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The Effects of Smartwatch Popularity on the Traditional Watch Industry Compared in a new Article

Smartwatches have come in with a huge bang and have rattled the traditional watch industry greatly. An article on Venture Beat tells us that “Apple has sold at least $1.688 billion worth of Apple Watches” as of October 2015, and that was just the beginning as it’s now February 2016. With our rapidly growing technological generation, almost everyone seems to either be talking about them or flaunting their own for their friends to see. Though Apple hasn’t released the most updated statistics on how many watches they’ve sold, there's no doubt that smartwatches have been booming since the launch of the Apple watch last April. Many people continue to ask the question: what will happen to the traditional watch industry as smartwatch popularity continues to soar? So far, there has been an undeniable toll on the sales of the former, and many traditional watchmakers are beginning to feel the heat.

Bloomberg Business article tells us that according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, there has been a dramatic decrease in Swiss watch exports, the largest fall in six years, as the shipments went down by 3.3%. This December, the demand for watches that fall within the $200 to $500 range decreased by 15%.

It appears that luxury watches haven’t been as affected as their “fashion watch” counterparts. However, the argument has been made that there may be enough evidence to show that even the luxury watch brands have been feeling the pressure just as much by the way that they've begun to respond. Brands that are known for their stately timekeepers such as Breitling and Bulgari are joining the smartwatch team with renditions of their own, with the invention of the B55 concept watch and the Diagono Magnesium, respectively.

Despite the market threat imposed by the smartwatch, some luxury companies are staying the course with their mechanical timepieces. We had the opportunity to talk to Matt Ramey, Brand Manager for Precimax, about his take on the matter.

“The smartwatch is a niche competitor in the industry, but I think luxury watches and smartwatches can coexist. It’s like shopping for sneakers versus boots; they go on the same body part, but they’re two very different things.” Smartwatches are undoubtedly having a significant effect, but according to Ramey, they’re limited in use and appeal compared to the traditional, upscale time-keeper. “For example,” he said, “do you really want to wear your smartwatch with an evening gown or with a tux at an upscale event?” While smartwatches have impressive applications and fun features, “they don’t match up when it comes to high-end style,” says Ramey. He also accounted for the durability of the traditional watch compared to the smartwatch. For instance, Precimax offers watches such as the Sentinel Deep Dive and the Master Marine Deep Dive that are water-resistant up to 2,000 Meters. “Smartwatches don’t offer that kind of stamina,” Ramey added.

Another traditional, higher-end watch company that remains undaunted by the fame of the smartwatch is H. Moser & Cie, who has recently created a traditional version of the Apple watch with its Swiss Alp Watch. The company’s CEO, Edouard Meylan, made the case for the value of the traditional timepiece as something that can be passed down through generations. In a statement last month, Meylan said, “It takes you back to sharing emotions with your nearest and dearest without a filter, interface or embellishment. Most importantly, it is something you can pass on to your children one day without having to upgrade it!”

Ben Woods, Chief of Research at CSS Insights acknowledges this idea as a possibility as well in his interview with Tech Radar: “Where premium makers market their watchers as an heirloom to be passed down to the next generation, the technology inside the most expensive Apple Watch will probably be obsolete in a couple of years’ time.” So while luxury watch makers might not want to ignore the smartwatch and its effects on the industry, some of them believe it to be a phase compared to their traditional watches, a trend the feel will never become antiquated.

It’s clear that the presence of the smartwatch is definitely showing and being felt by the traditional watch industry. Even so, there remain luxury watch companies that haven’t waivered in their commitment to the traditional watch. “There are a lot of new designs and concepts in the works with many different well-known watch manufacturers, and technology is definitely having an impact, but name an industry where that’s not the case!” says Matt Ramey. Will the smartwatch force the traditional timepiece into extinction, or is it really just a trend? We’ll just have to wait and see.



Arliss Veldhuizen


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