live.)

The fitting was enjoyable enough, but it was far from the champagne-and-strawberries, Pretty Woman treatment I was secretly hoping for. The section wasn't roped off or at all different from the areas where the cheaper Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models are displayed, and didn't seem especially "magical" to me. Maybe things will be slightly different in Apple's own stores — today's event was only for fittings, no sales until April 24th — but for a watch that costs nearly as much as a college education, the experience was a bit pedestrian. And given the concerns over this product dividing the haves from the have-nots, that's probably a good thing.