Confessions Of A Collector: I Found An Apple Watch Edition (Series I)

Confessions Of A Collector: I Found An Apple Watch Edition (Series I)

What happens when a watch collector and Apple fanatic uncovers an Apple Watch that initially carried a price tag of up to $17,000? Well, a trip down memory lane, for starters.

By Josh Shanks

Twenty-five years ago, when this author was 15 years old, I explored a dusty storage space at my dad’s workplace in Kokomo, Indiana. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular that day; I was just a curious kid killing some time before my dad finished work.

As it turned out, I happened upon a ratty old brown cardboard box which contained various tangled cords, some old computer manuals, floppy disks (remember those?), and a boxy-looking computer with a rainbow fruit logo on it. My family was staunchly a PC family, and being the early nineties, Apple Computer was referred to like we talk about Gateway Computers, AOL, and ICQ today.

Nonetheless, I brought the box downstairs to my dad to take a closer inspection. Inside we uncovered a Macintosh Plus. The “Mac Plus” was Apple’s follow up to the original Macintosh computer, which helped to revolutionize the personal computer, and introduced Graphical User Interfaces (i.e., GUIs) to the computing masses. And thus, an obsession was born.

Experiencing Apple

To make a long story a little less long, I took the box home, plugged in the then-decade-old computer with a black and white screen, and proceeded to load in floppy disks. After all, it wasn’t like the computer had a hard drive the way modern computers do; it ran entirely via the floppy disk. And so there I sat, spending countless hours in front of this little boxy wonder, throwing anything and everything I could find at it.

The interface was intuitive, fun, and encouraged creativity. My only question at the time was, “Why on earth did these things not catch on?” Of course, I had no clue who Steve Jobs ever was at the time.

Like watch collectors tend to do, I fell deep down the Apple rabbit hole. I quickly scoured local computer repair shops throughout town to see if they had “any of those Mac computers.” My curiosity eventually steered me towards a store with a Mac LC III, a definite upgrade over my black & white Plus.

My parents always encouraged my love of computers, and I have them to thank for being where I am today. In the years following my encounter with Apple’s products, I left childhood behind and became a teenager.

I got a job at the local Sears store, where I was supposed to sell tools and hardware. But the year was 1998, which coincidentally is the year the first iMac came out, so I ended up spending more time in the electronics department than I did in the store’s “Tool Territory.”

Working at Apple

After graduating high school, I had one goal in mind: To work in an industry where I could use Apple computers. I know, I know, nerd alert.

So, naturally, I gravitated to the world of graphic design, where Macs proliferated on the desks of designers and artists. Truth be told, I was a terrible artist, but using these Aqua blue iMacs and G3 Mac desktop computers made me happier than the actual creative process.

During my time in college, I started a now-defunct Mac rumor site called I wrote thousands of words (more than likely very poorly) about Apple products, rumors, and the occasional review. And while creating and editing the site was fun, I still needed a day job. So flash forward to 2001, when Apple started opening its retail stores.

By then, my friends and I were well and truly hooked, so we traveled from Chicago to New Jersey to attend the grand openings of some of Apple’s first stores. If you haven’t seen it, the original Apple Store openings were an event in and of themselves.

Eventually, I applied for a job with Apple to be a salesperson at their soon-to-open Indianapolis, Indiana store at the Keystone at the Crossing Fashion Mall. To my surprise, I got the job but on the condition that I disabled my beloved Mac rumors site.

In the end, I ended up spending six years at Apple, first as a Sales Specialist, then as an iPod Specialist (yes, I’m that old), then Mac Genius, and finally as a Mentor/Corporate trainer. It was a career that took me from Kokomo, Indiana, to Cupertino, California, to New York City, and I loved every minute of it.

Flash Forward to Today

My time at Apple helped me launch into a career in technology. I worked everywhere, from a pharmaceutical advertising firm to a high-frequency hedge fund. Quickly, my love of computers became a day job, becoming mere tools to help other people make money.

By late 2016, I was an intrepid watch collector and left my day job to pursue a career in the watch industry. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn’t technology. I booked a one-way flight to Switzerland to meet this girl I had been dating for a few months.

Then, while staying with her, I connected with the team at Watchonista, who wanted to launch an affiliate in the United States. I put my name in the hat, made a business plan, and the rest, they say, is history. That girl? She’s now my wife.

