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Backlogged orders as shoppers get close-up look at Apple Watch

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Updated: 06:21 GMT, Apr 12, 2015 | Published: 06:21 GMT, Apr 12, 2015 |
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Various models of Apple Watch are seen on display at an Apple Store in Berlin

Customers preordering Apple Inc’s smart watch on Friday will have to wait at least a month for delivery, a sign of strong early demand for company chief Tim Cook’s first new major product. People flocked to Apple’s stores around the world to get a close-up look at the Apple Watch, the tech company’s foray into the personal luxury goods market, with Apple predicting demand would exceed supply at product launch.

A key factor in the watch’s success will be demand once an initial wave of interest from Apple enthusiasts subsides. The watch goes on sale officially on April 24, online and through appointments in shops, including trendy fashion boutiques in Paris, London and Tokyo, part of Apple’s strategy of positioning the wearable computer as a must-have accessory. But soon after online preorders opened on Friday, Apple’s website listed shipping times in June for some models of the watch and four to six weeks for others. There was immediately brisk bidding on eBay for confirmed orders for watches, with hundreds of sellers looking to make a few hundred or even thousand dollars by passing on their watches, once received.

Testing Apple’s mastery of consumer trends, the watch is an untried concept for the Cupertino, California-based company. It straddles a technology market accustomed to rapid obsolescence and luxury goods whose appeal lies in their enduring value. The Apple Watch sport starts at $349 while the standard version comes in at $549 in the United States. High-end “Edition” watches with 18-karat gold alloys are priced from $10,000 and go as high as $17,000. At a San Francisco Apple store, dozens of customers crowded around newly installed wooden cabinets, snapping pictures of the gadgets on display under glass. Apple employees, admittedly still unfamiliar with the watches’ finer points, guided customers through features like text messaging, maps and fitness tracking.