Paris is a gorgeous city by day or by night, though you’re not likely to focus on its genuine beauty if you’re rushing down a familiar street for reasons that have nothing to do with sightseeing. But that’s what I did last night. Ignoring the dimly lit Opera building and the avoiding the massive Louvre, I headed straight for the iconic French fashion boutique you may have heard of recently in reports covering the Apple Watch release.
Colette is the only place in Paris where you can find the device on Friday. And I did not just fly 1,000 miles to Paris to return home empty-handed.
On Thursday afternoon at around 5:30 p.m., three people were already lined up in front of the store. I noted this as I walked into Colette for the first time in my life, trying to figure out whether I’d find any Watch stock the following day. Sure, the helpful staff told me, there will be watches to buy. But no, I couldn’t reserve one. My best bet would be to come in as early as possible to make sure I’d beat crowds that the store was expecting.
I jogged back that night at around 10:00 p.m. when fewer than 10 shoppers were already lined up for the device. I made my plan right then and there, and decided to get in line no later than 3:00 a.m. that night, to make sure I had a fighting chance of buying the Watch on launch day rather than in May or June.
Hoping that most Parisians would be sleeping at that time, I hurried to Colette in the middle of the night, looking to score a decent place in line. I was immediately greeted by the crowd gathered there (see the image above) with a number I was to be known as, and I found out I was one of the first 30 future Apple Watch owners. I was also convinced I’d make the cut for the model I wanted at the time.
At 5:00 a.m. we were close to 50 people in line. By 9:00 a.m. almost 100 people were gathered, some of them coming from other parts of Europe. At that point the line disappeared into the distance, towards the Louvre’s Tuileries gardens. That’s when we learned that all sorts of Watch models will be available at Colette, though not all Sport band would be found today in Colette’s Watch corner, only the 42mm Space Gray Black model, the one I wanted. Sadly though, just one Watch purchase was allowed per person, which wasn’t terrific news for some of the people waiting to buy it.
Furthermore, to the tiny crowd’s humorously faked annoyance, no gold Editions would be available from Colette’s for the time being.
With two hours left to go until 11:00 a.m. when Colette opens its doors every day, sleep was creeping in, so I whipped out the iPhone and began telling this story, focusing on words rather than dreams – I definitely didn’t expect to spend one of my two nights in Paris out on the street, and certainly not in front a French clothing store.
Just when I thought I’d finally get my hands on the model I wanted, before 12:00 p.m., we heard rumblings that the only Sport model was short on stock. And just like in a movie, the last unit was purchased right in front of me, leaving me dumbfounded. I was near the top of the line yet I couldn’t buy my first choice.
After a total of nine hours of waiting, I walked out with a box containing a pricey new device I have yet to convince myself was worth the cash. And it wasn’t the one I wanted. Instead, I purchased the more expensive 42mm stainless steel Apple Watch with a white Sport band that’s priced at €699 in Europe.
Like me, others found a Watch in Colette’s boutique today, but not all of them bought what they wanted. In fact, many were unhappy to learn that the only Sport model quickly ran out. And many people who lined up to get the smartwatch left without buying one at all.
Colette, and I suspect the same goes for other fashion stores out there that sold the Watch today, is not really ready to handle the pressure that comes along with hoards of Apple fans. I had to wait for an hour after the store opened just to get inside, only to have to choose from a few stainless steel models that I didn’t really want.
This is just the beginning for this new category-defining Apple product. And the device itself, which I’ve only just taken out of its box, is gorgeous. But the entire buying experience has been complicated, exhausting, and more expensive than I wanted it to be.