Apple is previewing Apple Watch at this year's Salone del Mobile in Milan with a one-day view and try-on event. It's a debut appearance at the world's major design fair for Apple and comes as excitement about the launch of its range of smart watches grows ever more fevered.
The launch takes place on 17 April at Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, which picked up the Best New Restaurant prize in February's Wallpaper* Design Awards issue. For locals, it may prove a tormenting teaser. Apple Watch will be launched in France, the UK and Germany as well as the US, Japan and China on 24 April but no launch date in Italy has been set yet.
Says Jony Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design: 'Salone del Mobile has such a deep-rooted history of embracing excellence in design so I'm particularly excited to celebrate our newest and most personal product, alongside our friends and fellow designers, at this special event.'
Observers are waiting to see if Apple Watch kick-starts stuttering demand for smart watches, just as Apple's iPod, iPhone and iPad did for MP3 players, smart phones and then tablets. It also represents the tech giant's most significant launch since it debuted the iPad five years ago and signals some seismic shifts in strategy, as mentioned in our latest May issue (W*194).
With three collections and almost infinite permutations of strap, size and case material, Apple Watch leaves behind the usual one-style-fits-all approach of past launches. And with an 18-Carat gold version of the Edition model retailing at £13,500, it also marks Apple's first explicit move into the luxury sector (prices start at £299). Price differences in Apple products have traditionally been based on under-the-bonnet boosts in speed and performance rather than the use of luxury materials. There has also been a shift in retail strategy with Apple Watch being launched through high-end concept stores such as Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Colette in Paris, Maxfield in LA and Corner in Berlin, as well as Apple Stores.
Ive and the Apple design team, with outside help from Marc Newson, have been working on Apple Watch for four years. And the company sees the Salone event as a way of properly introducing it to the international design community (largely loyal and long-term Apple consumers after all).
'Creating beautiful objects, respecting craftsmanship and focusing on a design process that's driven by the deepest care, utility and end use, has been our goal since the beginning,' says Ive. 'With the launch of Apple Watch, that's been more important than ever, to create a product where technology and craft, beauty and utility go hand in hand.'