HONG KONG: China will be a crucial market in helping Apple shift 10m units of its new smart watch by the end of the year, but while the device doesn't go on sale for another six weeks clone versions are already available. 

The tech giant's initial launch of the much trailed Apple Watch will take place in nine markets including mainland China and Hong Kong as well as Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Britain, Canada and the US.

The emphasis being placed on China was evident, from the video at the launch event which showed the opening of an Apple store in Hangzhou, to the pre-loaded apps which include WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging app owned by Tencent, Weibo, China's counterpart to Twitter, and Alipay, Alibaba's online payment system.

That, said Philip Schiller, svp/worldwide marketing, showed "how incredibly important China is to us".

"We hope a lot of customers [on the mainland] will continue to see that as we launch new products in the market," he told the South China Morning Post.

Observers were bullish on the prospects in China for the new device, not least as mainland China and Hong Kong are already two of the top three markets for traditional Swiss-made luxury watches.

In the opinion of Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research in Shanghai, the Apple Watch is "going to be a massive hit in China … It's a brand that's aspirational, but it's not so over the top in price".

That depends, however, on which particular model one is buying. At the bottom of the range, the Apple Watch Sport is priced at 2,588 yuan, but buyers seeking more bling can lay out around 127,000 yuan for the 18-carat-gold Apple Watch Edition.

Reuters noted that was "a lot to pay for a luxury digital product that could be swiftly outdated if Apple does what it does with its smartphones, and brings out a new version each year".

Another factor that could affect sales levels is the easy availability of counterfeits. CNN reported that rough imitations were already on sale in Shenzhen and later versions would no doubt get closer to the real thing.

Data sourced from South China Morning Post, Xinhua, Bloomberg, Reuters, CNN; additional content by Warc staff