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