A model, shown on Apple's website, wears a 18-karat yellow gold Apple Watch.
A model, shown on Apple's website, wears a 18-karat yellow gold Apple Watch. apple.com

Apple Watch could go up to $5,000 for solid 18k gold version

WHEN Apple unveiled the Apple Watch back in September they gave details for three separate models with prices starting "from $349". It's expensive for a smartwatch, said the experts, but this is Apple - since when have they ever made anything cheap?

Well, it turns out "from $349" might be just the start of it with Apple rumour-monger iGen.fr reporting that prices for the device will actually go up to $5,000 (£3,150) for the solid 18-karat gold model, while the stainless steel version is predicted to start at $500 (£310).

The authenticity of these prices its unknown (although iGen have had some hits in the past - including reporting the exact dimensions of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) but they do match what the experts are saying about the Apple Watch - especially if Apple wants to be the first tech company to never sell a smartwatch again: they just want to sell watches.

Long-time Apple watcher John Gruber even predicted prices like this back in September, pointing out that Apple was finally moving away from its long tradition of 'accessible luxury' where - to quote Andy Warhol - the "richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest."

"You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too," wrote Warhol back in 1975. "A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking."

This is true of the iPhone and the iPad - but it won't be true of the Apple Watch. As Adam Fields summed up the situation on Medium: "There's a gold version [of the watch] whose only substantial differentiating feature is that it's more expensive. Because it's "gold" and not "gold-colored", it's not just a style choice, it's a lifestyle choice."

Gruber adds that even if you just sold the gold in the 'Edition' Apple Watch to be melted down it would still fetch a couple of thousand dollars at least, and when you compare the price difference between regular- and solid gold-Rolexes (add at least $10,000 for the soft, yellow stuff and then start climbing) then $5,000 might actually be relatively sane.

In an industry where functionality has always been the most important factor (at least that's what companies tend to claim about their products) Apple has long been unusual for selling 'lifestyle' products. Now, with the 'Watch', that transition might be complete - and you'll see what it's really like when Apple starts making money.