Developments in the watch industry in the coming years

by Rick Smee


June 16. 2017 - by Rick Smee

In the Swiss watch industry as well as in the luxury watch industry in general, there is currently a lot of movement to be observed: the reasons include social media, the increasing digitisation of the industry as well as the still delicate topic of Smartwatches. The question of what is going to happen in the near future is speculative at best. In this article, we examine the developments the industry has witnessed in recent years and what we are likely to see in the coming years.

Smartwatch and mechanical clock: An unequal marriage

The most obvious cause of the excitement in the watch industry in recent times has of course been the advent of the Smartwatch. Every since Apple did away with keys from mobile phones and revolutionised almost every product sector, a revolution in timekeeping was the natural next step.

Today, just two years on from the release of the iWatch the initial fears within horological circles failed to materialise as the iWatch failed to keep its promise to revolutionise the industry.

In retrospect, this comes as no surprise considering that mechanical wristwatches and modern technology are two worlds, as different as they might be: Diametrically opposed.

The mechanical timepiece stands for older values, for a romantic bygone era. The Smartwatch, on the other hand, epitomised the fast-paced digitisation of everyday life. In other words, anyone who wants to experience the driving and lifestyle of a vintage car, the smell of the cockpit, the simplicity that consciously rejects autonomous driving and the touchscreen in the centre console.


The right Smartwatch concept at TAG Heuer?

For those who prefer the aesthetic of mechanical models and choose a watch that will last for decades, standing the test of time without the fear of becoming irrelevant, losing functionality, timeliness or simply battery life may however also have an interest in smartwatches.

A concept to unite both worlds came about in 2015 from TAG Heuer: The Connected was the first Swiss Smartwatch that came with the option (included in its purchase price) of being able to exchange it for a mechanical watch if after two years the owner wished to switch.

At this year's Baselworld 2017 TAG Heuer remained faithful to the Smartwatch concept: The new version of the model, the Connected Modular 45, is compatible with other Android devices and can be converted from a Smartwatch to a mechanical timepiece thanks to a modular design. Traditional watchmaking art meets modern technology that could convince even the harshest of Smartwatch critics. It remains to be seen how exactly the symbiosis of Smartwatch and the long-lasting, mechanical watch will look in the future.

The revolution is possible, but not certain

Sometimes it just takes a little time and patience until the right technology comes along. One only has to recall the Siemens mobile phones of the early 2000s (Siemens S55 or M55) which did not yet have an integrated camera, but instead came with an additional plug-in module. Today, various concepts such as the Montblanc e-strap are indeed innovative but don't yet provide the breakthrough.

For someone to come up with the answer to the question of the ideal connection between Smartwatch and the mechanical watch they must not only contemplate millions or perhaps billions of ideas of both design and functionality that will bring about nothing less than an actual revolution in watch manufacturing.


Social media: reporting and speaking rights

The second change in recent years has undoubtedly occurred in the social media sector. Thanks to the internet, almost the entire information infrastructure of the horological world has changed. A few years ago, anyone who wanted to find out more about watches was obliged to buy manufacturer catalogues from the local retailer or by subscribing to monthly watch magazines. With the advent of social media, the appetite for reporting on all matters horological has seen both national and international watch community grow immeasurably.

The watch industry is fully aware of the growing importance of the online watch community, this reflected in projects such as the Omega's Speedmaster 'Speedy Tuesday', which acknowledges the large fan base of the Moonwatch and has been developed as a limited edition timepiece.

In the coming years, it is expected that model and product policy will increasingly take into account the wishes of the buyer. A welcome step, because ultimately only those who are oriented to the wishes and needs of the market can be successful. A further focus will be on the direct sale of watches on the internet. Until recently watches were predominantly available at bricks and mortar boutiques. With the advent omnichannel retailers, who combine online and offline points of sale, the market has blossomed.

Rick Smee

by Rick Smee

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