The tech industry doesn't usually make a point of inviting fashion journalists to its launches. I'm going to stick my neck out here, and say this is a first. That's important to bear in mind, because perhaps more than any product it has previously launched, the Apple Watch, if it is to seduce you, will first woo you with its looks rather than its brains.
That said, Apple believes this may be the most accurate watch ever made. In addition to telling the time wherever you are (as well as simultaneously in Kuala Lumpur or Buenos Aires, should you have a burning desire to know) it will do pretty much everything the iPhone does, albeit in miniaturised movements. The question is, does it do anything the iPhone doesn't?
Photo / Apple
Well...for one thing you'll be able to tap on a friend's face in your contacts and send them a pulsing sensation to prove you're thinking of them, provided they also have an Apple Watch. You'll also be able to use it as a phone, albeit with no ear piece, or, if you're considerate of others, you'll answer a call then transfer it, via blue-tooth to your mobile. No more missed calls because you can't locate your phone.
Photo / Apple
Ultimately, it may be its fitness tracking functions - they include heart and blood pressure monitors that are more sophisticated than anything else out there at the moment - which decide whether the Apple Watch flies. The success - up to now - of Nike's Fuel Band and the Fitbit inter alia, suggests there's a big demand for this kind of information. The Apple Watch promises to go much further with diagnostic and coaching features not currently available on existing wrist devices. They've drafted in a raft of medical and specialists to help them develop snazzy apps and believe that the Apple Watch will be a significant aid to good health.
Photo / Apple
But I'm getting ahead of myself. As one Apple insider said, if this watch did nothing other than tell the time, it would be a lovely object.
So how does it look and feel?
In the illustrations and photographs I was initially shown, very beautiful: a gnomically blank-faced rectangular sliver on a variety of straps that is both futuristic and intuitively familiar. Perhaps those illustrations created unrealistic expectations. When it was finally unveiled, it seemed a tad bulky. But they need to stash all that technology somewhere. Once on, it sits surprisingly elegantly on your wrist. And at the first satisfying chink of the buckle, which snaps together magnetically, it was on its way to clinching the deal.
Photo / Apple
Apple may have outdone themselves on the acoustic front. A professor of music from Amsterdam was commissioned to synthesise analogue watch chimes into digital sounds - it transpires that Jonathan Ive, Apple's Senior Vice President of Design, loathes the intrusive beeps and vibrations that characterize all smart phones. Nor is the noise that buckle makes accidental.
There are two size faces (38mm and 42mm) and three different styles. The entry price Apple Watch Sport ($349) comes in polished or black stainless steel; the Apple Watch in grey or silver anodised aluminium, and the luxury Watch Edition (both prices to be determined) in rose or yellow 18 carat gold. All three metals have been developed to Apple's specifications: the gold is harder-wearing than normal 18 carat gold, the steel more scratch resistant. The notorious shatter-prone glass on the iPad and iPhone will be superseded by Sapphire glass, apparently the toughest clear material currently available (other than diamond) and will be standard on all but the Sports model, which surely makes the latter a risky purchase.
Straps are interchangeable, either made of Viton (a synthetic rubber), quilted and plain leather, metal mesh or links, and are designed to be easily changed and altered to fit at home. Rip the watch-mender then.
Still with me? Because where Apple's watch leaves others standing is in the almost infinite ways it can be further individualized. There are eleven different faces with the basic package, ranging from traditional analogue dials with Roman, Arabic or no numerals, to the Timelapse, Solar and Astronomy faces featuring interactive, real-time 3D models of the earth, sun, moon, butterflies and planets as well as moving film of Big Ben, Yosemite National Park and other landmarks, where the light changes depending on the time of day.
Should they wish, wearers will be able to spend their day ruminating on their place in the universe. "This is where it gets more philosophical," says Ive. "But it's not esoteric. This is knowledge that the ancient Egyptians had and we've totally lost connection with the physical world and yes, I'm aware of the irony of me saying that."
Alternatively wearers can while away a quiet shift in the office by endlessly tweaking the look of their watch, transforming it from futuristic or kitsch to something that might resonate with a Cartier customer, and back again.
One of the most radical - in the true sense - developments has been the jettisoning of its pioneering pinch-to-display technique. There just isn't room, so after much soul searching and a year into the project, Ive's design team abandoned it in favour of a traditional looking side-winder, or crown, as they're known in watchie-circles.
It's a tiny control, given the watch's myriad functions, but a neatly respectful touch. As Ive points out, "with all the brilliant minds that worked on watches over the centuries, why wouldn't you want to keep some of that knowledge and expertise?"
Ive, it turns out, is a keen collector of analogue watches - his favourite is an old Patek Philippe. He and his team have spent a great deal of the past three years researching the history of time-keeping, becoming quite contemplative in the process. As they discovered, time is both a romantic notion and an emblem of power. Ownership of both the globe's most convenient time-zone and its most accurate time pieces enabled the British Navy to become all-mighty in the 17th and 18th centuries - a neatly symmetrical twist of fate not lost on Apple, nor on the traditional watch industry, which is both twitchy and tetchy about this invader, which will have been three years in the making by the time it's launched to consumers in 2015.
Are they right to be worried? The Apple Watch certainly multi-tasks and looks terrific, although most of us will deploy a fraction of its potential.
Would I like one? Yes. I love watches, and I'm a sucker for a good looking gadget. However, at least two generations have grown up, partly thanks to smart phones, not wearing watches. Will they be wowed? And will Apple convince aficionados of expensive watches, that the gold Edition version is an heirloom in the making rather than a cutting edge gizmo that will look quaintly outmoded in three years? And where will Edition sell? Presumably in a more luxurious environment than the deliberately nerd-centric Apple Stores. All this and more is a work in progress.
This much is clear - and perhaps this is the influence of Angela Ahrendts, ex-CEO of Burberry and now head of Apple's Retail, and of Paul Deneuve, formerly CEO of Saint Laurent now Vice President of Special Projects of Apple - the company is entering the style arena. It should be one hell of a show.