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Gold-plating the Apple Watch (pictures)

We caught up with a London company to see how they add gold-plating to the Apple Watch for an extra bit of bling.

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Andrew Hoyle
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1 of 28 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Have you been eagerly eyeing-up the Apple Watch Edition and its 24-carat gold body, but can't quite stomach the £8,000 starting price? Well there is a slightly cheaper alternative.

London-based company Goldgenie has developed a method of applying 24-carat gold plating to the mid-range Apple Watch, making it near-identical to its pricier sibling.

It starts at £1,997, making it more affordable than the true Apple Edition watch, and you can spec it up to include python-skin straps and diamond-encrusted casings.

Of course, a gold-plated version of an Apple Watch is not the same as the solid 24-carat gold Watch Edition, hence the significant price difference. The gold-plating on this version can and will wear off after time (something that won't happen with Apple's luxury wearable), although Goldgenie does provide a 2-year warranty against this with each model.

I caught up with the Goldgenie team in its London workshop to see how it applies the gold-plating without destroying the watch itself.

Last year, I saw the team gold-plate the iPhone 6's casing, a process which involved painstakingly removing all the internal components.

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The process begins by cleaning and polishing the watch to remove any dust and dirt which could cause imperfections in the gold.

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Instead of taking the watch apart to apply the gold to only the casing, the engineers spray on a sealant which stops any liquid getting inside.

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The watch is water resistant as standard, but this sealant will help to ensure that absolutely no liquid can seep in.

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An electric current has to flow through the metal in order for it to attract the gold particles.

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The engineer must hold this bulldog clip to the watch at all times during the process in order to maintain the electrical circuit.

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An activator solution is applied to the watch. This essentially makes the metal more porous, allowing the gold plating to adhere properly to the watch.

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The gold is applied. It might look more like a weird cocktail than a pot of gold, but this solution contains 20mg of gold per litre. That's double the amount typically used for gold-plating, Goldgenie explained, which will make the plating more hard-wearing -- an important factor on a device that's likely to be knocked, bumped and rubbed against material quite a lot.

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The gold solution is carefully applied to every part of the metal watch body. It doesn't matter if the solution gets on the screen as it will only actually adhere to the metallic parts.

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Any excess solution is cleaned off.

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It's polished using a sealer which will help protect the gold.

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It lives!

Goldgenie can gold plate up to 20 watches a day.

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Now it's on to the Milanese loop strap. Apple offers special versions of its rubber sport band and leather straps with its gold Edition watch, so the only way you'll get a gold metal Milanese loop strap is by having it plated like this.

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It's first cleaned in a bath that's pulsed with ultrasound.

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Then it's dried...

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...and rinsed off with pure water.

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The clip is again touched to the strap in order to form the electrical circuit.

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The same activator is applied to all parts of the strap to help the gold solution adhere later.

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It's given another rinse.

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The gold is applied to the strap. It's easiest to simply dunk it into the solution...

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...And use the swab to apply more to any parts that didn't get covered properly.

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Yep, that's definitely gold now. It's given a final clean with water.

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And a good drying.

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Then it's all put back together.

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And here's the finished model!

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It's not a bad looking product, and certainly a more affordable way of fooling people into thinking you sprung for the pricey Edition model.

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Goldgenie also have a range of fancy straps to go with the watch, including these coloured python skin designs.

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If your budget extends to £110,000 you can have a gold watch and gold strap, studded all over with diamonds. Here's an iPhone 6, gold-plated, with a diamond-encrusted Apple logo.

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