When purchasing a luxury watch, you might consider it more of an heirloom than a simple timekeeper. You can pass a well-maintained Submariner down to your progeny. You can generally sell a Nomos or an Omega long after you purchase it, often at a profit. Or you can simply keep it on your wrist as a reminder of the inexorable march of time, the importance of punctuality, and the genius of so many tiny mechanical pieces working together toward one simple but crucial function.
This will not happen with the first Apple Watch Edition models, despite Jony Ive’s strong desire to enter that realm. As of September 30, Apple moved the original Apple Watch models to its “obsolete” list, at least internally. That includes the “Edition” models that ranged from $10,000 to $17,000 at their April 2015 launch. When a product is “obsolete,” Apple no longer offers parts, repairs, or other replacement services for it.
The solid-gold Edition watches were no longer for sale as of September 2016, when a sensible-by-comparison ceramic Edition debuted for $9,000 less. Software updates for those watches ended in July 2018, a bit over three years after their release, with watchOS 5.
Any golden Edition watch will almost certainly not be working these days. The battery on a nearly eight-year-old, first-generation smartwatch isn’t likely to hold a charge, at the least. You could replace it yourself if you’re the type of person who is both extravagantly wealthy and also keen on cutting open a watch face with a scalpel. It might still be a good idea to remove that battery, though, given that its swelling could eventually put out the display.
It’s a very quiet, nearly invisible end for a watch that went out of its way to be seen. Apple seeded one-of-a-kind Edition watches to Beyoncé and design icon Karl Lagerfeld, with all-gold link bracelets that likely pushed the Edition into even more ludicrous pricing. Buying an Edition watch meant setting up a private one-on-one session in a select Apple Store in a major metropolitan area or having an Edition couriered to a store near you. After that, you’d have “an exclusive, dedicated Apple Watch Edition phone line for two years of 24/7 technical support,” according to a report by Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac.
Ars’ Andrew Cunningham made appointments to try on both the regular and Edition models at New York City Apple Stores shortly before their launch. At the 14th Street store, Watch and Watch Sport editions were kept in a slide-out drawer that had to be unlocked by store employees, and you got about 15 minutes to try everything on and ask questions.
At the glass-cube-topped flagship Fifth Avenue store, appointments were half an hour, in a private room, and attended to by “an almost ridiculously helpful, pleasant Apple Store employee.” The watches were brought in two at a time, in custom boxes that also served as charging cradles. The Edition employee was quite knowledgeable, but as Cunningham noted:
The only questions she couldn’t answer were the ones that Apple itself isn’t providing answers to—most importantly, how long can one expect one of these $10,000-and-up watches to be supported?
Ars commenters on that post and others related to the Apple Watch and its beyond-luxurious Edition model went back and forth trying to figure out the reason the latter existed. On one side, there was its nature as a “Rev.1” Apple product, the regular churn of any Apple hardware line, and the Watch’s complete dependence on a specific phone that likely wouldn’t support it in a few years—all of which bore out, for the most part. Others noted that, at its high price, the function was never the point. The $10,000 Edition was the same exact hardware as a $350 Space Gray model, just with precious metals and global wealth concentration attached.
The gold Editions sold only in the “low tens of thousands,” mostly in the two weeks after launch. After its strong push to market the Watch as a luxury timepiece—or, strangely, a watch that was somehow very precise at keeping time (while likely no more so than any other net-connected device)—Apple moved toward a more broad sense of the Watch as a notification and reminder triage screen, as well as a fitness helper. Jony Ive left the company a few years later, with inside reports suggesting that the Watch’s underperforming launch created distance between the acclaimed designer and the company whose fortunes he helped shape.
It makes sense that newer Watches would be better at tracking runs and measuring your vital signs than prior editions. Luxury goods are meant to stay timeless, which is hard to achieve when a gold watch needs a specific version of Bluetooth to connect to a certain range of iPhones, with parts that are offered for seven years and are unlikely to be in demand much after. The real value of an Edition was always going to be owning and showing it, not using it. Now it’s just a piece of gold, albeit one that’s a bit trickier to melt down for raw value.
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