I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Apple Watch and what it means for the Swiss watch industry – and the watch industry as a whole. While I have written, and will write more, about the topic on TechCrunch, I thought I’d drop a few lines here.
I think, in short, that this is an iPod moment for the watch industry, something that will drastically change the way the average consumer looks at watches and, more importantly, become the catalyst for a massive shake-out. I base this on discussions I’ve had with watch people and manufacturers who are, in short, frightened. Here are my predictions:
- The Apple Watch will be an runaway success. We will see these watches on more wrists in more places than any watch before it. General watch wearing will rise stratospherically. The Apple Watch hits a number of interesting markets. First, non-watch wearers will wear it because of the features made available. Casual watch wearers will switch. Watch nerds like us will shake our heads sadly as…
- Many brands will go under. There will be no reason for a teenager or college-age watch buyer to desire a Fossil or CK or some other department store brand watch. There will still be a market for luxury brands, especially jewelry watches and die-hards like Rolex and Omega, but they will take a ding in profits. Kids will be actively disappointed if they get a ticking quartz watch for Christmas instead of an Apple Watch.
- Dedicated watch shops will either carry the fancier Apple Watches or go under. The old methods of watch retail will also take a hit as customers compare the old “Go into a shop, get reamed on price by a salesman, go home ashamed” model with “Click to Buy” on the Apple Store.
- All other smart watches will be also-rans. As much as I loved, for example, the Moto 360 and the Pebble, except for a certain sub-group of Anrdoid fans and hold-outs, the Apple Watch will be the watch to have.
- Watch brands will have to stay smart and observant to survive – but the popularity of the Apple Watch will buoy the watch market in general. If there is any silver lining to this dinosaur-destroying watch meteorite it’s that people will be wearing watches again. It’s just not the watches that Switzerland wants them to wear.
To paraphrase Travis Bickle, “Someday a real rain will come and wash the smirks of the Swiss watch industry’s faces as they realize that their entire market has turned away from them and are instead focusing on a goofy-looking smart watch from California.” While I love the industry and hope it survives this cataclysm, I know that this thing will change the face of watchmaking as we know it. If it doesn’t, I’ll personally buy Jean-Claude Biver and any Swiss watchmaker that asks a Lillet martini.