SAN FRANCISCO - The Apple Watch goes on sale around the world on Friday, the final stage of a protracted launch of Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook's first new product, capping months of publicity and a frenetic two weeks of pre-orders.
Buyers can take the smart watch home from a handful of upscale boutiques and department stores, such as The Corner in Berlin, Maxfield in Los Angeles and Dover Street Market in Tokyo and London, which Apple courted to help position the watch as a fashion item.
But the watch will not be sold at Apple stores on Friday. The company is directing people to order online, which should prevent the lines around stores that generally greet new iPhone and iPad launches.
The lack of queues at Apple stores will make it hard to judge popular demand for the Apple Watch, which comes in 38 variations with prices ranging from $349 for the Sport version to $10,000 and more for the gold Edition.
Apple has not released any numbers since it opened for pre-orders on April 10, but many buyers were told their watches would not arrive for a month or more as supply appeared to dry up.
Wall Street estimates of Apple Watch sales vary widely. FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives raised his sales estimate this week to 20 million watches from 17 million, based in part on online order backlogs.
"There was a question over whether the trajectory and demand for wearables in the Apple ecosystem was there and real," said Ives. "But it's a resounding yes."
Apple itself said on Wednesday that some customers will get watches faster than promised.
"Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received," Apple said in a statement.
The Cupertino, California company previously predicted that demand would exceed supply at product launch.