Jean-Claude Biver: ‘The Apple Watch cannot compete at all with European watches’

“With the Apple Watch looming on the horizon for apparent release in the first quarter of 2015, the traditional watch industry is planning on how to react, both from a competitive product perspective, and anticipating how consumers will react,” Ariel Adams reports for Forbes. “Whether or not you personally want an Apple Watch or appreciate the design, most people agree that it will be a highly disruptive product. Not only is this the first serious smartwatch device meant for the mainstream consumer, but it also takes smartwatches to a new level of design, finishing, and pricing.”

“I knew exactly who to ask for an opinion: Mr. Jean-Claude Biver,” Adams reports. “After successful careers at Omega, Blancpain, and Hublot, Jean-Claude Biver currently runs the watch division at LVMH. That means he oversees luxury watch brands such as Hublot, TAG Heuer, and Zenith.”

42mm Apple Watch Edition in 18-karat yellow gold case with Midnight Blue Classic Buckle
42mm Apple Watch Edition in 18-karat yellow gold case
with Midnight Blue Classic Buckle
Some snippets from Jean-Claude Biver:

• I was a little bit disappointed because we were awaiting and expecting a typical “Apple Revolution” and what finally we saw just a brave, somehow classically connected, watch. I still believe the next generation Apple Watch will be much better and therefore will not buy this first watch.

• The Apple Watch cannot compete with any prestigious watch from a prestigious brand. The only thing you might be able to do with your 18k gold Apple Watch is to melt it down and recoup the few grams of gold; end of story!

• Yes, of course it lacks soul. But it also lacks of aesthetic tension (yin and yang), and it’s not sexy at all. It’s just a perfect 3D computer design.

• The Apple Watch cannot compete at all with European watches.

• The Swiss watch industry will find an answer to the “connected watch.” Not the Apple answer, which, for the time being, is mere a miniaturization of the iPhone. Nevertheless, there will be a Swiss answer to the smartwatch, with their own concept and message.

• I welcome the Apple Watch and thank them for helping to promote and prepare the wrist for us in the Swiss watch industry.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As well he should be, Jean-Claude Biver is scared shitless.

Related articles:
What the Apple Watch says about Apple – September 15, 2014
Tim Cook of Apple Watch battery life: ‘You’ll want to charge them every night’ – September 12, 2014
Old school watch makers don’t get Apple Watch – September 12, 2014
Apple Watch, the world’s first real smartwatch, will be a massive hit – September 9, 2014
Apple iWatch designer Jony Ive: Switzerland is in deep shit – September 4, 2014


    1. The Watch isn’t meant to compete with high-end European watches. Those are just jewelry. The Watch is meant to be FAR more functional, be able to be used in fitness or business settings, but still be stylish.

      And the Swiss are going to design a smart watch to beat the Watch? Really? And just what software are these mechanical gear head designers going to write?

      1. Agreed. There is a considerable price delta between the Apple Watch and the most expensive Swiss watches. That’s obvious. I am sure that there will continue to be an eager marketplace for traditional Swiss mechanical watches. It’s something their best watchmakers do brilliantly, and I doubt that Apple will disrupt that. However…

        …while I never doubt the intelligence and industrious nature of the Swiss, it appears that Monsieur Biver is badly underestimating the resources of a company like Apple to put its weight and innovation behind the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch will go far beyond anything the Swiss watch industry has ever attempted to do with a watch. It won’t be just a time piece, but a communications device, a health tracking device, a computing device and more. These are specialities that aren’t the expertise of the Swiss watch industry.

        Further, the Apple Watch is more than just a watch. It will be a PLATFORM, linking what will be a vast array of software developers, healthcare IT vendors, hospitals, physicians, cloud services, telephone carrier networks, the music industry and much more. This is something for which the Swiss software industry simply is not prepared. By contrast, Apple has been laying the ground to create this for many years.

        I for one doubt that Switzerland will be wiped off the map by the Apple Watch, nor will the Swiss watch industry defeat the disruptive change the Apple Watch will bring. But I have to believe that Monsieur Biver is either in desperate spin mode, or simply does not understand the gravity of this.

        Apple Watch is more than a watch. It’s the tip of what will be a vast iceberg. You need only look at the Apple corporate R&D expense increase over the past year to sense that.

