Apple Inc. has made every effort to convince the fashion world that the Apple Watch is the next chic accessory. Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns became the timepiece’s highest-profile advocate from the fashion world when she joined CEO Tim Cook onstage in San Francisco on Monday. The company has made a big publicity push in Paris, giving style heavyweights Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour and model Karlie Kloss an advance preview ahead of a display last fall at the Paris boutique Colette, and has taken a 12-page spread in the latest issue of Vogue. But has it convinced the fashionistas that the Apple Watch belongs on their wrists? Not so far.
For all of the glitz surrounding the watch’s introduction, the multi-tasking timepiece was met in the fashion world Monday with a yawn. Members of the style establishment, in Paris for shows from the glittering likes of Chanel, Givenchy and Hermes mostly said they saw the watch as a gadget, not this season’s must-have accessory. Up-and-coming model Julia Van Os dismissed the new device in an interview with Reuters after working the Stella McCartney show inside the ornate Opera house. “I haven’t heard anyone talking about it,” said the Dutch model. “It’s a different world, it’s more technology rather than fashion. People don’t wear that kind of watch in fashion.”
A salesman at the famed department store Printemps agreed, saying his store won’t carry the watch, which will range in price from $350 to more than $10,000 for the high-end Apple Watch Edition in 18-karat gold. “You have to understand. We are luxury brands, and [the Apple Watch is] more technology,” said the salesman at Printemps, which carries such brands as Rolex, Montblanc and Longines.
Apple’s new timepiece, which will go on sale in April, links to a wearer’s iPhone, and can display messages, alerts and appointments, among other things. An array of apps can track fitness, arrange a car with Uber, and even open a garage door remotely. The rectangular watch face display can be changed by the user to feature a range of styles, from Mickey Mouse pointing his hands at the time to a simple digital clock.
French newspapers put coverage of Monday’s Apple watch unveiling on their business pages, reserving their popular glossy fashion pages for the winter runway shows and ads for luxurious items such as watches by Bulgari and Boucheron.
Luxury consultant Robert Burke, who is based in New York but is currently in Paris for the shows, said the Apple watch simply “hasn’t resonated strongly” in the fashion world. “Apple has notably been targeting the fashion world leading up to its launch, but the watch still has an inherently tech focused sensibility,” Burke said. “The tech world and the watch world are very different,” he added. “While there’s certainly a novelty and attraction to the [Apple Watch], so far it has appealed more so to the early tech adopters.”
Nevertheless, he added, the company’s push could pay off. “Their message to the fashion world has definitely become more focused over the past few weeks,” he said. “It’s evident that they’ve been fine tuning their strategy.” Among other things, the company ran a 12-page advertisement in the March issue of Vogue, which Burke said people noticed. “The buzz is starting to build again,” He said.
Though Turlington noted that she was wearing her “chic” version of the watch at Apple’s Monday event, she praised it primarily as a fitness tracker, noting that it had helped her in training for a half-marathon in Tanzania and would, she hoped, help her crack the four-hour mark in her next full marathon.
But her endorsement may not hold much sway with people who primarily want an attractive watch. Fashion trend-spotter Roseanne Morrison of the Tobe Report said the watch’s need for a nightly charge and an accompanying iPhone were considerable drawbacks. “It is not attractive from a woman’s point of view. Right now, it is not sexy,” she said, and lacks “a femme spin.”
Nicole Phelps, executive editor at Style.com, who attended the Apple unveiling at Colette, said Apple has one big advantage with the fashion crowd that could help as it launches its new watch. “The fashion industry is 100 percent in love with iPhone,” she said. “The Apple Watch looks like an Apple product, it looks good and sleek, and you have the market behind it.” But in the end, she said, it will come down to one crucial question: “Do people want those tools around their wrist?”