When Apple opened its doors for Apple Watch pre-orders early Friday morning it also let us start scheduling appointments to try on their brand new smartwatch. I was lucky enough to get an appointment right away—a fact that made me very happy since it would let me try on the watch I just bought sight unseen—and the experience was very much Apple, but also totally new.
The Apple Watch try-on line. No, wait. He's just smoking.
I arrived a few minutes early to give me time to check out the lines before my appointment time. There was only one guy sitting outside behind the stanchions, which told me the lines were pretty short. Turns out there weren't any lines at all because he was just sitting there vaping. Welcome to Boulder.
The complete lack of lines for a new product launch was new and felt a little weird. Long lines have been part of the culture surrounding Apple product launches, and seeing an Apple Store with only the usual hustle and bustle seems out of place. That said, it was really nice getting to walk into the store without any hassle and check in for my try-on.
Apple has a whole team dedicated to try-on appointments, and their dedicated try-on station can handle six customers at the same time. They were ready to show me the three watches I tagged as favorites in the Apple Store app, but the employee assigned to me started by asking how I planned to use my Apple Watch just to make sure I would be looking at watch models that are right for me.
Apple's new Apple Watch try-on stations
At the try-on station, the employee helping me—I'll call him my personal assistant—unlocked and opened a drawer filled with various models for me to try on. He pulled out what I was interested in, and a couple more just because he thought I might like them. They were all presented to me on a pad that was just the right color of blue to make all of the watch colors stand out.
While Apple employees have always been friendly and helpful when I've made in-store purchases, this was different. The experience was more personal and it felt more like I was working with a tailor than a tech store sales person.
I went to a high-end watch store once with Bryan Chaffin and even though it was clear I wouldn't be buying anything, I was still treated like I was the single most important person in the world. The salesman showing Bryan watches was attentive to me and respectful. Whenever I had a question he gave me a clear and friendly answer, and never acted like it was time for him to move on to someone else.
The Apple Store experience wasn't as ritzy, but the feel was the same. It was clear to me that even though I had a fifteen minute window with my personal assistant, he wasn't moving on until we were both satisfied all of my questions had been answered and that I had tried on every watch I wanted.
I'm sure if I kept my personal assistant for 30 or 40 minutes, no one would've said a thing or hit me with passive/aggressive hints that my time was up. They wanted to make sure I was happy and satisfied. That just isn't the typical retail experience, and at one point I had to remind myself I was in an Apple Store.
It was all about the little details, too. I'm left handed, so I started to put the Apple Watch on my right wrist. Without missing a beat, my personal assisitant said, "We suggest you put it on with the crown facing your wrist so the watch is easier to use. It has a left handed mode."
Each draw is loaded with several Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport configurations
Once I was done trying on watches, my personal assistant took me to an Apple Watch display and told me I could stay there as long as I like playing with a fully working watch. That was nice since the try-on models run in a demo mode, so you can't really go hands on and try out features with one on your wrist.
The demo mode gives you a great feature overview and lets you experience the digital touch alerts. That was cool, but the demo watches don't work in lefty-mode, so I was looking at everything upside down. My personal assistant apologized and said he wished that could be changed so I could "get the full Apple Watch experience."
Which brings us to the big question: Did I pre-order the right Apple Watch for me?
Since I wanted to get my Apple Watch as quickly as possible, I pre-ordered right after midnight. That decision involved a lot of debating and wrist measuring, and in the end I had to hope going with the 38mm space gray Apple Watch Sport was the right thing to do.
After trying on no less than five different Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models, it turns out I chose wisely. I haven't worn a watch in many years, and the 42mm display was just too big for me. The weight of the larger watches bothered me, too. For me, lighter is better.
Had I not already ordered my Apple Watch, the store staff was ready to help my place my order online using one of the display Macs, or from the Apple Store app on my iPhone. Lucky for both of us, that wasn't necessary.
What I learned today is that with a little research I'm capable of buying the right Apple Watch model without trying one on first. I also learned Apple's new style for product launches works really well. I'm betting this is a change handed down from Apple retail VP Angela Ahrendts, and while I was skeptical at first, I'm a believer now.