Apple: Gold's next big buyer?

What to expect from Apple's watch
What to expect from Apple's watch

Apple may soon be a serious buyer of gold, according to estimates of how much yellow metal will be required for the 18-carat luxury version of the hotly anticipated Apple Watch.

Each gold edition of the Apple Watch could contain two ounces of the precious metal according to estimates—meaning that Apple could use 746 metric tons of gold per year, equating to one-third of the total annual global mine supply, according to bullion dealer GoldCore.

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That's based on estimates that Apple has ordered between five and six million units of smartwatches from its manufacturers.

"Around one-third of the order will be made up of the mid-range watch, leaving an estimated one-sixth of the order to be comprised of the gold edition," said research director of GoldCore, Mark O'Byrne, in a research note on Friday. A further half of the order is expected to be for the entry-level "Sports" model.

Apple Watch
Source: Apple Inc.

The Apple Watch is seen being unveiled on Monday at the tech giant's "Spring Forward" event in San Francisco, before going on sale in April.

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The gold version, called Apple Watch Edition, is expected to retail at between $4,000 and $10,000, while the Sports model will likely sell for $349.

O'Byrne said that if each Apple Watch Edition required two ounces of gold—which is likely if the watch has a gold bracelet in place of a strap—it would cost Apple roughly $2,400 per phone to produce.

According to Apple, each watch case for the Apple Watch Edition is crafted from 18-carat gold that is twice as hard as "standard gold." The display is protected by sapphire crystal, to which the "exquisitely designed strap provides a striking complement."

Despite the hype, O'Byrne said that Apple's reported expectation to shift one million units of the Edition model would be "a tall order."

"In the end it will probably come down to the price. Even at the lower-end (selling price) estimate of $4,000, it's hard to imagine Apple shifting one million units each month," O'Byrne said.

"However, Apple's ability to generate a buzz or hype, depending on your perspective, cannot be under-estimated," he later added.

Traditionally viewed as a "safe haven" investment against economic uncertainty, bullion prices fell close to a two-month low on Friday after official U.S. employment data beat market expectations. Gold for April delivery tumbled around 2.7 percent to trade at $1,164, as the U.S. dollar surged past an 11-year high against a basket of currencies.