Consumers in Australia, Tokyo and China flocked to Apple retail stores 10 April to get the world's first up-close look at CEO Tim Cook's first new major product, which the tech giant expects will be its next runaway hit.

The Apple Watch, which also marks the Cupertino, California company's debut in a fledgling wearable technology market, was available for pre-order online and to try out in stores - but not take home.

On 24April , consumers will be able to buy it online or by reservation at retail locations including high-end fashion boutiques in Paris, London and Tokyo, part of Apple's strategy of positioning the wearable computer as a must-have accessory.

Based on recent customer interest at its stores, Apple expects demand for the watch, which allows users to check email, listen to music and make phone calls when paired with an iPhone, to exceed availability at launch, it said on 9 April.

Reviewers this week praised the watch, which also helps users monitor their health and exercise, as "beautiful" and "stylish" but gave it poor marks for relatively low battery life and slow-loading apps.

Still, Apple's watch is widely expected to outsell those by Samsung, Sony and Fitbit, which have attracted modest interest from consumers. It will likely account for 55 percent of global smartwatch shipments this year, according to Societe Generale.