      2. I doubt any father will handing down their AppleWatch to a newly born son eighteen years from now. Knowing how fast electronic devices are obsoleted, one year from now it will be put in a drawer and rarely ever used. It will have very little value if its a regular AppleWatch or AppleWatch Sports. The high-end AppleWatch Edition might be a different story if it’s a limited edition AppleWatch.

        However… I doubt any AppleWatch will have the value of a Piaget Emperador Coussin or a Richard Mille RM58-01 Tourbillion World Timer 20 or 30 years from now.

        1. The Apple Watch will certainly last more than one year but you have a point. In five years, those Apple Watches will be in the junk drawer or in a landfill. However, this is what Apple customers have grown to expect. For a company that pretends to be “green,” they sure are anything but.

        2. That’s absolutely nonsense. What evidence do you have for anything that you’ve written, other than (seemingly) wishful thinking.

          What makes what you said really stupid is that what’s going to stop the Apple Watch from working in five, ten or twenty years from the day you purchase it? Apple products are known for their longevity (I have owned at least three Apple computers, including my iMac I am typing this on and I gave them away because I purchased a new machine, not that any of them stopped working).

        3. My original iPhone from ’07 still works faultlessly. Battery health may be less, but as long as they can swap batteries on these watches every 5-10 years, I see no reason why the appleWatch won’t last just as long as any swiss watch. If anything, the original appleWatch Edition will likely become a highly valuable collectible if kept in excellent condition. I think the appleWatch will have a slower replacement cycle than iPhone (for most people). Something on par with the iPad replacement cycle.

      3. It will absolutely compete with those watches. The rich that buy $5,000+ watches don’t just buy one, though. They keep a collection of at least 6 (since it’s essentially jewelry). However, they will include the appleWatch to their collection and wear it far more often than their other watches. Eventually, many of them will reduce their watch collection size after certain watches just collect dust. This will be a slow but inevitable process, and will continue to gather steam as apple releases new versions and new designs.

    2. I think he’s right on most counts. If this was the perfect incarnation of a smart watch there would be no 2nd gen, or 3rd gen. It’s not. Given zero constraints this is not the Watch they would make. It’s full of compromises. What will make it a huge success (it will be) is not its “watchness,” but the extension of technology to the wrist. Generation 3, or 5, or 6 wearers will laugh at this watch. Generation 10 Watch will in no way resemble it. AND YES, SWITZERLAND IS SCREWED.

        1. No, that’s not the point. The point is that he’s right and there’s lots of room to grow for this watch.

          It’s actually possible, btw, that by version 10 they’ll be licensing the OS to the Swiss for authorized hardware.

    3. Oh, sure he (Biver) does, he’s scared shitless, so obvious from his reactions. History repeats itself, his remarks reminds strongly of earlier reactions in 2007 to the iPhone by CEO’s of Microsoft, Palm, Nokia etc. Even reminds of the old remark from Dell’s CEO earlier when he wants to melt the gold and recoup the few grams of gold; end of story! (my favorite).

      1 – “… not buy this watch.” – he will, just to tear it apart.
      2 – “The only thing you might be able to do with your 18k gold Apple Watch is to melt it down..” – that really irritated him, a golden version of aWatch.
      3 – “…I welcome the Apple Watch and thank them for helping to promote and prepare the wrist for us in the Swiss watch industry…” – translation: fuck you retards, this is our territory, we will show you where our fists fits you best.

      He feels it profoundly, he’s no stupid, his forceful reactions is the proof and the best barometer on measuring his fear.

    4. Not only do they “not get it” yet, but we don’t get it yet either, beacuse the watches haven’t shipped and 3rd party apps and other advanced functionality is sure to come along quickly.

      It will take 4-5 months to shake out the possibilities.

  1. So, I gather he has seen the Apple Watch and has used it. — What’s that you say, the Apple Watch hasn’t come out yet? So brave of him to guess it will fall to European smart watches, also undeveloped. Vapor watches.

      1. It’s a sign of poor craftsmanship to explain one’s creation, but judging by all my down votes, I shoulda said “I had to try that JCBiver technique out for myself…” We all know hjs is beyond reproach and I would never, ever intentionally cast an insult towards her/him. Few others have earned that vow.

