The 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition has been discontinued, dead just a year and a half after it began. Since the company never released official sales figures, we’ll never knew how many models actually crawled off the shelves, but in the months after its release, MacRumors estimated that just under 2,000 had been sold.
In terms of revenue, that’s at least $20 million, as the base price for the watch was $10,000. But for one of the world’s most powerful companies, it wasn’t enough to save it from humanity’s practical conscience as Apple quietly pulled its gold watch page from its website. This came as Apple unveiled its upgraded Apple Watch series 2.
The extremely paltry sales make it hard to track down owners of the gold Apple Watch Edition for their reactions, but it’s not impossible thanks to Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit.
Christel Quek, a VP at Brandwatch, a platform for monitoring social media response about brands and products, is a proud owner of a gold Apple Watch Edition, and isn’t much bothered by the Apple Watch Series 2 superseding her model.
“I got it because of the collectability,” she said via a Twitter direct message. An educated fan of European watches like IWC and A. Lange & Sohne, Quek wears the gold Apple Watch Edition in rotation with the other watches in her collection and reckons its discontinuation will make hers more collectible.
But unlike the mechanical watches that can operate without electronics of any kind, the Apple watch’s electronics destine it to a relatively short life and slow death, as future updates will render it slower and slower. Quek, of course, knew this from the outset. “‘For sure, gadgets have a shelf life,” she said. “I actually got it because it was something that I wanted to make a statement about. Luxury.”
Collectibility, which is not tied to fresh battery and performance, is so often married to the idea of alternate investment opportunities, with items hoarded away in the hopes that they will result in future windfall. Perhaps the Museum of Modern Art or a private horological collection will scour the Earth for gold Apple Watch Editions to purchase and display, but for Quek, that wasn’t the point. “I don’t think this would be an investment. It would be a bonus if it did appreciate in value. Sure it might not have the waterproofing or the other cool new bells and whistles, but ironically, that edition will [be the luxury, collectible] Swiss version of the Apple Watches.”
All this flies in the face of the consternation and the face-palming that some on Twitter were expecting with salivating schadenfreude. Quek and other Apple Watch owners were nothing if not psyched with the new model, showing no early adopter’s remorse. “Now I’m a bit at a loss as I wanna get the new Apple Watch for swimming,” said Quek, who is eyeing the new ceramic Edition that will sell for a tenth of the price of a gold Edition. “This time I’ll get a more affordable version of the waterproof Apple Watch. Even if there was a really expensive version of it.”
I found Ryan, another gold Edition owner, on Instagram after he commented, “I don’t give a damn if the second one is coming out. Same s***.” When I asked him why he shelled out the price of a compact car on a gadget with the shelf life of a pair of shoes,” he responded tersely, “collectibility and investment.”
Interestingly, he said the bling factor was not really applicable since Apple had offered rose gold versions of the cheaper aluminum models which could look similar to the untrained eye, torpedoing any attempts of conspicuous consumption.
As for the inevitable successor rendering his Apple Watch old, he, unlike Quek, isn’t so rosy.
“To me I feel like it’s bad, because the value of this watch will go down probably dramatically due to the new watch that is coming out,” he said. “Plus, the gold just wasn’t really a hit.”
During the journey into the corners of Twitter and Instagram, I did find something interesting that perhaps has skewed public perceptions of the expensive gold editions—there are probably way more gold-plated Apple Watches than gold Apple Watch Editions.
Why? Well, that’s because you can buy an aluminum Apple Watch that has been gold plated by a third party with five microns of gold for less than $2,000. According to an employee of one gold-plating company I messaged who sells gold-plated Apple Watches, they sold as many as eight a day during the December holiday season. He said it’s possible his numbers are greater than Apple’s, if the rumor of 2,000 was accurate.
If true, that could mean that the gold Apple Watch wasn’t really a bust, after all, and that Quek’s genuine model could in fact have second-hand traction as a collectable later on.
It also means that while Apple has discontinued the gold Apple Watch, you can still get one gold plated, if you desire the Midas touch.
Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on personal finance and tech. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.