De­spite a surg­ing start, the ver­dict is still out on the im­pact of smart­watches.

The Peak Selections: Timepieces - - Off The Cuff - TEXT HAR­VEY CHIA

It hasn’t quite been the all-out confl ict we ex­pected, but the battle lines have been clearly drawn. The tug of war be­tween tra­di­tion and tech­nol­ogy, sparked by a rash of new smart­watches – es­pe­cially the launch of Apple Watch in 2014 – has led Swiss watch­mak­ers to set up op­pos­ing camps. In one cor­ner, pedi­greed watchmaking houses thumb their noses at tech giants en­croach­ing on their turf. In the other, equally es­teemed brands be­lieve change is in­evitable, and the only way for­ward is to em­brace it.

The lat­ter group, a grow­ing one that now in­cludes Tag Heuer, Bul­gari, Breitling, Fred­erique Con­stant and Montblanc, has wasted lit­tle time in en­ter­ing the smart­watch scene, in­tro­duc­ing a va­ri­ety of “smart” timepieces and de­vices in 2015.

Breitling, for in­stance, came up with the Ex­ospace B55, a dig­i­tal chrono­graph that can be linked to a smart­phone. Else­where, Bul­gari de­vel­oped a con­cept watch in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a Swiss dig­i­tal se­cu­rity com­pany, which can store, pro­tect and un­lock en­crypted data. In March 2016, Fos­sil Group, which owns a range of en­trylevel fash­ion-watch brands like Diesel and Sk­a­gen, an­nounced that it would soon launch elec­tronic wear­able col­lec­tions for each of its eight brands. The bold­est smart­watch ven­ture by a Swiss watch brand, how­ever, has come from Tag Heuer, which teamed up with Google and In­tel to of­fer the An­droid Wear-en­abled Tag Heuer Con­nected. Com­bin­ing pro­cess­ing prow­ess, courtesy of Sil­i­con Val­ley, with Swiss horo­log­i­cal grav­i­tas – namely, Tag Heuer’s renowned con­struc­tion and crafts­man­ship – the Con­nected, when it fi rst ar­rived in stores, proved so pop­u­lar that the brand had to sus­pend on­line sales to man­age over­whelm­ing de­mand.

The early hype sur­round­ing smart­watches seemed to sug­gest that the


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