        1. Most times I can’t figger out what in the hell you’re saying, mostly I spect coz I don’t read much books other than those what teach a guy how to build a Mansard roof when I need to . Your words sounds awful purty tho. But I do know when it comes to tramping on toes, ain’t nobody pointing in your direction—and I wasn’t aiming to do that neither. Trying to learn me some that offa you.

        2. Just between us, I have been known to make up things just for fun. Some of it works. Goes back to my childhood.

          Lewis Carroll came up with some pretty dodgy stuff about perspective, logic, and games. My father read his stories to me — I identified with Alice, the solemn little girl struggling to make sense of events in Wonderland. My father also patiently explained all the hidden meanings to me. Later in life I identified with Emmy Noether.

          I tossed a non sequitur at you, but you came up with a funny response anyway. That’s savoir faire, fer sure.

        3. Au contraire. There is an almost Faulknerian depth of allusions and associations. To mention only the most obvious, the white rabbit consults his pocket WATCH as he exclaims “Oh dear! I shall be too late!” before disappearing down the rabbit hole, followed by Alice into a hallucinogenic Wonderland reminiscent of the state of languor enjoyed by Apple thralls (at least as described by their detractors).

        4. Oh, well that’s obvious to anybody, tho I guess I can’t make no claims against that since I don’t know this way or that from what you’re saying. But I do know that even though a Mansard roof takes way more framing lumber to make, you get way more useable space from it. And iPhones give you more space—native GB vs GB, than your typical Samsung phone do, far as comparing Apples to Samsungs go. I’ll go drink a bottle of magic juice now coz my brain hurts.

        5. Well now you’re contributing ‘stead of pleading illiteracy. I had to look up the Mansard roof & now you have me intrigued about the Apple connexion wrt efficient design. I guess this time you put one over on me, — your analogy is powerful and to the point, whereas mine was abstract and fanciful…I approve.

  2. I think these types of attacks prove one thing.

    Apple does in fact have them scared.

    I am no watch person… If I were to buy any watch again… It’s going to be the apple watch.

    I’d much rather have a Casio from Walmart than one of those expensive “Swiss” watches.

    1. Exactly. Most people used to wear watches. Now most people don’t. That is the population that Apple is going for, while he is focused on the 3% of people who still wear old time watches. So his customers are dying off and thus so will his industry, unless Apple changes the game.

  3. What’s an executive for a Swiss company that makes high-end watches supposed to say? Whether or not the the Apple Watch upends watch making as we know it (it’s awesome, but probably not that awesome) why would anyone expect someone in Biver’s position to admit it?

    1. If he was smart, he would say that the Watch really isn’t a competitor to high-end European watches, and it isn’t. The Watch will be purchased by millions more people, used far more hours per day, but won’t impact Swiss watch makers’ sales because they’re just different products. People who were going to buy a Tag watch will still buy one, but maybe the low-end Tag watches will die off.

  4. Oh dear, yet another industry expert who exists in a rarified world far beyond that inhabited by the sort of people who would buy an Apple Watch.
    He’s selling watches costing as much as a small house or moderate sized car.
    Or even a high-end car!
    Those watches are in no way threatened by the Watch, but the likes of Swatch should be getting twitchy.
    And not just the middle-ranking European watches; the Seikos and other sport watches from Asia as well.
    Diving watches needn’t worry, the Watch isn’t water-resistant enough.

  5. As a piece of jewellery I agree, if it just told the time you probably wouldn’t buy one based solely on looks, but it doesn’t just tell the time – which will be the main reason people buy one.

      1. If I’m misunderstanding your intended meaning then please forgive me but let me clarify:

        The Apple Watch is NOT a miniaturized iPhone. And I wouldn’t want it to be.

        Just as the iPad is NOT an enlarged iPhone. And I wouldn’t want that to be either.

        1. But, with iOS 8, your iPad will be able to answer/make calls over your connection to your iPhone, just as you will be able to with your Mac and Yosemite. I even think you’ll be able to answer calls on your  Watch, and maybe make calls using Siri.

