Thought smartwatches weren’t going to catch on? Think again.
For the first time ever, smartwatch shipments have exceeded Swiss watch shipments according to research by Strategy Analytics. In Q4 2015, smartwatch shipments peaked at 8.1 million units while Swiss watch shipments peaked at 7.9 million units, marking the first time in history that smartwatches have out-shipped Swiss watches on a global scale.
But it isn’t the result of this research that’s interesting (we all knew that smartwatches were going to out-ship Swiss watches at some point) – it’s how fast it has happened. Apple only launched the Apple Watch on April 24th, 2015 (that’s the date it became available; it was officially announced by Tim Cook on September 9th, 2015), and the Apple Watch accounts for more than half of the global smartwatch shipments, according to Juniper Research.
So in the space of 9 months – give or take – smartwatches have caught up with and overtaken Swiss watch shipments. Strategy Analytics, whose research also reveals a 315.6% growth in smartwatch shipments and a -4.8% decline in Swiss watch shipments, say that a slow reaction to the development of smartwatches by Swiss watchmakers is the reason for their decline, and we’d have to agree. Apple, HUAWEI, Motorola, Samsung and other tech and fashion brands are dominating the market, leaving Swiss watchmakers in the dust.
However, the Swiss watch industry isn’t giving up. Breitling launched the Exospace B55 Connected in December last year and Tag Heuer launched the Connected smartwatch in November. Swatch has also gotten in on the action with the Bellamy and Movado launched three smartwatches last year as well.
However, we are yet to see an affordable device with a proper touchscreen from Swiss watchmakers. The fact is, most people cannot afford a Breitling or Tag Heuer. Yes, these brands will always have clientele, however, they will not be able to compete with tech and fashion brands unless they compromise.
But compromise, it seems, comes tough to Swiss watchmakers. You wouldn’t catch Rolex churning out battery-powered watches, for example, nor would you catch a Breitling in a jewelry store for under £500. The most important thing, however, is this – Swiss watchmakers need to come up with a good smartwatch; a smartwatch that’s as good in use as a HUAWEI or Motorola and priced to match. The good news is they have plenty of examples to replicate because the current crop of smartwatches is really rather great.