Apple's official ending of its support for the first-gen Gold Watch Edition is a cautionary tale of tech vs luxury
In a move that underscores the ephemeral nature of tech in contrast to the enduring appeal of luxury timepieces, Apple has officially declared its first-gen Apple Watches, including the vaunted 18-karat gold Edition, "obsolete." This announcement marks not only the end of software support – which, in reality, ceased back in 2018 with watchOS 4.3.2 – but also the discontinuation of hardware support. Meaning, if your Series 0 Apple Watch starts to glitch or outright fails, Apple will no longer offer parts, repairs, or replacement services.
Now, let's rewind a bit to understand the significance of this. The gold Apple Watch Edition was priced between US$10,000 to $17,000 when it was unveiled in 2015. Apple's former lead designer, Jony Ive, seemed to have envisioned the piece as a crossover between tech and high fashion. Indeed, the gold Edition found itself strapped to the wrists of influential celebrities, such as German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and music icon Beyonce, each sporting a gold link bracelet that the general public couldn't purchase even if they had the means. But while the celebrity endorsement captured attention, it raised the question: Who was this luxury wearable actually for?
Apple's gamble into the luxury watch market was daring yet short-lived. After a year, the gold Edition was unceremoniously dropped, making way for more economical but still premium ceramic and titanium versions. This truncation might imply a reckoning with reality: The people who can afford to spend five figures on wristwear often look for timeless value – both in utility and investment. Traditional luxury watch brands like Cartier, Patek Philippe, and Rolex offer first-party repair services that extend well into the decades. That’s the kind of assurance you expect when you’re dropping the equivalent of a car loan on your wrist.
Apple's Edition watches didn't offer that kind of longevity. Unlike a Cartier Tank or a Rolex Submariner, which can be serviced and worn for generations, Apple's first-gen luxury watch is now relegated to obsolescence after a mere six years. For those who spent upwards of US$10,000 on this particular piece of Apple history, their options are rather limited: seek assistance from a third-party repair shop, attempt a DIY battery replacement, or continue to wear the non-functioning device as an exercise in digital nostalgia or, dare we say, ironic fashion.
The declaration of obsolescence for the first-gen Apple Watches serves as a lesson in the collision between tech and luxury. The technology sector, driven by an ever-accelerating cycle of innovation, often leaves its older devices behind. In contrast, the luxury market prizes heritage, craftsmanship, and longevity. And when a company tries to straddle both worlds, as Apple attempted with its gold Edition, it risks satisfying neither fully. It also lays bare a crucial question for the consumer – what kind of value are you really getting for your money, especially in an age where technology can become 'obsolete' in the time it takes traditional luxury items to just begin accruing vintage charm?
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