Why high-end watchmakers should worry about Apple

“Only a select sliver of consumers can afford to buy watches often priced at US$5,000 to US$20,000 or more, let alone in the six digits,” Russ Alan Prince writes for Forbes. “With a combined net worth over US$40 trillion the super-rich certainly have the money to buy more watches, and interestingly, compared to categories such as fine jewelry or fashion where 90% buy on an annual basis, there is the opportunity to get more of the super-rich making purchases in the category on an annual basis.”

“Since most people only wear one watch at a time, any success Apple has in getting the current customer base of super-rich (think the US$2.5 billion in sales to Trendsetters) to at least switch for some period of time could have a significant impactPrince writes

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33 Comments

      1. Like there are no billionaire Democrats who will buy these watches that enjoy such protection while touting a philosophy that will never effect them!

        Think 1%er Matt Damon’s defense of Public Schools who then puts his own kids in Private Schools. Bet the rest of us 99% would like to have that option too!

  1. Those 20k (or 200k) watches are *mechanic*.
    There’s no comparison.
    People buy them for various reason, but ultra-precise time-keeping isn’t one of them. Nor is the lack of an USB-port threatening sales.

  2. The super rich are not interested in geek gadget watches whether from Apple or anyone else. People with watch fetishes, trust me I have a serious watch jones that I cannot scratch, will not buy an Apple watch instead and people who can afford high end watches have human beings who manage their calendars and contact lists.

    Cheapest Omega is sexier than any “smart watch” could ever be. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=r71t-FSoFAI

    1. I could see people who really like watches still purchasing an iWatch. Maybe they’d wear it to work, working out, camping etc. and wear the high end watch when going out.

    2. All rich people will buying iwatch because it will have lots of things like blood pressure, early warning for heart attack which is common in rich people etc and I bet you will be one of the first buyer.
      Now stop babbling on

  3. The people that buy expensive timepieces do so for the fashion statement – not because they think a Rolex is $20,000 more accurate than a Timex, or that they need 600 more meters of water-proofness.

    If Apple goes the wrist route, I expect many people will find a way to wear both (and in fact Apple may cleverly design the device with that idea in mind). However, just as smartphones are rapidly replacing cameras for casual photography, the ‘wrist data extender’ may gradually impact the watch industry (after all, some people have given up buying/wearing watches because their phone is now their portable timepiece).

      1. I would agree with that. But I would also argue that many of them are also trying to show the world that they have an appreciation of the craftsmanship involved. It’s still jewelry, albeit with function, and made to be seen.

    1. That’s pretty much correct. I wear a low-end Rolex (“only” about $6K) mainly because it’s jewelry. I figure a man’s watch should be the best piece of jewelry he owns. No gold necklaces with doodads, no gold bracelets and rings and all that junk, just a simple but well-executed high-quality wristwatch.

      I *do* use it to tell time though… I tried this “Millennial Kid” thing of using my iPhone to tell time, but it’s a pain in the ass to drag out my phone just to see what time it is, when I normally just glance at my wrist. So I wear my watch every day. Except to the dentist’s office… I don’t want him to think I have a lot of money 😉

  4. There’s the real gaudy super rich market also. Those folks purchase watches easily in the $1,000,000 range. They go into these stores most of us have never seen the inside of. They drop the black AMEX on the table, and the super expensive wine comes out and some beautiful woman who knows more about watch movement than most geeks know about computers begins the seduction. Uh, sales pitch.

    Sigh. I love the rich. I just wish they’d let us watch! Ha. I said watch.

  5. iPhone users abandoned wrist watches years ago. Don’t jump to the conclusion thst the iWatch will be a wrist watch. Expect a pin . . . like the Star Trek badge . . . or a pocket watch.

  6. You know Tflint, that’s the weirdest thing about the sudden attention to smart watches to me. I LOVE watches. But I don’t wear one. I can’t afford the kind of watch I’d want and even if I could, I’d seldom wear it. Most phones are always telling you the time now. Your computer is always telling you time time.

    So I don’t get it either. Except for those gadget watches that do all kinds of nifty health monitoring.

    1. I don’t see the point of one of these ‘smart watches’, if I need the functions, I use my phone. And I don’t use my phone to tell me the time, for the very reason that the wristwatch was invented during the First World War; when you want to know the time, it takes a second or less to glance at a watch on your wrist, it takes thirty times as long to fish your phone out of your pocket, turn it over and around to get the screen the right way up, wake it up, then read the time, in the same way that dragging a fob watch out of a pocket, then opening it, in order to get the time was a pain.
      And if you’re riding a bike, or out walking in heavy rain, or swimming, or, like me, your place of work prohibits the use of a mobile phone, for security reasons, and you still need to tell the time, a wristwatch is essential.
      I have a mechanical Seiko automatic, that I adjusted myself, and that is currently running about fourteen seconds fast.
      After I set it when the clocks were adjusted in March.
      That watch is more accurate than the Casio G-Shock I wear to work, to avoid the Seiko getting damaged while working inside machinery, and the Seiko will run for 55 hours without me wearing it..
      I have a couple of other watches that still work fine, many years after an expensive electronic smart watch would have broken: a TAG Heuer, series 1000, that’s now over twenty five years old, and a French-made Yema Rallygraf that’s now forty years old, and still running, although it could do with a service.
      None of those watches cost vast amounts, the TAG was £250, the Seiko £360, a year ago, and the Yema couldn’t have cost me more than about £50.
      Lets see your daft smart watch last as long as those watches have.

        1. Seiko makes very good watches. Seiko is one of the few brands that makes its own movements, along with Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, and Citizen. And, occasionally, Omega. Oh, and Zenith.

          The rest buy their movements from others and just make the case and bracelet.

  7. Perhaps a democratic tip of the hat for Jesse Jackson, Jr and his desire/need for a nice $40,000 tax Rolex wristwatch to wear when mingling with his wealthy base of supporters?

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