$278 million units worth of smartwatch sales over the past four years may not mean much to the average consumer, but to the modern day watchmaker, it’s a stark reality that has seen major, well-established watch houses shudder in suspense.
Still crafting timepieces with the same mechanical precision and craftsmanship as their ancestors did before them, many have been left wondering what these sales will represent to their own businesses as the years go on - particularly as the technologically-minded younger years grow into active, buying customers.
As modern needs have changed - longer working days, more integrative technology, and a need to be available at the beep of a watch through different time zones - major technology retailers have jumped at the opportunity to build a do-it-all for these ailments.
In fact, for many major tech companies, R&D in 2013 for watches hit an all-time high.
Sans winding, sans weight and sans any kind of remarkable style - the smartwatch of many brands appears discerningly similar. After all, it’s not meant to be an eye-popper; it’s meant to blend in. It’s uncharacteristically bland… because the design isn’t the piece de resistance.
Black, square tile in shape and a little reminiscent of a scene from the futuristic dystopia brought to life in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Jam packed with quirks, bleeps and tech-head characteristics, they’re an obvious choice for fitness enthusiasts, worker bees, health nuts and travellers alike, due to the myriad of features they offer every subgroup respectively.
But what will the impact be on the luxury watch market, if at all, moving forward? Is it as terrifying for retailers and wholesalers (like Watch Direct) as it’s being made out to be in the media? Here’s our take on it.
Style is eternal
As Yves Saint Laurent so aptly stated: “fashion fades, style is eternal”.
And when it comes to watches, the hallmark of stylish accessories, that couldn’t be truer. The reality is, when it comes to smartwatches - their lack of design (although intentional) will naturally fade as new models are released, and these fast-fashion tendencies may become less appealing over time.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for them at all, but the reason some of the most enduring watch houses still exist is because they’ve curated watches that will literally stand the test of time. Their precision, craftsmanship and detail are what drives their popularity. They’re statement pieces; functional and devilishly handsome, designed to withstand years of wear, easily passed down as investments to the next generation.
Obsolescence doesn’t make fiscal sense
When it comes to technology giants, a lot of their smart technology, whilst smart, is made to break - and only after a short timeframe.
This is a proven theory (called planned obsolescence) and evident in many of our smartphones that begin to deteriorate unexpectedly after only a couple of years of use. Likely, we’ve all fallen victim to this at some point or other - our technology breaking down, even with no noticeable cracks or bumps.
There are no two ways about it, it’s not just a little treat reserved for phones - smartwatches are designed this way too. From a financial point of view, in a market where the popularity of the item hasn’t yet been proven, it’s not a sound financial strategy.
Consumers increasingly expect more from their items (especially given the extravagant cost of nimble tech) and this planned failure could potentially mark the downfall of the smartwatch trend.
An enthusiast market exists for everyone
Let’s all agree, smartwatches are here to stay. But who are they here for? Well, people who love smartwatches - because they will always buy them: rain, hail or shine.
But so will people who love the classics: the Tissot's, the Breitlings, the Omegas. Because they appreciate, and relish in, the history. That hasn’t changed for centuries, and it’s unlikely to change in the future.
There is a market for everyone - which is why niche products exist. With a global population of 7 billion, there’s enough consumer cash to cover every product on the shelves, virtual or otherwise. Smartwatches and physical watches will have their time, respectively.
Of course, for those who just can’t choose - and can’t stretch for both - Frederique Constant launched their hybrid watch model, called the Hybrid Manufacture, earlier this year. According to Hodinkee, it is, “quite literally, an automatic mechanical movement with a digital, battery-powered module integrated into it - including a fitness tracker.”
At this stage, it’s the first of its kind, but it’ll be interesting to see how many more players from traditional watchhouses make the same move. If they want to nab their slice of market share on the smartwatch front, it might just be time to try.
ABOUT WATCH DIRECT:
Watch Direct is Australia’s number one watch website for brand new, high-quality designer watches. They’re exactly the same as those you would find in the shops, simply with a better price tag. A range of styles, brands and designs offer a perfect potential watch for every buyer - including Armani, Citizen, Tissot, Breitling and many more. Hurry, time is ticking!