With the arrival of the new Apple Watch on the 24th April 2015, the co-inventor of Swatch lays down his predictions on the impact it will make on the market for Swiss watches. He predicts the inertia of the Swiss watch companies and their focus upon marketing and value, rather than future product investment, could lead them into an ice age.
The Apple Watch will be worth £299 – £13,500 dependent on the model of your choice (entry level sports wear model – Cartier 18 carat gold model) and supposedly has an 18 hour battery life. Could the Apple Watch bring forth a repetition of the Seiko Quartz crisis? Looking back throughout the history of the wristwatch, it would not be the first time that a technological innovation has shaken the watch industry.
In 1876 the very first wristwatch was brought into existence by Patek Philippe at the commission of a Hungarian Countess. It was worn as a stylistic jewellery piece rather than for the more practical purpose of keeping the time. This was a fashion that was initially rejected by men.
The wristwatch had become legitimised for men through its use in the military in the late 19th century and became a common adornment for men within the general public. Throughout the 20th century the wristwatch evolved into a luxury item for style and had less focus placed on the innovation of it’s technology.
Watches that Changed the Times
The Rolex Oyster (1926) – The hermetic seal that was introduced through this watch set the standard of waterproofing for manufactured watches.
The Hamilton Ventura (1957) – The first watch to use an electronic battery.
The Omega Speedmaster (1967) – Also known as ‘The Moon Watch’, the Omega Speedmaster was created with specifications to withstand the NASA tests that enabled it to survive it’s journey into space on Buzz Aldrin’s wrist.
The Quartz Crisis
The Quartz crisis is an example of the kind of devastation the new Apple watch can unleash on the watch market. In the 1960s, the first Quartz watch was developed by the Asian watch making company Seiko which dealt a heavy blow to the Swiss watch making industry. 14 years later the Swiss watch makers developed the affordable Swatch; the watch which sold over 2.5 million watches in 2 years and revitalised the Swiss watch making world.
Future of the Wristwatch
The wristwatch has declined in usage for it’s primary complication of telling the time and has returned to it’s original function of being a fashionable accessory. However, it was not long ago that it’s next evolutionary step along it’s cycle took place and the wristwatch transformed into a smart watch. 2013 saw the introduction of the Pebble Smartwatch and was the first smartwatch to show any indicators of success in the a public sphere; Kickstarter. This technological advancement in the wristwatch making industry paved the way for the apple watch, but how will this new combination of luxury and technology affect the wristwatch market?