Apple recently announced that it had hired Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to oversee its retail business. So it comes as no surprise that the launch of its new i-watch is targeting the luxury market.
It’s no secret that Apple design chief, Sir Jonathan Ive, has long been keen to transform Apple into a technology-based luxury brand. This new i-watch should test the luxury market’s reaction.
48-year-old designer Ive has had his profile raised after several recent profiles in US Vogue and the New Yorker. His push towards the front of the company is a clear indication that Apple want more emphasis on luxury branding, style and class.
As well as Ahrendts influence, Ive also hired Marc Newson, an industrial designer, who just happens to be the husband of Fendi and Victoria’s Secret stylist Charlotte Stockdale, to work on the watch.
The new Apple watch will be available in six metal options, with two types of gold, 18-carat yellow and 18-carat rose. There are two face sizes with six face designs available and six band designs. The display is also protected by a highly polished sapphire crystal.
Ive said that he wanted to take wearable technology into the realm of elegant and stylish luxury products. He said the watch will be “a move away from what is traditionally understood as consumer electronics”.
Chief executive Tim Cook has said the product will “redefine what people expect from a watch”.
Ive’s added: “The fashion industry has an enormous amount to offer in what we do in industrial design because fashion is fast, fashion has its finger on the pulse. There are very few creative industries that work on that rhythm.”
To help create a buzz within the fashion industry, Apple invited several fashion houses to submit designs for the face of the watch. The tech company are hoping that as people have a preference for a certain handbag or pair of shoes, so they will for a piece of technology.
To further cement the fashion connection, Apple will launch the watch in Cupertino, California. The London-based design firm Gainsbury & Whiting, who organised the Alexander McQueen show Savage Beauty at the V&A Museum, will stage it.
Apple’s key market is China, where experts predict will account for around half of all global luxury goods by the year 2025. Apple made a huge $18bn profit on $75bn of revenue reported in January. This was partly due to a 70% increase in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as compared to the same time period last year.
Currently, Apple is the top company selling smartphones in China, with more than one fifth of its global revenues from that area alone.
Ahrendts is credited for this rise in sales in China, as it was one of her top three priorities, when she joined the company.
And where Apple leads, other brands are set to follow. A friend and former colleague of Ives, Clive Grinyer, is not surprised that he has gone down the luxury route:
“He’s always been a bit bling … Jon’s always wanted to do luxury.”