Apple Watch Skewed to Geeky Guys Risks Alienating Female Buyers

Apple Watch Hands-On: How It Works

Cindy Romani isn’t pumped about Apple Inc.’s smartwatch.

“It looks really techy, so I guess if you’re into that, I think it’d be good,” the 21-year-old college student said as she shopped Tuesday along New York’s Fifth Avenue. “I don’t really think it looks so pretty.”

Women are chiming in a day after Apple introduced its much-anticipated wrist gadget, with models priced from $349 to $10,000 and customizable by color, watch face and bands. The device, which must be paired with a newer iPhone to work and has to be recharged nightly, may appeal to sports-minded female consumers, according to Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, a brand consulting firm in New York.

“It feels clearly skewed to the geeky men’s side of the population from a functionality point of view, and from a design point of view -- it’s large and square,” Adamson said. Among members of the opposite sex, its target market is “the intense, athletic women, the fitness fanatics,” he said.

Wooing women is on Apple’s mind. It displayed the watch during Paris Fashion Week in September, and during its debut Monday, model Christy Turlington Burns appeared onstage with Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook. Turlington Burns was an early tester of the device, which has health and fitness-tracking functions, and used it while she ran a half-marathon in Africa earlier this month.

“It makes sense to have someone who can help sell it from a nontech perspective,” said Simeon Siegel, senior retail analyst for Nomura Securities International in New York. “It makes sense that one would use a model to model a new piece of technology.”

Size Issue

Amy Turner, a 40-year-old teacher, is an Apple consumer and isn’t concerned about how a watch might compromise her style.

“I wouldn’t worry about it being fancy or whatever,” Turner said while shopping in midtown Manhattan. She said she cares more about size. “My problem is I have a hard enough time seeing what’s on my big 6 Plus phone.”

So will it appeal to women in general?

“Females wear watches because of fashion,” Erinn Murphy, an analyst in Houston with Piper Jaffray Cos., said in a telephone interview. While she said it’s too early to tell about the Apple Watch’s allure for women, her gut feeling is “early-adopter, tech-oriented males” will respond to the product first and then with time the market will understand the female adoption rate.

Growing Market

Whether or not women hop aboard Apple’s watch cart, sales of wrist-wearable gadgets are expected to increase to as many as 200 million devices by 2018 from about 26 million last year, and could approach half of traditional watch units, Murphy said in a research note last week.

“Given that watches today are being worn for fashion and status, we do not believe everyone will abandon wearing their watches and purchase a wearable” device, Murphy wrote.

Romani is among that population. She wears a traditional watch and said she isn’t interested in the athletic and other functions of the Apple device.

“It looks pretty,” she said of her own wristwatch. “I actually use it to check the time; I don’t check my phone.”

When Apple Watch went on display in Paris last fall, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and designer Karl Lagerfeld posed with Apple’s head of design Jonathan Ive. Yet the event was attended largely by men, according to technology and media website The Verge.

“In the world of marketing, you’re better off making it more masculine, because some women will wear masculine things,” Landor’s Adamson said. “You typically err toward making it more masculine.”

Amy Bessette, an Apple spokeswoman, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the marketing strategy and budget for the device.

The Apple watch will be available for preorder on April 10 and will reach consumers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the U.K. and U.S. on April 24.