What Do You Do When Your Solid Gold Apple Watch Is Obsolete?

On last week’s episode of The Committed Podcast, Ian, Rob and I were speculating on the prices of the Apple Watch when it is finally released. We know the base price of the sport model, with the plastic watchband: $349. But for the others, not a clue.

My guess for the solid gold watch was a bit lower than theirs, but other people have speculated even higher prices. My thought was that Apple couldn’t see a gold watch at a high price if it becomes obsolete in a year. People who pay for premium watches keep them for a lifetime, and pass them on to their children or grandchildren.

The thought had crossed my mind that they might be upgradable. Imagine that, if the high-end Apple Watch costs, say, $10,000, you can upgrade it with future internal models for a few hundred dollars. (I see that John Gruber is suggesting this as well.)

But there’s a problem with this idea: it suggests that Apple will never change the form factor of the watch, that it will always have the same shape and size. And it’s a pretty fair bet that future models will be thinner, and may have slightly different shapes.

The upgrade idea might wore for a few generations, but it wouldn’t be a long-term possibility. Maybe Apple will let you trade in their watches, for new models; Apple could melt down the gold and use it for new watches. Because one thing about luxury watches is their style; it’s pretty much frozen in a style that will live on for decades without looking outmoded. The Apple Watch we’ve seen so far will probably look like the first iPods when compared with new models in 5 years or so.

Apple has to balance two competing concepts with the Apple Watch: the need for tech devices that are useful, and that can evolve as their capabilities expand, and the need for a device that people want to keep for a long time. Having a luxury model prevents the company from treating this product family as they treat iPods and iWatches. The more expense the high-end Apple Watch, the more tension there will be between these two concepts.