SMARTWATCHES, THE SWISS FIGHT BACK
The war on smartwatches has begun.
Apple has the knack of getting people excited over things and now that they have begun selling its own smartwatch - the Apple Watch - the topic of smartwatches is now on everybody’s lips. And where watches are concerned, one cannot ignore the Swiss. The Swiss are after all the largest exporters of watches in terms of value - accounting for more than half the world’s total watch exports. That said, the general attitude of Swiss brands toward smartwatches is that of caution. Some, however, have taken a more active stance towards smartwatches and have openly announced plans to develop their own.
Most recently at Baselworld 2015, Tag Heuer announced a partnership with tech giants Google and Intel to launch a smartwatch, in what seems like a deal that with benefit all parties. Tag Heuer is a prominent player in the affordable luxury watch market and both Google and Intel have the technical knowhow to execute both the hardware and software for the watch. Interestingly, this marks a dramatic U-turn for Tag Heuer, whose interim CEO Jean-Claude Biver said last year that smartwatches lacked sex appeal and that they would not stand the test of time.
While all of this was happening, a joint venture called MMT (Manufacture Modules Technologies) announced its new Horological Smartwatch Platform. To understand the Horological Smartwatch Platform, we have to look at the companies involved and they are Fullpower Technologies and Union Horlogere Holdings. The former is perhaps most well-known for its MotionX activity tracker platform, which powers devices from Jawbone and Nike. The latter is the parent company of Swiss brands Frederique Constant and Alpina. The Horological Smartwatch Platform is therefore a modular smartwatch platform that watch brands can use to power their smartwatches. This will allow brands to save resources on developing their own hardware, allowing them to concentrate solely on design. Already, Frederique Constant, Alpina and Mondaine have plans to launch watches base on this new platform.
According to MMT CEO Peter Stas, one of the key requirements of this new smartwatch platform is to create a watch that does not need to be frequently charged, and so watches using the Horological Smartwatch Platform are expected to have a battery life of around two years. Conceptually, the Horological Smartwatch Platform is very similar to existing offerings from French brand Withings. Watches powered by the Horological Smartwatch Platform will eschew digital displays for more traditional and classic analog dials. And from photos that we have seen, the watch will have a progress indicator showing how far the wearer is from reaching his or her daily goal. An accompanying app will be able to show more detailed analyses of the wearer’s activity levels and progress. In consideration of the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s where it nearly wiped out the entire Swiss watch industry, Swiss brands are understandably very wary of developments with regard to smartwatches. And although some brands have already signaled their intentions to pursue their own smartwatch, it remains to be seen whether the Swiss industry at large is ready to embrace this new technology and category of watches.
"One of the key requirements of this
new smartwatch platform is to create a watch that does not need to be frequently