The Apple Watch is the only Apple product I’ve even been super-interested in.
I like watches and always have, and I think Apple’s design guru, Jony Ive, and his team did a great job, for the most part, in creating Apple’s first true luxury device.
That said, I have no plans to buy and Apple watch anytime soon.
The watch fascinates me and I’m looking forward to visiting an Apple Store to “play” with the “piece,” as they say in the world of horological enthusiasm.
But the only thing I really want the Apple watch to do it tell time. Sure, some of the other features sound quite cool and probably have as-yet unforeseen potential, particular the quickie, minimalist messaging stuff and the ability to send your heartbeat to someone.
The combination of ever-changing watch faces and Apple quality is what, to me is cool about the Apple Watch. I also sort of like the idea of owning the first of some Apple something. I just bought a new watch, a Swatch Sistem 51 (I wrote about the timepiece here), mainly because it’s an innovative design and the first of its kind.
But I’m not going to buy the Apple Watch when it goes on sale because I intend to wait three years and pick one up used, when perhaps the only thing it can still do is function as a watch. I don’t expect Apple to be able to crack the planned obsolescence curve with the watch — my family has numerous old Apple devices that kinda sorta work, like a 10-year-old iBook that’s a glorified typewriter and an first-gen iPhone that takes awful photos. Basically, they have been reduced to performing a single duty.
In the watch world, depreciation is a much-discussed subject. The bottom line is that almost all the watches ever made and being made will be worth next to nothing almost right after they’re purchased. Even watches in the $US500-$US1,000 realm won’t be worth very much on the resale market.
The two brands that reliably don’t depreciate that much are Rolex and Patek Philippe (there are others, but those are the Big Two). The right models from these major Swiss watchmakers will hold value over time, although they will depreciate somewhat — they can retain about 70% of their original prices as a baseline, and then depending on what model you’ve bought, even appreciate over the decades.
If you’re an aspiring collector, just starting out, the advice you’ll most often hear is to buy a used Rolex or Patek, with all the correct certifications and documentation, at auction or from a very reputable dealer. The deprecation from new has already taken place, so you can wager on the value of watch remaining somewhat stable over time.
The buy-in here is maybe $US5,000 for a Rolex — a Submariner, for example — and substantially more for a Patek, perhaps $US10-20,000 for an iconic model, such as the Calatrava.
These are watches with automatic or mechanical movements that, if cared for properly and serviced on a regular schedule, could last forever — or as long as replacement parts are being made.
The Apple Watch isn’t a mechanical watch, so presumably it will suffer a much bigger initial drop in value. I don’t want to fool with the entry-level model, which has an aluminium case. The larger stainless-steel version, with the link band, is where I’d start. My understanding is that it will be priced at around $US1,000.
The significance of the watch may prevent it from losing half its value straightaway, so I’ll assume that there’s a “newness” premium that it will retain. But I still think its loss of functionality and displacement by newer Apple Watches will grind the value down. Plus, if people wear their Apple Watches every day, they’re going to beat them up.
So for me, the sweet spot to pick one up will be at the midway point of the second upgrade cycle. Apple Watch 1 will have been displaced by Apple Watch 2, and we’ll be eagerly awaiting Apple Watch 3. I’m guessing that Apple will update the watch on a two-year cycle, so that means buy time for me is sometime in 2018.
My wager is that I’ll be able to find the model I want, in reasonable working condition but outdated technologically, for around $US100, maybe a bit less. It will still tell time, but that’s maybe about all it will be able to do. And if not, well … I have a few old watches that don’t work anymore than I sometimes just wear because I like the way they look.
Now, watches are more collectible than old iPhones, so there’s every possibility that other collectors may have the same idea — and that a resale market for “vintage” Apple Watches may develop that keeps prices higher than they would be otherwise. And perhaps it would make more sense to avoid buying Watch 1, waiting for Watch 2, which will have a lower historical value.
We’ll have to see if that happens. I may have to cough up $US200.
Anyway, I will own an Apple Watch. I just won’t own one until I’m a bit older and grayer.
(And by the way, as an aside, I certainly expect Apple stock to be worth more tomorrow than it is today. So it would be interesting to take the $US800-$US900 I won’t be spending on a new Apple Watch and buy Apple shares instead.)
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