When it came to picking 18-karat gold for the Watch, Apple's first new gadget in five years, the company's top designer went with what felt best.
"The choice of gold wasn’t driven by some notion of predetermined price point—that absolutely wasn't the reason we chose that material," Jony Ive said Wednesday, April 22, in Florence, Italy, during a rare public appearance. "We chose that material because we loved it, and we didn’t just buy it off the shelf; we developed our own gold."
Apple's gold alloy is as much as twice as hard as standard gold, according to the company's website. The material is used in the high-end version of the smartwatch, which starts at $10,000 in the U.S. and reaches $17,000.
"It really is our love of material that drives so much of what we do, so much of the way we look at the world," he said.
The Apple Watch, which officially goes on sale Friday, is a move by the Cupertino (Calif.) tech company to position the brand in the upper echelon of luxury, competing not just against other gadgets but with high-end timepieces. The company is offering less expensive models made with aluminum and stainless steel.
Ive spoke about the Watch at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference, which is slated to include executives from Tiffany, Hermès, Chanel, and other high-end brands.
Apple's success in disrupting the smartphone industry, which fueled its climb to become the world's largest company by market capitalization, wasn't far from the conversation. Some in the luxury industry are scared about what Apple will do in luxury watches, Suzy Menkes, editor of International Vogue, said at the event.
Ive said the company is on "the same path that Apple really determined to be on in the ’70s, which was to try to make technology approachable and relevant and personal." If users "struggled to use the technology, then we failed," he said.
The Watch is testing Apple's ability to enter a new category. Preorders began April 10, and shipment times quickly pushed past the first delivery date of April 24. Shortly after Apple began taking orders, the arrival of high-end versions of the Watch were delayed until June. The company won't initially have any watches in its stores on Friday to purchase, in part because of inventory issues.