I Got My Apple Watch Gold Plated, and Here’s What Happened

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I got my Apple Watch gold plated… for Science! Can you really get a gold Apple Watch on the cheap instead of paying the crazy $17,000 that Apple is charging? Would it look terrible? Would it even still work? I had to find out.

Of course, Apple now offers a cheaper aluminum “gold” Watch option that has the same matte gold color as the gold iPhone. It doesn’t look like real gold, but it doesn’t look bad either. For most people, this is probably the smartest option. But I wanted to be ridiculous and go for the gold. The real gold. 18 karat gold.

How to Get Your Apple Watch Gold Plated

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First, the important detail: you can’t buy one of the cheaper aluminum Watches and get them plated — the process that makes their metal so strong also removes the ability to plate with a different metal. So if you want to get an Apple Watch plated you’re going to need to spend the extra money for a stainless steel model. I opted for the most expensive stainless link band because I think it looks a lot better, but you could probably save a few bucks if you like one of the cheaper bands.

Actually getting the Watch plated is a really easy process. After going to Watchplate.com and swapping a few emails with their customer service on how the process actually works, and asking whether my well-worn and scratched-up watch would be able to go through the process, I paid the $400 fee, got a shipping label, packed up the Watch in its original box and shipped it off.

Please note that Watchplate did not pay us to write this article and we paid the fee just like everybody else. There are other choices for gold plating out there, but that’s the one we used. Also, keep reading.

Their site says that it will take 2-3 business days, but you also have to factor in the time it takes to ship. I sent mine out on Friday and didn’t get it back for over a week. Once you get used to wearing the Watch every day, it can be really weird to glance down at your wrist and not be able to see the weather or whatever complications you have configured on the face. The weirdest thing was getting phantom vibrations on my wrist, only to realize that it was actually my wrist bones cracking that was generating the phantom vibration.

If you are going to do this, I would highly recommend that you get a new Watch in perfect condition and ship it straight to them — they actually have an option to ship directly from Apple to them first, and then to you, or you can ship it yourself. Either way, the stainless steel watch is very susceptible to scratches, and you don’t want to send a scratched-up watch to get gold-plated because it won’t look quite as perfect as it could, and if you’re spending all that money, you want perfection. And you should probably order a second leather or Sport band and get them to plate the buckle at the same time for reasons that will be important later.

First Impressions: The Apple Watch Looks Great in Gold

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The biggest problem with smartwatches is all the pictures of hairy geek arms.

When I got the Watch back after the plating process, I was surprised to see that the gold doesn’t look like what I had inaccurately thought of as gold — I have a pair of high-end sunglasses that look gold, but they are actually brass, which has the same look from a distance but is a lot stronger of a color.

This gold was a little more muted in comparison — perhaps somebody more used to wearing real gold would have a different initial opinion. Once I compared the Watch to my wife’s real gold jewelry and compared it to the real Apple Watch Edition in the store, it became more obvious that this looks exactly like real gold is supposed to. Because, of course, it is *real* gold.

Even with my initial confusion over what gold is supposed to look like, I was amazed how just how *good* the Watch looks, and how well the plating job took. I had visualized them dipping my watch into a vat of gold the same way you might dip some food in a vat of chocolate, and was thinking that there’s no way it would come out looking normal. But the electroplating process they used to plate it ended up looking amazing, to the point where the majority of people that see the watch just assume I bought the gold one — of course, Apple doesn’t actually sell a gold link band, but that’s not common knowledge.

Wearing a Gold Apple Watch is… Interesting

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The Apple Watch is pretty much universally known at this point, and most people know that it isn’t cheap since every single news site spent all of their time complaining about how expensive it is and how nobody would buy it. The result of all that “negative” coverage ended up being (arguably) a positive for people who are actually seen wearing an Apple Watch. You can debate whether that’s a good thing or not, but it definitely makes it a premium product. And a gold one? Multiply by 1000.

When I was wearing the regular stainless steel Watch, people would (and still do) constantly come up to me to ask, “Is that the iWatch?” and whether I like it. Most people say they were thinking about buying one, but they “weren’t sure if they should”. That’s the culture that Apple has built with this thing — everybody knows what it is, everybody knows it is expensive, and lots of people want one but aren’t sure if they should spend the money on it. In case you were wondering, at least 50 percent of the people who asked me about it so far have called it an “iWatch” instead of the “Apple Watch”.

The gold Apple Watch will give you a completely different experience. Most people on the street won’t stop and ask you questions about it at all. Without being able to read their minds but based on the way they looked at me, I can only assume that they thought I was some rich jerk or some important person that wouldn’t appreciate being bothered.

Some of the reactions were a little different — when I went to the Apple Store wearing the gold Watch, one of the employees came up and asked to see it, and then he asked if I had spray painted it gold. This was right around the time that somebody on social media had made a video showing how to spray paint your watch gold (the resulting watch looked terrible), so it shouldn’t have been surprising. And, of course, the people at the Apple Store know that they don’t sell a gold link band. Most people, however, don’t realize that.

The bottom line is if you want people to immediately assume that you have more money than sense, getting your Apple Watch gold plated is a great idea.

It’s Not All Fun and Games Though

Getting your Watch plated might seem like a no-lose situation, but that’s not actually the case. The gold plating from WatchPlate is extremely well done, but it’s not solid gold, so eventually the watch will get scratched deeply enough that the original metal will show through. In my experience of banging the watching into everything all the time accidentally, the steel never showed up in a scratch, but something much worse happened…

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User error: Failure to RTFM

The gold plating on the inside of the link band started wearing off. Part of this was my fault as I made the big mistake of wearing the gold Watch on summer vacation, in a chlorinated pool, and within a few days I started noticing the gold plating wearing off inside of the band. And worse, my wrist started developing a really annoying rash.

After contacting the company and actually reading the information on their site, I learned what I probably should have RTFM’d in the first place: sweat and salt (or chlorinated) water will cause the gold to wear off the inside of the band where it rubs against your skin. And for some people, that can cause a reaction with your skin.

So wearing the gold Watch with a link band while working out is not really an option. Ignoring the obvious ridiculousness of wearing a gold Watch while exercising, this is a serious limitation for a device that you are supposed to wear all day long. One of the big selling features of the Watch, and one of the best features IMO, is the activity tracking for steps, exercise, and the gentle nudge that you’ve been sitting down for too long.

So your options are just not using the fitness tracking on a gold-plated Watch, which isn’t great, buying a separate Apple Watch to wear as your everyday watch and using the gold one only sometimes, or using one of the leather or rubber bands instead, so the gold isn’t right up against your skin. You could also buy both the stainless link band and an extra leather band, and swap the bands out when exercising. (WatchPlate will plate just the buckle on an extra band for a small fee.)

It’s worth noting that there’s no option in the Apple Watch app to pair more than one Watch and switch between them. You have to unpair one, and then pair the second one, restoring from the backup that gets created when you unpair the first one. The whole process takes about five minutes, and while it’s not impossible, it’s annoying.

So Should You Gold Plate Your Apple Watch?

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For the vast majority of people, you’d be better off just buying the Apple “gold” aluminum watch, if you’re even going to get one. It’s significantly cheaper, and who knows when Apple is going to update with an entirely new model that you’d want to upgrade to?

If you have the money and really want a gold Apple Watch, it does work, and it looks good. Just make sure that you get an extra Sport or leather band to wear most of the time.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.