How does an industry continue to grow, while its functionality continues to diminish? “Watches are unnecessary because anyone can see the time on their cellphone or TV,” Enrico De Paoli, watch collector, recently admitted to the NY Times. And as many savvy consumers know, a $20 watch tells times as effectively as a $20,000 watch.
Buying a particular watch is about image, it expresses a set of values and your personal style. As each luxury brand at its core speaks to a different customer, each watch brand and watch feature does the same.
Isetan reported that is annual watch sales rose more than 60 percent last year, driven by sales in “complications” and womens’ watches. For those ‘outside looking in’, complications are features like perpetual calendars (taking into account leap years), chronographs, and moonphases. This is consistent with feedback provided by many executives – it is purely emotion driving purchases and growth, no longer under the guise of functionality.
Is there room for “SMART” in horlogerie?
“I do not believe it can compete with mechanical watches in our haute horlogerie segment in terms of emotional value, the shared passion we have making our watches and the passion that our clients have, the aesthetic value and longevity of the object and its long-term value”
-Theirry Stern, ceo of Patek Philippe
Smart watches do not even seem to be a point of discussion among luxury watch executives. With continued, albeit slowing growth, overall, brands remain true to their heritage.
Swatch is one of the few traditional watch brands to toy with a smart watch, launching a connected watch with the Paparazzi back in 2004. It has since been discontinued. Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swatch Group is still not impressed enough with available technology to wade back into that business. Battery life, a lack of functional difference from a smartphone, and information security concerns are a few areas that need to be addressed before the Group considers entering the business again.
Tissot is currently developing a wi-fi watch, and is a brand already known for their touchscreen T-Touch watch. But it is moving forward cautiously, “we don’t want to go in the same direction as what is currently on the market, and especially not watches that provide personal information like your heart rate or anything like that, because when you enter the health arena, there are risks attached,” Francois Thiebaud, Tissot’s president told WWD.
One of the few retailers who has opened the conversation around how the two different worlds may interact is Paris Left Bank’s Le Bon Marche. Their new watch department opened in the summer featuring the regular luxury players alongside alternative brands like Slyde and MF&B in their Galerie Imaginaire Horlogere.