Apple Watch Preorders
Apple Watch preorders are the only way to secure a device on launch day. Reuters

The clock is ticking. Starting Friday at 3:01 a.m. EDT, Apple will open up its virtual doors to fans looking to preorder the Apple Watch, which represents the first new product category from the company since the iPad tablet and was created almost entirely under the guidance of Apple CEO Tim Cook and design chief Jonathan Ive. But unlike previous launches, both the preorder and purchase process will be handled entirely online -- at least at the beginning.

"We expect that strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch,” Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores, said in a news release. “To provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can, we will be taking orders for Apple Watch exclusively online during the initial launch period.”

So if you want the best shot at getting the Apple Watch when it officially ships April 24, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Have A Backup Plan

Officially, preorders for the Apple Watch begin 12:01 a.m. PDT/3:01 a.m. EDT through the Apple Store website and iOS app. But whether or not you’ll be able to reliably purchase it immediately at that time is a gamble. This was seen in September, when some customers looking to preorder the iPhone 6 at opening time were unable to access the Apple Store website for up to two hours, while others found some success using the Apple Store app instead. So by having both the website and Apple Store app ready, you could improve your odds of securing an Apple Watch within the first launch wave.

Pick Your Favorite

Unlike the iPhone, which has far fewer options to choose from, the Apple Watch’s straps, material and sizes bring the total number of configuration options to 38. But you can easily narrow down your choices by visiting the Apple Store website and app ahead of time. And once you’ve found the one or two watches you’re considering to purchase, just hit the heart icon to save the model as a favorite to your Apple ID. Once preorders open, the Watches you’ve favorited will be waiting for you during the reservation process.

No In-Store Pickup

Despite earlier rumors that an in-store pickup option would be available for the Watch, buyers must receive the device through shipment, at least until the launch window has passed, Apple says.

Try It On

If you’re still on the fence, Apple on April 10 will begin its in-store previews, which can be scheduled online, where customers will be able to view and try on the smartwatch. Most appointments are expected to be booked in 15-minute slots. For those with wallets deep enough to even consider purchasing the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition, appointments may last as long as 30 minutes.

While all models will be available to view, try-ons for the gold models are expected to be limited to Apple's flagship stores during the launch period.

In addition to Apple retail stores, jetsetting customers can also try on and preview the device at three Apple Watch shops located at department stores Selfridges in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Isetan in Tokyo.

Prepare To Wait

If you don’t get a preorder in before the first wave of shipments sell out, you might be waiting anywhere from two to six weeks for delivery depending on which model you choose, says German Mac blog Macerkopf in a review of shipping times. Similar shipping times have also been spotted in Britain by 9to5Mac, with Edition model shipping times tipped in May.

Prices, Launch Countries

The aluminum Apple Watch Sport starts at $349 for the 38mm model and $399 for the 42mm model. The stainless steel Apple Watch starts at $549 and runs as high as $1,099 depending on choice of watch band. For those with deep pockets, the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition can be had starting at $10,000, topping out at $17,000.

Apple Watch launch countries include Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Britain and the U.S. Starting April 24, it will also be available in dedicated Apple Watch shops and boutiques such as Colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Maxfield in Los Angeles, the Corner in Berlin and authorized resellers in China and Japan.