Sorry Jony Ive, Switzerland Isn’t Screwed…Yet

Sorry Jony Ive, Switzerland Isn’t Screwed…Yet

Last summer I wrote a post on the dangers that smart watches could pose to the Swiss watch industry. It generated a ton of discussion on social media and within the industry, and ultimately even led to my consulting with a high end watch brand on a smart watch product line. At the time, the uses and capabilities of wearables had not been defined and thinking was very much hypothetical. The thesis was basically that a company as influential and as innovative as Apple could literally kill the luxury watch market overnight with a revolutionary product. If there were a smart watch that everyone truly had to have, the mechanical watch would face an immediate extinction level event.

Apple Watch Apple Watch

However, fortunately for Switzerland and unfortunately for anyone who loves revolutionary products, the uses and capabilities of wearables still remain largely undefined. Whatever you think of the Apple Watch, it seems clear at this point that it will be far from a must-have device. Without a use case so compelling that one wouldn’t think of leaving the house without it (think: all payments and identification only carried on a watch), smart watches will remain niche products — more fashion statement than productivity enhancer.

Given that Apple took their best swing and still fell far short of that mark, it seems safe to say that smart watches are not the way of the future. Instead the seemed destined to be a cool accessory with some interesting, specific use cases. So while I undoubtedly will buy one the day it’s released as I do most gadgets, the luxury watch industry can breathe a sigh of relief that I won’t hesitate to leave it in the drawer most days in favor of a beautiful mechanical watch.

  • Jonathan Bues

    I agree with most of what you said here, Steve. But for me the real drawback is the Apple Watch’s need to tether to an iPhone. They also didn’t say a thing about battery life or water resistance.

  • Adam Grossman

    Good points Steve, but I really believe that us “WIS” are making lots and lots of excuses here. Maybe not with the generation who are currently watch fans and are aged 30 or over at the time of the launch of the Apple watch – I think those who have already been conditioned to wear, and have a passion for fine timepieces may not be swayed. But let’s think – the 14 to 30 years old at present – will they care about a Rolex Sub, or Tag Carrera early on for HS Graduation, or a Cartier or Bvlgari for their lovely wife? The Apple Watch , I think, has the ability to change consumer behavior and while it may not impact the watch industry today, I think anyone who doesn’t recognize that the industry will be impacted to some extent is playing the ostrich. I for one will certainly buy a gold and steel version of the Apple Watch. I wear wear them proudly. Will it change my behavior or passion for mechanical watches – maybe, but I am very much looking forward to the Apple watch, more so than any product from any watch manufacturer since 2009. The watch industry is very full of itself with high prices, huge cases and lots of me-too design. Much of the innovation is halted in my opinion and greed is in the veins of many. AD’s are being cut and discounts are getting harder and harder to find. All of this coupled with changing in technology and advancements in the speed of communication will certainly affect some buyers of Swiss mechanical watches. Even if its 0.1 to 10% of the buyers who buy one less beater watch a year because they wear the Apple watch – that will certainly hit someones bottom line. I dont think it will be Apple’s though…..
    And….lets just wait – it could be only a matter of time before we see the Audemars Piquet Royal Gala Apple Watch or the Hublot Limited Edition Super Granny Smith Apple Watch or the….well you get the point. Apple will be the first trillion dollar company and I am optomistic on the future of the smartwatch.

    Hope you are well –

    Adam G (asg)

  • Anders Långberg

    I agree and for me it just doesn’t fit any use case. It’s not a fine watch and it’s not a functional watch in the sense that a Suunto is. But for everyone buying designer watches, i think it’s a good choice.