Apple Watch launches quietly at handful of big-city boutiques

Fri Apr 24, 2015 2:34pm EDT
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By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Teppei Kasai

NEW YORK/TOKYO (Reuters) - The Apple Watch launched quietly around the world on Friday without the usual frenzy or fanfare for an Apple Inc rollout, as a handful of boutiques in major cities like Tokyo and Paris sold the timepiece - but not for purchase at its own stores.

Shops included The Corner in Berlin, Colette in Paris, Maxfield in Los Angeles and Dover Street Market in Tokyo and London. Apple courted the outlets to promote the watch as a fashion item rather than just another techie gizmo.

The watch has been on display in Apple stores since April 10, when it became available for preorder. Customers began receiving the smartwatch on Friday, though there were delays to June or later as Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook's first product has drawn more demand than expected.

Paired with an iPhone, the watch allows users to check email, listen to music and make phone calls. It also tracks a person's health, for instance by monitoring heartbeats or tracking calories burned during a workout.

A small group of Japanese tech addicts lined up in Tokyo to become the first to buy the watch, with about 50 people at electronic store Bic Camera in Tokyo's Ginza district while another 20 were at a shop of mobile carrier SoftBank Corp.

"I buy one or two Apple products every time they release something new," Chiu Long, a 40-year-old IT worker from Taiwan, told Reuters, waiting at Bic. "I like to run, so the heart rate reader is progress."

In Berlin more than 100 people stood in line at designer boutique The Corner on Friday morning. First to walk out with an Apple Watch Sport was Alex Anikin from Russia, who waited overnight in line outside the store. "We came first at 11 yesterday, so (we have been waiting) 22 hours approximately," he told Reuters.

At New York's Fifth Avenue Apple store, dozens of customers crowded around watch displays and demos, even though they could not purchase the watch there. FBR Capital Markets senior analyst Daniel Ives polled customers at the store and said about 15 percent were there to either try or better understand the watch, which he called a "good early sign."   Continued...

Apple Watches are pictured under a glass display table at the company's flagship store in Sydney April 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Jason Reed