Apple is making a huge mistake by charging over £8,000 for its gold Watch Edition, the company is pretending to be luxury, and they are "having a laugh," says Mike France, co-founder of premium British watchmaker Christopher Ward.
Speaking to IBTimes UK, France praises Apple, Google and others for getting into the watch market and said "it's fantastic that there's this focus on the wrist", but Apple charging between £8,000 and £13,500 for the solid gold Watch Edition model "will rebound against them.
"By pretending they are luxury, they are forgetting what they are about," reckons France.
A ten year old company, Christopher Ward sells more than 250 models of wristwatch with prices ranging from £299 (where the Apple Watch also starts) to £2,450. Two years ago, France reveals, the company was approached by a startup looking to produce a smartwatch a full year before Google gave birth to the market with Android Wear, but declined to form a partnership with what became no more than a failed KickStarter project.
France says, if the right technology came along and it genuinely improved the experience of owning a mechanical watch, then Christopher Ward may be interested. "We will [keep an eye on the smartwatch market] and if there's something which we believe really enhances the experience for the wearer, that marries the artistry of true watchmaking with some technological advance that is worth having, we will look into it."
Smartwatch opportunity not lost on watch industry
Citing the Withings Activité, a smartwatch with mechanical hands, Bluetooth and fitness sensors, France said: "I think we may end up finding the future is about where mechanical and smart technology merge into individual pieces, so you end up with the best of both worlds on your wrist...I think that's an opportunity that certainly hasn't been lost on the watch industry."
Companies in any industry "can't take anything Apple does lightly," France admits, but points to the fact that not all of Apple's products have been runaway successes. The Apple TV took several years of refinement before being classed as more than a mere hobby project, and iPod Hi-Fi was killed off after less than two years.
A self-confessed fan of Apple and its lead designer Jony Ive, France said the Watch is "the first Apple product that I don't crave, because it's not beautiful. It's not as beautifully contrived [as other Apple products], and visually I find it rather disappointing."
But while France admits a £299 starting price for the Watch Sport, and even the regular Watch's sub-£1,000 price range is acceptable, he maintains the gold Watch Edition is a mistake.
Out of date
"I think the first person that's spotted wearing an £8,000 or £10,000 Apple Watch will be a figure of fun. You've got to be absolutely crackers to be spending that sort of money on something that's going to be out of date so quickly. You've got more money than sense and you've got no sense of proportion."
A concern among consumers and analysts alike is how often the Apple Watch will be updated, with some questioning if using one in several years' time will be like using an original iPhone today, with a slow interface and outdated software no longer compatible with new applications and other devices.
France went on: "I actually think, seriously, it will rebound against [Apple]. I think by trying to pretend that this is luxury, they are forgetting what they are about and [Apple is] in danger of [ridicule]. These are not relative values...it begs questions about what luxury is, and how stupid you have to be to spend £8,000 on a piece of technology that is pretending to be luxury. I personally don't get it. I think they are making a huge mistake. I think it's funny."
When asked if the production cost and use of solid gold are fair reasons for Apple charging such a high premium over the aluminium and stainless steel versions of Watch, France laughed.
"No. Good lord, no. Not a chance. No, no, no. They're having a laugh really. They're taking the Mickey...maybe Kanye West will be the first to wear one, it's that sort of thing."