Tom Doctoroff
Tom Doctoroff

Apple expects to make a blast with its watches, just as it did with iPhone and iPads. But success in the China market is not that obvious, says marketing expert Tom Doctoroff in Bloomberg. They will have to prove themselves, he says.


Apple opened six stores in China in the six weeks before the 9 March press conference, including the one in Hangzhou, bringing the total to 21. The company has said it plans to have 40 stores in the country by the middle of 2016.

In China, perhaps even more than the US, Apple will have to prove itself as a luxury watchmaker, says Tom Doctoroff, head of J. Walter Thompson’s Asia Pacific arm and author of What Chinese Want. In a market where luxury cars are seen as coming from Germany and fine wines from France, Doctoroff says, smart watches will have a tough time dislodging Rolex. “Generating face, or social currency, requires instant telegraphing,” he says. “The Apple Watch will compete with expensive watches that project identity in a rather immediate way. Even though Apple is creating the gold-cased Edition, this will be faux luxury to elite Chinese.”

A quick survey of shoppers perusing watches in Beijing on 10 March suggests that Apple has work to do before it starts shipping its gold to China. Chen Zhiting, a 55-year-old retired commodities broker, was looking to buy what he called a “sporty” watch for as much as $8,000, but the 18-karat Edition wasn’t on his radar. “Does Apple make watches?” Chen asked.  “I thought they were the iPad people.”

More in Bloomberg.

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