The Apple Watch launched globally on 24 April with a small queue of Japanese tech-addicts lining up in Tokyo for Apple's first wearable gadget, but there was no sign of the excitement usually attached to the company's product rollouts.

Buyers can take the smartwatch home from a handful of upscale boutiques and department stores, including The Corner in Berlin, Maxfield in Los Angeles and Dover Street Market in Tokyo and London, which Apple courted to help position the watch as a fashion item.

People gathered outside Maxfield in Hollywood early Thursday to secure their chance for one of the small number of Apple Watches. Richard Ryan said he arrived at the store at 8.00am local time to make sure he was the first person in line.

"You could pre-order it online but unfortunately some of the delivery times were really long for some people and getting the steel or the edition watch, different versions, were online till June or July and given this is the only place in America that was selling them on launch day we decided to come here," Ryan said.

The gadget will not be sold at Apple stores on Friday. The company is directing people to order online instead, which should prevent the lines of Apple devotees who typically flock to iPhone and iPad launches.

The lack of queues at Apple stores will make it hard to judge popular demand for the watch, which comes in 38 variations.

Apple has not released any numbers since it opened for pre-orders on 10 April, although many buyers were told their watches would not arrive for a month or more as supply appeared to dry up.

Wall Street estimates of Apple Watch sales vary widely. FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives raised his sales estimate this week to 20m watches from 17m, based in part on online order backlogs.

Apple itself said on Wednesday that some customers will get watches faster than promised. The Cupertino, California company previously predicted that demand would exceed supply at product launch.