The Swiss watch industry should be scared, but also somewhat excited. Brands spend millions upon millions of marketing dollars each year trying to get people aware of luxury watches, as well as their products. I’ve already said in the past that the watch industry has the dual marketing challenge of not only getting people interested in their particular products, but getting people interested in watches at all. Timepieces, for the most part, are no longer necessary, so the desire for them is more about emotional satisfaction versus necessary utility. Then again, perhaps that is all changing.


Apple and other companies pushing forward with smartwatch technology will look to offer features that I suspect are going to be “necessary for most people.” Perhaps it will be the fitness functionality or mobile payments, or even something else. Before long, I am convinced that wearable devices will offer people functionality that once familiar, will become something they don’t want to give up. The result is a consuming public that is once again thinking about watches! What more could the luxury watch industry ask for? All of sudden, interest in their category will be massively grown.

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Mechanical watches may fight with smartwatches for the same wrist space, but they are totally different things. I have to ask myself honestly, “what would it take to remove my mechanical watch and replace it with a smart watch?” The Apple Watch is probably the best answer to that, but I am still not ready to give up what I love about mechanical watches. There is a degree of beauty and craftsmanship that an electronic device with a screen will never be able to replace. At the same time, I really want that electronic device. For many people who love watches, I think they will have both devices, and will either switch between them or wear them both at the same time. If that doesn’t happen with Apple’s first watch, it will happen down the road.


So while the Apple Watch and other smartwatches compete for the same space on people’s bodies, they also open up the world of watches to many more people. “Watches on the brain” is a good thing for the traditional watch industry, and the Apple Watch might just be the best thing that has happened to the larger watch industry in many years. I might further argue that the Apple Watch’s obvious nod to traditional watches will allow people new to watches to have an even better chance at appreciating traditional timepieces.

Still, you can’t deny that the Apple Watch and its ilk will put a huge dent in traditional watch sales. I think it is pretty obvious that $1,000 and under timepieces will be hit the hardest, and companies that get by on selling fashion watches in department stores will feel the impact first. It is difficult to tell how much impact that will be, but I suspect it will be noteworthy over the next five years. That isn’t just because people are going to want the newest electronic gadget for their wrist, that is because, as I said, Apple didn’t just make a smartwatch, they made a product that can sit in the same room as traditional watches and not look totally out of place.

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What Apple will also do is force the watch industry to stop playing as much hanky-panky with pricing. While the Apple Watch in gold won’t be cheap, it will put luxury watch brands on notice that attempt to charge so very much more for simple gold watches. Traditional luxury brands will not at all be insulated from the effect of smartwatches, as they may have previously suspected. Now, they will have to actively compete with Apple as opposed to being something that Apple Watch owners might later aspire to. Apple’s focus on the sports, casual, business, and high-end lifestyle markets from day one shows massive amounts of ambition for the Apple Watch. Not just ambition, but also confidence.

Apple knows that with such offerings it is not merely going after the early-adopter market, but also the mainstream consumer. That means it really can’t afford to release a product that only somewhat works, because with most consumers, companies have just once chance to impress them when it comes to novel products. While many of the Samsung Gear smartwatches were never really ready for mass consumption, Apple doesn’t really do “we will release a half dozen models until we get it right” philosophy, when it comes to doing business. Apple has just one chance with many consumers to make a case that connected wearable devices are “now going to be a part of your life” (and annual upgrade needs).

Apple Watch 5

I’ve looked at a lot of the comments made by the watch industry and watch lovers in reaction to the Apple Watch, as well as in anticipation of it. The smarter and more forthright people in the watch industry were scared, and rightly so, and the consumers had a lot to say. You don’t invest in a passion for mechanical watches for years only to abandon it overnight. Then again, most consumers are flexible enough to adopt new technology into their lives that they feel will help improve it. Thus, I think watch lovers are anywhere from skeptical to excited, but overall, people feel that when they find the right smartwatch device, they will want to own one. The question goes back to how that will effect their usage and enjoyment of traditional watches, as well as their spending.

My hope is that we will find a convenient way of combining a love for mechanical watches with an ability to wear and use a smartwatch such as the Apple Watch. Like I said, I think in the near future, I will have to get used to double-wristing it with one on each arm. Or maybe someone will design a cool type of strap that will allow me to wear a traditional watch on the top of my wrist, and an Apple Watch on the bottom.

Apple Watch 1

With sizes for both men and women (42mm wide and 38mm wide) along with a wide range of styles and options, Apple listened to the needs of watch lovers and the style-conscious, when it came to the design of this product. Of course, it won’t satisfy everyone from the start, but this is an excellent effort and I think gadget-lovers and the mainstream consumer have a lot to look forward to. The watch industry itself, of course, has a lot to fear, but like I said, there are a lot of upsides. “Smart” watch brands will merely adapt their business and modernize their communication strategies in order to appeal to more individuals suddenly interested in watches. If they don’t, then a lot of great traditional watch makers are going to miss out on an era of massive new horological awareness.

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