Why Smartwatches Haven’t Taken Over

A few years ago, the smartwatch made its debut, and people who follow such things were concerned that it might destroy the Swiss watch market, which has been thriving for at least a century.

Those concerns weren’t entirely unwarranted, as a similar watch crisis had occurred just a few decades ago when quartz movements first came to market.  In the end, the traditional model learned to survive along side electronic watches, and a few high end makers manufacture both mechanical and electronic watches today.

smartwatchThe smartwatch was thought to present a different kind of problem, in that many people thought they’d replace traditional watches altogether.  A lot of people don’t even wear watches anymore, as they get the time from their phone.  Smartwatches work with a smart phone to provide some functionality that you’d never get from a mechanical timepiece.

Adding to the problem is that a few companies, such as Apple, even introduced high end smartwatches that were intended to attract the interest of the well heeled watch buyer.

As with the quartz crisis of the 1970s, a few traditional makers have jumped on the bandwagon to make smartwatches alongside their mechanical models, but…

…three or four years later, the noise has mostly died down, and no one seems to be particularly concerned about the smartwatch destroying the market for mechanical wristwatches.

The Swiss watch industry is not without its problems, and there has been somewhat of a downturn in business.

But those issues have more to do with a lack of well-funded buyers for high end models than it does with a lack of interest in the product itself.

The smartwatch problem has largely gone away, however, because the industry has discovered something that should have been obvious from day one – people who buy high end mechanical watches and people who buy smartwatches are two entirely different groups of people.

High end watch people are fans of watches.  They like the mechanics.  They like the attention to detail.  They like the attention to quality.  But the people who buy smartwatches are a different type of consumer.  They like what a smartwatch does, and that’s about it.

That the two groups don’t overlap at all was made perfectly clear when Apple made the decision to discontinue their high end 18-karat gold Apple Watch, which was priced between $10,000 and $17,000.

Sales of that particular model were so poor that the company removed it from their product line and their Website, and they’d prefer that the public at large forget that it ever existed.

People who want smartwatches weren’t going to pay five figures for one, and people who want to pay five figures for a watch want one with moving parts.

traditional watchA few hybrid models are trying to bridge the gap between the two worlds, but they’re staying fairly close to the smartwatch price range, which tends to run between $100-$500 or so.

People buy high end watches because they’re built well, they’re built to last, and they’re the sort of things that you can wear for a lifetime and hand down to future generations as an heirloom.

While first generation Apple watches may reach collectible status, as early iPhones have, they’re not likely to attract the sort of buyers who would rather buy a Audemars Piguet or a Patek Philippe, and the people who make those high end watches are no longer concerned (if they ever were) about losing market share to the likes of Samsung or Apple.