How a luxury goods neophyte overcame her fear of Apple Watch shopping

How a luxury goods neophyte overcame her fear of Apple Watch shopping
Los Angeles Times reporter Tracey Lien tries on the Apple Watch at the Apple Store in Emeryville, Calif. Shoppers can choose from 10 watches, each nestled in a round pod inside a board game-sized box. (Tracey Lien / Los Angeles Times)

You can't just walk into an Apple store and buy an Apple Watch, my friend told me. You can't even just walk in and try it on. It's appointment only — no exceptions.

The whole thing had me nervous. I'd bought Macs and iPhones. But with the introduction of the Apple Watch, the company is now selling luxury goods. Goodbye, casual walk-in. Hello, upscale shopping.


My previous limited experiences with luxury goods shopping were defined by intimidation and humiliation. There was the time I walked into a Louis Vuitton store as a college student and immediately walked myself back out upon seeing how the people inside were dressed (i.e. not like a broke college student). Once, a relative of mine tried to haggle in a Gucci store in Italy, and I — unable to speak Italian — tried to panic-blink my apologies at the saleswoman. She panic-blinked her mortification back at me. Together we stood in the Gucci store with pained expressions and flapping eyelids.

I didn't think my Apple experience would be that bad, but if it was I had an exit strategy, which mostly consisted of swiftly exiting the store. So with that foolproof plan, I made an appointment at my local Apple store in Emeryville, Calif., to try on the Apple Watch.

At 10:30 a.m. on a weekday, the store was quiet and there were more Apple staff members than shoppers. I could have walked in without an appointment, I thought to myself. I received the customary greeting on entrance from an Apple store employee, who asked what I was there for, checked her iPad for my name, and directed me to a counter where the store was doing its Apple Watch demos.

An employee in a blue T-shirt and cargo shorts introduced himself as "D," and lifted the cover on a board game-size box containing the watches.

"Alrighty, what would you like to try on first?" he asked.

I immediately recognized the watches from the images I'd seen online. The box contained 10 watches, each nestled in a round pod. The watches in the top row had a 42-millimeter watch face, the ones below a 38-millimeter watch face. They all played the same pre-set video demo, showing off features such as text messaging, fitness tracking and the weather app.

"I'll try whichever is most popular," I said.

"38-millimeter or 42-millimeter?" he asked.

"38," I said. "42 might look like a dinner plate on my wrist."

D nodded in agreement and handed me the Apple Watch's lower-end Sport model with a rubbery white sport band. He helped me adjust it to fit my wrist, and I watched the demo. The colors were vivid and the images crisp. The default notification vibration was less a buzz and more a gentle pulse, like feeling a really big heartbeat against your wrist.

"Wanna try another one?"


I took off the sport band and tried on the same watch, but this time with a "Milanese loop" band, which looked like fine chain mail.

"This one's fancy," I said. "But…"


I positioned my wrists against the counter to mimic typing and inadvertently started banging my wrist against the countertop to indicate that it would be annoying to type while wearing the watch.

We went through a few more wristbands — a more discreet beige leather band, and then a chunky stainless-steel band.

"Yeah, I have no idea how to adjust that one," D said, looking at the steel watch slide up and down my wrist. "I think you gotta…"

"It's like one of those old man watches you have to take apart, I think?" I said.

"Yeah, maybe?"

The Apple Watch connects to the internet through the iPhone via Bluetooth. The one watch I was able to interact with wasn’t connected to a phone, so I couldn't test apps like Pandora, or Twitter. D ran me through a few enabled features, including the ability to send emojis to friends via the watch and zoom in and out of photos.

And that was about it, because D didn't know much else about the watch. He added that the list of back orders was long and, depending on the model I wanted, if I ordered it today I might have to wait until July to get it. I asked if he'd ordered one for himself. He said he normally doesn't wear watches, but he ordered a Sport model because it's lightweight.

Nothing is also lightweight, I thought, but didn't say.

"Well," I said, "I'll think about it. Thanks."

"Right on!"

Twitter: @traceylien