Watch and Brand News Does the Apple Watch Mean an End to Luxury Watches?

Smart watches have been around for a few years but until recently, they have never been seen as a threat to the luxury watch market.  This year, Apple released its very own version of the smartwatch, the Apple Watch.  Luxury brands everywhere started wondering how to react and figure out what it would mean for their sales and product development.

The Apple watch was originally for sale at Apple stores and you needed an appointment, making them more difficult to acquire just like some luxury watches.  Recently, Apple announced that 100 Best Buy stores would be carrying the watch, making it available to a wider audience.

What Does The Apple Watch Mean For Luxury Brands?

Typically, luxury watches are classified as a watch having a value of at least $1,000 and many luxury watch prices now start at over $5,000.  The Apple watch on the other hand is primarily $300-$1,000, but some special edition watches found in rose gold or yellow gold are priced between $10,000 and $17,000.

Bloomberg recently published a report about the United States watch sales suffering the worst drop in seven years due to the Apple Watch. Our very own Caroline Kallman, from iW Magazine, was also featured on CNBC and asked to respond to the report and to provide an in-depth look at the watch market with the Apple Watch.

Reading the report closely reveals that the largest drop in watch sales comes from the $50-$999 price category.  The report actually mentions that the export of Swiss watches to the US, which represents most of the luxury watch market, actually increased in five out the first six months of 2015.  In fact Movado Group Inc, the New Jersey based company, just reported better-than-expected profit and revenue for the latest quarter.  This profit increase is expected to continue through the rest of the year. While the Apple Watch may affect the sub-$1,000 range of watches, we believe that luxury watches will be able to co-exist with the Apple Watch.

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Watches Are an Individualized Accessory

People buy watches for many different reason, but primarily because they are an individualized accessory that can serve a purpose.  Watches are one of the few accessories men have been wearing for decades, and before the wristwatch, they sported pocket watches.  Each watch is individually picked by the wearer and everyone has different likes and dislikes when it comes to choosing the right watch to wear.  Some people might like a smaller vintage watch while others may like large modern styles.

Watches are produced for many different reasons, they could be dress watches or dive watches but this doesn’t mean they have to be worn for specific occasions.  Many people like the sporty look of a dive watch.  At the same time simplistic time-only watches have a certain allure to collectors looking for a watch.

The Ultimate Analog Accessory

Luxury watches speak to people who love the mechanics and design. The mechanical watch market has continued to grow in the last 20 years despite the fact that there are much more accurate and convenient ways to measure time than a watch that must be wound or worn to maintain a charge.  There is a certain beauty and romanticism in all the hand finished details and the small moving parts that make a watch tick.

Mechanical watches represent an unparalleled artistry and a rich history.  The history of the design is also another reason many people fall in love with certain styles.  Some watch brands only produce a limited number of watches in a year, adding to the rarity of the watch and creating a desire to own one.

Brand and Status

The watch brand that you choose to wear represents something about your personality.  Watch brands have carefully developed themselves so that their products represent something about the person who wears them, some brands represent a more conservative culture while some are more bold and showy.  Brands such as Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe are known to produce more classically designed watches while Audemars Piguet and Panerai create larger watches and experiment with materials.

Luxury watches are also a status symbol, especially when talking to people who know about watches.  Watch enthusiasts are often caught looking at a person’s watch before looking at other elements they are wearing.  People buy watches for many different reasons, and they aren’t just reserved for the unknown billionaires.

Watches have been designed for royalty and worn by famous people, adding a special touch to wearing the more modern version, or the hunt for special vintage pieces.  If you lose a certain luxury watch, it is not as easy to replace like it would be to replace a cell phone.

IWC in a technology world

Adaption of Luxury Watches

The watch industry has been adapting over the years and have continued to adapt with the interest in technology.  Although the luxury, mechanical watch industry suffered during the quartz revolution, the two have come to co-exist in the watch world. You will find the same luxury brands creating automatic watches and quartz watches.  These same brands are beginning to produce their own technology to be adapted into watches and straps.

IWC announced their Connect, which ties technology into the watch strap to track activity.  Luxury brand Frederique Constant announced a “smart dial” that ties into a smartphone app to track activity and sleep.  Montblanc has also produced an e-strap to blend their classic designs with technology.  The strap is interchangeable between models and tracks physical activity and allows you to read headlines of emails and messages.  Tag Heuer is currently producing a wristwatch in partnership with Google and Intel, with more information being released in the coming months. This isn’t the first time Tag has utilized technology in their watches.  In 2013, they helped produce electric wristwatches with sailing specific functions for the Oracle Team USA.

montblanc estrap

This adaption by luxury watch brands shows their acceptance of the revolution in the watch world and the ability to coexist with technology, especially the Apple Watch. These brands want to continue the classic craftsmanship, especially in the watch dial and case but want to utilize modern technology and have found an easy way to incorporate this into the strap.


About Emily Smith
Newbie to watches but a quick learner. She loves the history of watches and loves learning how they work. She prefers Rolex and Omega watches but is learning the history behind other brands. Her watch of choice right now is her vintage Omega Ladymatic that is a mere 19mm. She has her eye on a few others including the Plum dial Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm and a Patek Twenty ~4 (4910/10 A011). While she enjoys the look of vintage watches, she is excited to learn about new models and build her collection.

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