The Swiss watchmaker industry has been struggling in recent years, with exports of mechanical watches falling in 2016 to their lowest level in five years. Traditional luxury watchmakers are responding now by looking to grab a share of the fast-growing smartwatch market via technology partnerships and investments.
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The industry enjoyed an air of exclusivity for a long time, successfully managing to fend of competition from cheaper and more tech enabled alternatives. Technology is once again drawing a battlefield for Swiss watchmakers, this time in the form of smartwatches. If it is to survive, the industry cannot afford to ignore the potential opportunities and threats posed by this new market segment.
The industry’s unique positioning in the luxury segment, the strong brand image, the appeal of the Swiss Made label, all offer opportunities to Swiss watchmakers. Ahead of Basel 2017, we have seen a number of traditional luxury watch manufacturers announce more tech enabled alternatives.
At the start of last week, TAG Heuer revealed the new generation of a $1,650 smartwatch it makes with partners Google and Intel. Later in the week, Montblanc followed with its first luxury smartwatch, the $890 Summit. Not to be left out, on the same day Swatch Group Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek announced plans for a Tissot connected watch.
Tag Heuer’s Connected Modular 45 watch is very customizable. In fact, by combining interchangeable elements you can choose from one of over 4,000 unique configurations! You can even take out the Connected module and slip in a mechanical one when you’re looking to switch it up.
“While there is no future where the world is not connected, it doesn’t mean a smartwatch is the best choice for every occasion,” Tom Foldesi, VP for connected technology at Tag Heuer, told Esquire.
“Which is why we offer our mechanical timepieces as part of the collection.
As you would expect, there are plenty of smarts under the hood. The Connected module features an Intel processor, GPS, water resistance down to 50 metres, 4GB of storage memory, lithium battery for more than a day of full power, Google Assistant and Android Wear 2.0.
Montblanc Summit offers navigation, office assistant, a heart rate monitor complemented with several fitness tracking sensors, a microphone for voice, activity tracker, notifications, Google Assistant, language translator and a hands-free boarding program.
The 46 mm case made of PVD-coated stainless steel with satin finish is water resistant (IP68 standard) and only 12.5 mm thick. It houses a high-resolution AMOLED full round touch display and battery delivering one full day of use per charge. The internal memory and Bluetooth connectivity enable wireless streaming and control of music directly from the watch.
“In the creation of the Montblanc Summit’s design, we wanted to bring a one-of-a-kind vintage design expression into this new product category to inspire the younger generation who appreciates the vintage look, especially when it is combined with high quality steel and titanium cases and contemporary straps that give the feeling of a mechanical watch on the wrist,” said Montblanc.
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