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Will Apple's Watch Break the Fashion Barrier?

Apple announced the Apple Watch on Tuesday. It's not clear how many people will pay $349 for it.

As models walked down the runways of New York Fashion Week on Tuesday, many style editors were watching the action in Cupertino, California, where Apple CEO Tim Cook announced something most people had suspected was coming: a smartwatch.

It's called the Apple Watch. It costs $349. It has a nearly unbreakable sapphire crystal display, can track your heart-rate and, yes, it comes in 18-karat gold. But can it become a must-have item when it hits stores "early next year?"

"I don't think the fashion world has really embraced wearables yet," Kelly Bourdet, who writes about health and technology for fashion site Refinery29, told NBC News.

She pointed to the much buzzed about — yet rarely seen in public — collaboration between Google Glass and designer Diane von Furstenberg. The Apple Watch, however, could be different.

"People in the fashion world do seem interested in it," she said. "Their response seems to be positive, and I do think when it comes out, a lot of the early adopters will be in the style world, not just the tech world."

Apple Gone Wild

Apple is not a company that bombards its customers with style choices. It was a pretty big deal when it revealed (gasp!) two different phones, the iPhone 5C and 5s, at the same time last year.

The Apple Watch is different. It comes in 18 different models, ranging in style from bright and sporty to a leather-gold combo that would not look out of place at a country club.

"Having a lot of different product options creates inventory problems, so this is not a decision Apple made lightly," J.P. Gownder, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, told NBC News.

Looks are important when it comes to smartphones. They might be even more essential when it comes to smartwatches.

"This is something that is worn on your body, so people think of it as extension of themselves," he said. "I saw one in person and I thought it was stunning."

While the 18-karat gold option might attract plenty of press attention, it's the decision to offer two sizes (1.5 inches and 1.65 inches) that could be what pushes Apple Watch to the front of the pack, according to Angela McIntyre, a wearables expert at technology research firm Gartner.

"It has cross-over appeal to men and women," she told NBC News, citing both the smaller size and decision to prominently feature women in its promotional materials.

The Future

The Apple Watch is easy on the eyes. It has some pretty cool features, including loads of sensors to track your health and movement, NFC technology to pay for stuff, a Retina touchscreen display and, most importantly, animated, customizable emoji.

At $349, however, it's not cheap for a gadget that needs to be paired with an iPhone 5 or better to function.

"It is a luxury item," McIntyre said. It might have a certain cachet with Apple fans and people who love watches, she said, but it might take awhile to become ubiquitous in middle-class homes.

Not only that, Apple left out some pretty important details that could make or break its new smartwatch.

"We don’t know what the battery life is, and we don’t know how many third-party apps will be available on day one," Ian Fogg, senior mobile analyst at IHS, told NBC News. "If its battery life is just one day, that will prove irritating to many consumers."

The smartwatch market, he said, is young and it's not clear exactly what features people want yet.

But there has been interest. Last week, the Moto 360, hailed as one of the more attractive smartphones, sold out within an hour of going on sale.

Right now, the Apple Watch might seem like a "status symbol," McIntyre said, but it could one day "increase the visibility and desirability of all smartwatches."