Singapore greets Apple Watch with a shrug

Singapore loses its taste for Apple
Singapore loses its taste for Apple

In tech-savvy Singapore, new Apple products typically trigger snaking lines spanning multiple blocks, but the Apple Watch got short shrift.

When stores on the city's Orchard shopping district opened their doors at 9am, a group of around 40 had gathered at the iconic ION mall. Across the street, around 15 people were milling outside Paragon's iStudio store while a crowd of around 25 lined up outside luxury watch store The Hour Glass.

Because Singapore doesn't have an Apple retail store, only select authorized re-sellers are allowed to carry the Cupertino giant's products.

"I was expecting a much longer queue, so this is good news for me," exclaimed Mario Dinata, a mobile engineer waiting in line at iStudio.

Indeed, the turnout pales in comparison to previous Apple launches in the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state. Last September, hundreds of fans queued for the iPhone 6 days before the official launch after slots for online pre-orders vanished in mere minutes.

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The smartwatch only becomes available on Apple Singapore's online store on Friday afternoon and phone inquiries have been minimal in the past week, according to employees at the iStudio store.

As an app developer, Dinata says he's often first in line for the newest Apple toys so he can test it out before his competitors. "This is definitely much smaller than previous lines," he said, smiling.

Luxury watch sector not sweating Apple Watch: Pro
Luxury watch sector not sweating Apple Watch: Pro

None of the stores were able to provide a sales update by mid-morning, but judging by a brief survey of people in line, the Apple Watch Sport was by far the most in demand out of the three models.

The 38mm Sport retails for $349, versus $549 for the Apple Watch. Local pricing of the third option, the luxury Apple Watch Edition crafted from 18-karat gold, remained unconfirmed by Friday morning.

"If I had the money, I would buy the Edition model any day over a luxury Swiss watch," remarked 56-year old Mrs. Li, who declined to give her first name. "I'm buying the Sport today since it's the cheapest one available. I'm an Apple fan, so I have to get the Watch. I have all their other products."

The device has already hit the market elsewhere in the region following an April launch in Japan, China and Hong Kong. Aside from Singapore, the watch also goes in sale in six other countries Friday, including South Korea and Taiwan.

Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at technology advisory Enderle Group, doesn't expect much hype going forward.

"The Watch has one problem the iPhone didn't have. Kids have stopped using watches some time ago, so Apple has to undo this perception that watches are for old folks and out of date," he told CNBC. "This will likely go through three versions before reaching its stride, if it ever does."

Apple CEO Tim Cook has remained silent on global sales thus far, but 2.8 million units may have been sold since its April debut, Slice Intelligence told Reuters earlier this month.

[Note: An earlier version of this article quoted the Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch in Singapore dollars. That has now been corrected to reflect U.S. dollars]