Apple Watch is by far the most successful smartwatch to date in terms of sales, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Apple has been voted the “coolest wearables brand” by smartphone users. The Cupertino company not only beat technology rivals like Samsung and LG to the top of the list, but also high-end watchmakers and fashion brands like TAG Heuer, […]
Swiss watchmakers have been tripping over themselves to dismiss the Apple Watch as a threat, but TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver has come out with what I think is one of the fairer assessments of Apple’s debut wearable device to date. His take? That the Apple Watch is hella bad news if you’re a low-priced […]
Swatch CEO Nick Hayek today revealed that the company has plans to manufacture and ship its own line of smartwatch devices with a launch target within the next three months, easily setting itself up against Apple’s recent confirmation of an April launch date for the Apple Watch (via Bloomberg).
Hayek previously displayed skepticism about smartwatches, in particular the idea of one from Apple, saying he didn’t believe it would be „the next revolution.“ Hayek also previously dismissed the concept of a Swatch smartwatch initiative, arguing the company’s highest-end devices should already be called smartwatches because „they make you look smart.“
Apple and Swatch were rumored at one point to be joining together for a smartwatch, but Swatch quickly denied those claims last summer. Now, building on the decades of experience Swatch has accumulated over the years, Hayek voices determination in the face of going practically head-to-head with Apple on the smart wearables front.
“Entrepreneurs are practical people, and they care more about being successful than being consistent,” said Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas. “Hayek has always said they have relevant technology for a smartwatch – sensors, display, battery – and seems to be set to make the most [of] it. Better to have an option and a hand in this category than not to. Nobody can yet say how relevant smartwatches will be in the end.”
Some of the biggest claims Swatch makes about its upcoming smartwatch include the ability to connect to the Internet „without having to be charged,“ undoubtedly a direct shot at Apple’s yet-to-be-confirmed battery life for the Apple Watch. The Swatch device will also include a form of mobile payments baked into the watch, but as of now will function only in a select few Switzerland-based grocery stores, with the company in talks to acquire more mobile payment retailer partners.
Under the looming launch of the Apple Watch, several other high-end watchmakers have shifted gears and decided to delve into the smartwatch market, including TAG Heuer and Montblanc’s „e-Strap“ accessory band that attaches to traditional watches in lieu of buying an entirely new device.
High-end Swiss watchmakers have generally been publicly dismissive of any threat posed by Apple’s upcoming smartwatch, but now that the Watch is creeping closer to launch, fashion watch leaders are starting to take notice. According to Reuters, Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer has changed course and begun preparing a smartwatch and is willing to forge partnerships and acquire companies in order to produce an original luxury offering to compete with Apple Watch.
This endeavor is a marked change for the luxury watch maker, which is the largest brand under LVMH’s umbrella. Following Apple’s Watch announcement, LVMH watch chief and TAG Heuer interim chief executive Jean-Claude Biver dismissed the smart watch, saying it was „too feminine“ and looked like „it was designed by a student in their first trimester.“ He added that smartwatches such as the Apple Watch will soon be outdated, while „luxury always has something timeless.“
Biver admits he has changed his mind on the smartwatch category and already has outlined plans for a smartwatch device. He also has negotiated several partnerships and is open to future acquisitions if necessary to help jumpstart this smartwatch project.
„We started on the project about four months ago. We have done several partnerships and might also do acquisitions,“ Biver, head of LVMH watches and TAG Heuer interim chief executive, told journalists at the brand’s headquarters at La Chaux-de-Fonds in western Switzerland.
Among the companies rumored to be working with TAG Heuer are Google and Intel, the latter of which could provide the microprocessor that drives the watch. The TAG Heuer watch is rumored to include mechanical actions accompanied by sensors to monitor physical parameters such as steps moved and calories burned.
Biver said his company would only do a watch if the company can be „first, different and unique.“ He also confirmed he won’t make an announcement until he has a quality product to showcase, which could take as long as late 2015.
If it does launch a smartwatch, TAG Heuer will have to compete with Apple’s Watch device, which is scheduled for an early 2015 debut. Apple is producing several variants of its Watch including a standard model, a sports model and a luxury Watch Edition, which features an 18-karat gold casing, sapphire crystal display, and exquisitely designed band selections.
Thus far, rumors have pointed to Fall 2014 as the potential launch date of Apple’s rumored iWatch, with some analysts predicting September as the likely launch window for the device and others reporting mass production would begin in July. KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo had predicted that the iWatch would enter mass production in late September, but is now revising his production to late November instead, due to the difficulties of the project.
We believe developing the hardware and OS of iWatch will be a much more difficult task than for Apple’s existing products.
Kuo points out that the iWatch uses many new hardware technologies, like a flexible AMOLED screen, a sapphire crystal cover and a much smaller form factor with higher waterproof standards than other highly advanced Apple devices. Additionally, Kuo notes that redesigning iOS for the iWatch may also be proving a difficult challenge for Apple.
Apple has reportedly been aiming to debut the iWatch at an October event, and has recently hired former Nike FuelBand team members and TAG Heuer’s sales director leading up to the expected launch. While there aren’t any reports on what the actual device may look like, there have been reports that there could be „multiple versions“, which could include watches with up to 10 sensors and a 2.5-inch screen. Apple has also been meeting with athletes to test out the device’s fitness capabilities.
With Apple aiming to debut the iWatch in October, it’s likely the Cupertino company launches the device well after its debut when production is in full swing, similar to the launch of the Mac Pro. Alternatively, Apple could launch the iWatch in limited quantities and increasing them once production fully ramps up.