  6. There will always be a market for luxury watches. Some people are impressed by high precision engineering, some people like them as status symbols. However traditional watches and smart watches are two entirely different types of product. Both tell time and sit on your wrist, but that’s where the resemblance ends. It’s like comparing the finest typewriter with a modern computer. Both can type documents and sit on a desk, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Again.

    However mechanical watches will last longer into the smart watch age because of their appeal to vanity and value as status symbols.

    1. I’m unconvinced that the market for classic watches is going to remain very large. While a market for high end classic watches will always exist, over time it will become a smaller and smaller niche, while smart watches will take over the mainstream watch (or should I say wearables) market.

      You can certainly argue both sides when discussing the Apple Watch vs classic watches. But Apple certainly kicked the classic watchmakers in the rear end with their watch bands. The attention to detail and finish quality can’t be had in the classic watch market in the $350 price range. Apple has one very large advantage over everyone else: volume. They will use it to brutal effect on everyone else. (Oh the humanity…)

      1. I don’t see the volume. The Apple watch is only an iPhone accessory. There is no opportunity for expansion into any other market. Unless Apple comes out with an android compatible version it’s simply going to be a subset of iPhone users that are going to be the target demographic. I expected to be a moderately successful product, and I believe it will sell well every time a new version comes out but since it’s only an iPhone accessory, the target audience isn’t large and people will get tired of upgrading every year. Also it’s biggest problem right now is there’s no killer app.

  7. I tend to agree based solely on the images I’ve seen of it that the I don’t find the design sexy. Where the iPhone’s design brought a clean, simple form to a world of clunky-junky phones, letting the OS take center stage and impress, the Apple Watch at $350+ seems to have brought a cold, simple form to a world of beautiful, crafted jewelry/fashion watches. Band options notwithstanding, the band is not the watch.

    And as much as they want say the interface is *not* just a shrunken iOS, it does seem to be. The fancy new technology in their “digital crown” is… an LED and a cog — the same fancy technology that has been in computer mice forever, only in one less dimension. And for all the talk about how your fingers wouldn’t obscure the screen, the fellow from Apple demonstrating the watch had his fingers on the screen most of the time.

    It doesn’t exist yet, they’ve got the whole world talking about it, and so on and so forth, but at this point in the game, trying to think of it as a watch disappoints, and trying to think of it as an iOS device disappoints.

    It just doesn’t seem to bring anything new or better or more beautiful to the segment, from what they’ve shown us.

      1. Not even. It’s vaporware until it ships, but from a design perspective, there’s no such thing as a v1.0 product. While I admit it’s not *ugly*, it’s just not really *anything* from a jewelry perspective.

        The more I hear about the interface, the less I like it, too.. you’re “zooming in” to a cluster of apps on the home screen, then moving around to look for the one you want? No keyboard obviously.. pre-guessed answers to text messages (if they happen to be formatted as either/or questions) or voice-to-text, which we all know is…not great. And may very well leave you talking into your watch like Dick Tracy.

        Doesn’t seem like it was experience-tested.

        I will go to the store and put my fat fingers on it to see, but it *sounds* clumsy. To be fair, Apple’s iOS devices have thus far NOT been clumsy, interface-wise, so I hope I’ll be proven wrong.

    1. I have mixed feelings about the Apple watch. I’m a long-time Apple user, almost 30 years, I’ve had every other iPhone since the first one came out, and I think the Apple watch is pretty cool, but I just have no desire to buy one. And I even bought (and still own) a Newton!

  8. The  Watch requires the extra computing power of the iPhone 6/Plus to be fully functional. So are the expensive Swiss watches going to team up with the cheap Google Android phones to provide the same functionality.
    The  Watch does far more than just watch time.

  9. The iPad was just a bigger iPhone. Now the AppleWatch is a smaller iPhone. Just like before they are not prepared for the wave to come next year. Their plan is full of holes like the swiss cheese. Apple is going to be the most profitable watch maker in the world.

  10. Literally LOL … Of course thats what he would say..

    these watch people are either complete morons.. Or in complete denial.. Or as MDN put it.. Scared shitless.
    But whats funny is how their responses and opinions are so childish and pathetic.

