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How Apple off-loaded its Watch queues to a half-dozen boutiques

In a neat bit of marketing jujudzu, Apple has — in one move — avoided an unseemly scramble for short supplies at its own Apple Stores and handed six fashion-setting boutique stores a priceless exclusive: The only Apple Watches available for walk-in sale on Friday anywhere in the world.

The six boutiques, according to Thursday’s New York Times, are Colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Maxfield in Los Angeles, the Corner in Berlin and 10 Corso Como in Milan. [UPDATE: Not in Milan, says 9to5Mac.]

Adrian Joffe, CEO of Dover Street Market, told the Times that his stores had taken delivery of a total of 920 units, 350 in Tokyo and 570 in London. No gold, only steel and aluminum, and probably just enough for its most valuable customers.

How these tony venues will deal with would-be line squatters is not clear.

Meanwhile, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts may have some explaining to do. The former Burberry CEO had told Apple Store management, repeatedly, that there would be no watches for walk-in sale until supply caught up with demand, perhaps not before June.

Now it turns out there will be walk-in sales, but not in Apple’s own stores.

“Will you have product in the store for purchase on the 24th?” she asked herself Tuesday in an in-house communique that somehow got leaked. Even then her answer sounded to me like doublespeak. It wasn’t a plain honest “no.” It was: “That is the plan of record right now.”

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.