1.2 billion watches can’t be wrong – where does a smart watch go when you own a Rolex?

Smart Watch

Did you know 1.2 billion watches are sold annually worldwide? With 77% of those being mechanical (think “has a second hand”)? And around 120 million of those were sold in the US – more than the number of iPhones sold.

It has been about a year since my pebble smart watch shipped to my home. My first one died, and they promptly replaced it. And it’s been with me on a number of trips, in-the-water, out-and-about, and on my wrist for countless hours. They’ve improved the software, added features, and designed new and interesting watch faces.

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It’s wonderful at moving the cognitive load of: buzz, dig in pocket, unlock phone, view, slide, read – to just: buzz, glance. And a glance that is faster, less intrusive, and less rude in social settings.

So what’s the problem? I love watches. That space on my wrist is reserved. I own a number of watches – most inexpensive, but watches I enjoy – and I miss switching them out.

Rolex has sales of over $4b on watches ranging from $5k to $70k (or more). And if you think that’s pricy, google: Patek Philippe to see what a half million dollar watch looks like. The largest Swiss manufacture has $8.8b in annual revenue. The global watch market is reported to reach $46b by 2017.

Now tell me again why smart watches are a big deal?

What if Apple, Samsung, Sony, or LG could take a sliver of that share? Of that wallet?

Fossil, the only traditional watch manufacture I’ve seen mention Google’s Android Wear currently has 5.2% of the global watch market share. Are they looking to grow share? Or are they the only watch company getting ready to protect their share from newcomers that have zero history in watch manufacturing, but can make a digital device better than most.

And if google is providing the software, you know it will be good – so what is Fossil competing on vs. the others? Digital watchfaces?

For me, and my watch addiction, I’m torn. I love the functionality of a smart watch, but want the quality, story, and feeling of a traditional watch.

Ever heard the saying “You can judge a man by his watch”. It’s a brand tribe, it’s a class, it says “i’ve made it”. Watches are the only acceptable jewelry for men anywhere in the world.

If you are wearing one of the 29 million swiss watches sold each year, will you trade a $5,000 watch you got on your 40 birthday for a $300 Samsung smart watch? How do you compete with that as a smart watch maker?

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Motorola/Google is showing, for the first time, a classically designed smart watch. They’re moving in the direction of tradition with the Moto 360. Something that has the quality, and look of a mechanical. A look that’s been classic for a 100 years.

Will that work? Or, is there a space somewhere else? A “second wrist” device? This is the one thing I like about Samsung’s new Gear Fit. While it has the time, you could wear it opposite a traditional watch on the other wrist without looking like a total fool. And it’s actually selling well – they’ve sold out of the first run of 250,000.

watch-fit (image: source)

Or if just a bit narrower, it could complement a traditional watch like a trendy leather wristband bracelet thing (sorry, I have no idea what these are called).

This is why I was surprised to hear the rumors around Nike’s Fuel Band. There still seems like a segment that would want something to complement a watch, not replace one. But as phones get almost as good as any of these bands at tracking, and people giving up their children before their phones, maybe the writing is on the wall. You shouldn’t compete against someone’s phone. It’s going to win.

Then Apple. With rumors heating up, and seemly the name that is emerging is “iWatch” – which describes the design. And if they were designing a watch, wouldn’t they look to braun over something futuristic? Or something totally different altogether? To truly innovate?

Because it’s not really a smart watch category, it’s a “give me information that’s important to me quickly” category. And that could take many shapes and sizes.

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