The funny thing about writing is that it comes naturally (at least for me) if the topic is something I’m passionate about. For me, these passions have ranged from Mac computers to wine, and of course, watches. Funny enough, even though the iPhone was coming out just as I left Apple, I’ve managed to keep using Apple products in the decades since leaving Apple. I’m even typing this article on a Mac computer.

Tell Us About the Apple Watch

During my tenure at Watchonista, writing about timepieces, the industry, various personalities, and even the occasional celebrity, there have been a few instances where my Apple past has come back to life.

One of the first articles I wrote for another publication was about H. Moser & Cie.’s Swiss Alp Watch, which was quite disruptive at the time as it mirrored the design of Apple’s first smartwatch. Then, years later, I was the one who covered the Final Upgrade version of the Swiss Alp Watch for Watchonista. I couldn’t seem to shake my Apple past! And it is precisely that which brings me (1,000 words later) to today’s topic.

Those who know me know that 2021 was a generally miserable year. Besides the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic was still interfering with everyday life, I also lost my mother to ovarian cancer in June. She was the glue that held our family together, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still, to this day, affected by her passing. I even dedicated my Editor-in-Chief letter in Watchonista: Volume 01 to her.

Then, a few months ago, the husband of my mom’s dear friend (who was a faithful and loving friend to my mom until the very end but asked to have her name withheld) reached out. The husband, also a diehard watch collector, with everything from Breguet to Patek Philippe, sent me an email with the subject line: “Apple Watch Edition.” Needless to say, my curiosity was peaked.

The Watch

As the subject line of his email suggested, this collector had one of the original Apple Watch Edition (Series I) pieces that Apple launched alongside its original Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Edition got a lot of buzz at the time as it was crafted from 18K yellow gold and priced at a remarkable $17,000. My mom’s friend’s Apple Watch Edition model was a 42mm version on a black sports band. Of course, the collector in me thought that there was no way I could afford it.

But, after exchanging a few emails, I got word that this collector wanted to gift me the watch. His reply, “Send me your shipping address, and I will ship it to you in the next few days. As with any gift I give, do with it as you wish.”

I thought, no way is this happening. Am I about to receive one of the few dozen solid yellow gold Apple Watches in existence? As it turns out, FedEx delivered the watch only days later in its original white outer box with gold lettering that confirmed this was indeed a yellow gold Apple Watch Edition. Furthermore, the watch came encased in a dark blue leather charging case lined with felt. It felt far more luxurious than your run-of-the-mill Apple Watch.

In the Metal

Once I had the Apple Watch in hand, I charged it fully and strapped it to my wrist. My first impression was that it was just as heavy as equivalent precious metal timepieces. The watch weighs 2.43 oz (69 grams). So it’s safe to say the old saying of “worth its weight in gold” translates to approximately $4,360.68 by today’s melt value.

Watch collectors are always quick to point out that smartwatches have a shelf life of just a few years due to various software and hardware innovations that quickly make them obsolete. Plus, unlike a watch that can run for decades, if not centuries, an Apple Watch will eventually cease to function with modern technology – batteries die, software stops getting patched, and advancing hardware is only compatible with the newer models. Indeed, Apple has already moved onto the Series 7 version of its famous Apple Watch.

As for this Apple Watch Edition (Series I), it powers on, keeps time (probably better than any mechanical watch), and looks understated on the wrist for a five-figure smartwatch encased in yellow gold. In all honestly, I’d be perfectly comfortable taking it places that I’d never risk a Rolex.

Final Thoughts

Alas, being given this watch left me with a decision to make. What does one do with an Apple Watch Edition (Series I)? Wear it until the technology can’t possibly take it anymore, or offer it to an auction house and donate the proceeds to ovarian cancer charities? Think about it, Phillips or Sotheby’s marketing it as “a luxury watch auction’s first smartwatch.” I can’t help but think that has quite a ring to it!

We’ve also come full circle on my journey in technology and writing, as this will be my last article for Watchonista. I’m taking the next step in my career and joining a brand, one that I’m super passionate about and a brand that my mom and dad wore and wear proudly.

It’s bittersweet to leave such a fantastic team, but my mom always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. So hopefully, one day, I’ll figure out what that is.

In the meantime, thank you, dear Watchonistas. I wish all of you happy reading!

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell, other sources mentioned)

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