  11. Initially at least, the Apple Watch is not a threat to the majority of the Swiss watch industry. Most of its revenue comes from ultra-expensive mechanical watches. These are bought as works of art, items of jewelry and not as timepieces. A cheap, ten dollar, plastic quartz watch keeps better time than the finest mechanical.

    In the short term, people who are looking to buy something that starts at around $1000 and goes to several hundred thousand dollars are not going to be considering the Apple Watch. At the other end, if you are looking to buy something cheap (let’s say under $100) then you won’t consider the Apple Watch either.

    Then there’s the middle segment – which is most at risk. LVMH (who Biver works for) does not play in this space but other Swiss companies do. As do the big three Japanese watch companies and fashion brands like Fossil. A successful Apple watch could decimate these guys.

    In the longer term, even the high-end guys might start to feel the pinch. If the Apple Watch proves so useful that people feel compelled to wear it all the time then they might not wear anything else. After all there is limited real-estate on your wrist – so if the Apple Watch takes up all of your wrist time, there is no reason to buy that new TAG Heuer.

    – HCE

  12. That’s how I’d want to go out… Just complete denial. “The PC guys aren’t just going to come in here..” kind of stuff. Look at this guy. I had no idea who he was, and now here he is getting his 15 minutes. That’s something.

  13. “The only thing you might be able to do with your 18k gold Apple Watch is to melt it down and recoup the few grams of gold; end of story!”

    Hmm, famous last words, methinks!

    Speaking of someone else’s famous words of advice to Apple, “What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders,” Michael Dell said before a crowd of several thousand IT executives.

    Hey Mikey, how you doin’?!?

    Then there is this little gem. “The Swiss watch industry will find an answer to the “connected watch.” Not the Apple answer, which, for the time being, is mere a miniaturization of the iPhone. Nevertheless, there will be a Swiss answer to the smartwatch, with their own concept and message.”

    Now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” Ed Colligan (Palm) apparently laughed about with John Markoff last Thursday morning. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

    And where is Ed now? And Palm?!?…

  14. I’ve never been much of a watch guy. I find most straps uncomfortable to wear and the back of the face of the watch has a tendency to make my wrist sweat underneath it. That said, I don’t know much about Tag Heuer or their products, so I thought I’d go look at their website. I see some sort of funny, clunky looking devices meant to be worn on the wrist and allow the wearer to know the time and feel special I guess, so I click through a whole slew of pictures to get to one I could conceivably be convinced to wear, just to see how much it costs, and, after clicking about a dozen times I’m told I can’t buy the device through their website. Not a very pleasant experience.

    1. Beautiful adverts celebrating gorgeous piston engine fighters look great but epitomise where the thinking of these brands lie, they find the future unworthy, inexplicable and not for them and that attitude will be the end of them outside of a shrinking if profitable niche.

  15. I’ve yet to encounter anyone named Jean-Claude to whose opinion I should ever pay any mind.

    Oh golly, OF COURSE those lousy Americans can’t compete with Europeans. Fasten your seatbelt, hotshot. By the time Apple is done with you, you’ll feel like you spent a drunken night in the Crisco wing of a Turkish prison.

  16. No offense to any European, but this sounds like the typical Euro Arrogance that the guys from across the pond like to give us. And this is a French guy too! Who bailed you guys out in both World Wars? Who sent a man to the moon, thus paving the way for technologies to make the iPhone? Who tore down that pesky Berlin Wall? And most importantly…who created the iPhone? America, of course! You’re welcome!

    1. Ignorance is not better than arrogance, or is it? No offense to any European you say. You are more of an offense to yourself than any other human being. Have you all together forgotten your ancestry or what?! At least you should know where your arrogance comes from – European ancestry?

      By the way I liked your question about who sent a man to the moon. By now you should know that the foundations of that technology was not “born in the USA”; and about that Berlin Wall it was both built and teared down by the Germans!

      The most important you say is the iPhone, that’s a good one sure, but designed by Jony Ive’s a UK citizen and Steve Jobs, half a Syrian and half an American of European ancestry.
      And, you are welcome too!

        1. Disagree. I wasn’t really directing my “criticism” towards ones arrogance, rather ignorance. Arrogance in itself can be as good or bad as it can be but used with ignorance it hurts oneself more than those to whom arrogance (based on ignorance) is directed towards. Ignorance is the key word.

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