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Apple’s luxury watch dream is over

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Apple tried, and Apple failed.

The luxury watch market isn't for everyone. Many companies have tried to enter the market, which values exclusivity and hand-craftsmanship over mass-produced devices built by robots. Apple was the latest entrant, attempting to break in two years ago with the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition, which started at $10,000 and topped out at $17,000. It was essentially a luxury watch starter kit: it was gold, expensive, and Apple handed out custom versions to fashionable celebrities like Beyoncé and Karl Lagerfeld for the free promotion.

But now that watch is dead. You won't find a trace of it on Apple's website. The first generation Apple Watch Edition has been replaced by a ceramic version that will sell for a tenth of the price of the cheapest gold model, marking the end of Apple's attempt to woo luxury watch owners. Convincing the luxury watch market to buy an Apple Watch was never going to work with a square design anyway.

Apple Watch Series 2

The new ceramic Apple Watch Edition

There's a reason the biggest luxury watch brands have been around for an average of 100 years. People who spend tens of thousands of dollars on a mechanical watch aren't looking for innovation or dying to know when their next meeting is (that's what an assistant is for). Those watches are statement pieces, or heirlooms, or purchased just for the appreciation of a handcrafted device that largely hasn't changed in half a century.

There's a reason the biggest luxury watch brands have been around for an average of 100 years

Apple has now refocused its Watch efforts toward fitness, a place where it can easily succeed for years to come, a place where innovation isn't a bad word. There's a special Nike edition of the Apple Watch Series 2, and it's now waterproof and features a GPS chip for running and hiking. Health-related updates will keep users coming back and picking up a new Watch every two years, but you'd be hard pressed to find a Patek Philippe owner who is going to swap out his two-year-old watch for the latest Aquanaut model because the company improved the water resistance depth by 10 meters.

(Strangely enough Apple compared revenue of the Apple Watch against Patek Philippe in a slide during today's event. That's like comparing the revenue of GM against Aston Martin.)

Apple Watch Patek Philippe

Now that Apple has thrown in the towel on the luxury watch market, it's unlikely that another technology brand will attempt to breach that wall anytime soon. If the world's biggest and arguably most beloved brand can't stand next to a collection of private Swiss corporations for more than a couple years, companies like Samsung and Lenovo may not even attempt to cross that bridge.

In the end, failing in the luxury watch market may not end up being a bad thing for Apple. The company seems to be refocused on what it's good at, health and fitness, and it won't waste time chasing celebrities and begging them to wear their products, something that I can't imagine it was comfortable doing. Apple is now back to doing what it's known for — making innovative products for a market that wants and needs them, at a relatively affordable price.

See all of the iPhone and Apple Watch news right here!


Apple Watch Series 2 first look