The new era of perishable luxury

Apple has finally introduced the only $10,000 watch that won’t last you the day, but the catch is neither in the evanescent battery life, nor in the steep price alone.

The salient point is the idea of an ephemeral technological gizmo sold as a luxury item.

Up until this day, luxury implied an element of timeliness: prestigious watches, finely crafted jewellery and vintage cars lasted decades, and would commonly be passed from generation to generation.

The life expectancy of technology items, however, can be counted on the fingers of a single hand. An iPhone is not much use after two or three years, its programmed obsolescence materialising in the shape of an inaccessible software upgrade.

Previously, luxury watches were not mere design jewels, but also feats of technology in terms of miniaturisation, precision and durability.

Today, the first two have been completely commoditised. The top of the range golden Apple Watch is no smaller, no more precise and in fact no more featureful than the cheapest model. As for durability, no amount of gold will expand its dramatically short built-in expiry.

There is no leap in technology across models to justify the prestige. All that remains is an empty statement of wealth, a shiny frame enclosing the same mass-produced core as the most vulgar aluminium model, and the symbol of a new era of perishable luxury.

More than ever before, Apple’s talent lies in making people fetishise smart phones and watches that are no longer objects in the classical sense, but transient supports for a fast-evolving technology that has detached itself from the physical world.