I’ve been meaning to ask this question for a while of the aBlogtoWatch audience, and that is what you feel the future of smartwatches will be for watch lovers. When aBlogtoWatch first started to cover smartwatches, the reaction (in the comments) was mostly negative, with some people applauding the products, and a lot of people still undecided about how they really felt about smartwatches as a segment.
Personally, I feel that smartwatches represent the future of the mainstream watch industry. That more or less means the majority of sub-$1,000 watches (outside of some specialized uses) in the near future will all be what we currently call smartwatches (it is unclear what we will refer to them when they become more mainstream – I am partial to the term “modern watches”). People who wear traditional watches that “only tell the time” will be looked at in the same way that we look at people who have a non-smart mobile phone these days. Upwards from $1,000 there will still be a sizable luxury watch market, but their marketing, sales, and distribution tactics will need to (dramatically) change in order to remain commercially and socially relevant.
Luxury watches will always have a place because of people’s love of art, design, rarity, and heritage. In addition to being luxury status symbols, high-end mechanical watches will be where much of the art is. Smartwatch design will become increasingly restricted (think of how most smartphones today are more or less the same in terms of form factor and hardware), and much of the creativity will be in mechanical or traditional quartz watches that have far fewer functionality expectations – and can thus play around with design, etc.
Moreover, I firmly believe that the proliferation of smartwatches will lead to more interest in high-end watches. Why? Well, it is all about watches once again being on people’s minds. It is the same as with cars. We see cars everywhere and notice them on a regular basis. Coinciding with our attention to cars is the difference between basic and high-end cars. If all that existed were high-end cars they would be much less common and people would not pay attention to them as much. When watches return to the wrists of most people, they will very easily be able to spot “different” ones such as luxury watches. Thus, the popularization of smartwatches will logically lead to more interest in and awareness of luxury watches.
How does awareness alone help the luxury watch industry? Well think about it, no one needs luxury watches but we still want them. There is an addictive quality to fine timepieces that is undeniable. Watch guys aren’t born, they are made… and the making of a watch guy is all about introducing him (or her) to the right facts, design, materials, story, etc. Enough exposure to someone with a mechanically sympathetic mind is often enough to suddenly change their brain chemistry such that spending thousands of dollars on a piece of ticking metal that does something as mundane as indicate the time suddenly sounds like an excellent notion.
The big unanswered question is how people who love traditional watches can marry that passion with the eventual need to wear smartwatches. It is true that today few people “need” to wear a smartwatch, but I predict that in the near future we will need smartwatches in the same way that many people need smartphones. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s just wait and see. If I am wrong, then smartwatches will just be another type of consumer electronics product for people who like what they offer and traditional watch lovers can rest assured that no other item is there to compete with their wrist real estate space which is reserved for a high-end timepiece.
In my opinion, a great source of the perceived animosity that I’ve seen from traditional watch lovers toward smartwatches is due to the frustration they feel that something someday soon (even if it isn’t today) will compel them to remove something they love from their wrist and replace it with something they need. Life is so full of stuff we need, and I can empathize with the anxiety my fellow watch lovers might feel about modern technology infringing on this otherwise sacred and cherished wearable area on our body.
Going back to the question I raised before, how will people who enjoy traditional watches include them in their lives, assuming smartwatches become useful on a mainstream basis? Some options include wearing smartwatches by day (when working) and traditional watches by night (when not working), wearing one on each wrist (or somehow on the same wrist) or simply wearing smartwatches most of the time and pulling out traditional watches for special or formal occasions. Honestly, it is tough to say how people will combine their appreciation/desire for these two types of watches. With that said… they will have to find a way.
So right now, I am posing the question to you, the aBlogtoWatch audience. What will the future of smartwatches be for watch lovers? Am I totally wrong, and will this smartwatch thing will be a passing fad, in your opinion? Will smartwatches overtake traditional luxury watches and obliterate them in the process? Will smartwatches and traditional watches exist side by side as two types of products separated by eras but connected by purpose? How will people who like both products be able to enjoy them? Are these questions not even worth asking because it is too difficult to predict the future? I and the rest of the community would love your thoughts.