A wristwatch is more than just a tool for telling the time – it also stands as a fashion statement that can vary from a casual accessory to the pinnacle of luxury and sophistication. However, things changed in September 2014 when Apple unveiled their Apple Watch. Redefining watches to be more than just a fashionable timepiece, Apple’s new product could be synced with your iPhone to make calls, read messages and deliver notifications – as well as track biometrics and make contactless payments.
Although the first-generation Apple Watch was far from refined, current models have since become sleeker and more suitable to wear across a wide range of occasions. Eager to capitalise on the new smart watch trend, Swiss brands have also released their own collections of smart watches – like the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 or Modaine Helvetica 1. However, at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional Swiss wristwatches and smartwatches, the Apple Watch dominated the market in 2019 and sold more units worldwide than all the Swiss watch brands combined. Does this spell doom for the luxury watch industry?
Not exactly. While traditional luxury timepieces cannot compete on technological wizardry or affordability, the Swiss brands do offer one unmatched characteristic: the sentimental value attached to each watch and the brand heritage. For a classic timepiece, age is something that wearers celebrate. This especially applies to brands like Patek Phillipe, who have built their reputations on being handed down through generations – a tall feat for a smartwatch designed to quickly become obsolete.
According to a customer survey commissioned by the Watches of Switzerland Group, only one percent of respondents thought of smartwatches to be a replacement for traditional watches. So while more people are buying smartwatches, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of traditional watches – to attract a broader audience, brands can prioritise new ways to boost customer engagement or consider new channels to deliver content – but more importantly, these efforts must resonate with their brand heritage to be authentic.