Jean-Louis Gassée on Apple Watch: Hard questions, facile predictions

”Few Apple products have agitated forecasters and competitors as much as the company’s upcoming watch,” Jean-Louis Gassée writes for Monday Note. “The result is an escalation of silly numbers – and one profound observation from a timepiece industry insider.”

“Apple Watch 2015 sales predictions are upon us: 10 million, 20 million, 24 million, 30 million, even 40 million!” Gassée writes. “These are scientific, irony-free numbers, based on “carefully weighed percentages of iPhone users” complemented by investigations into “supplier orders” and backed up by interviews with “potential buyers”. Such predictions reaffirm our notion that the gyrations and divinations of certain anal-ists and researchers are best appreciated as black comedy— cue PiperJaffray’s Gene Munster with his long-running Apple TV Set gag.”

“Fortunately, others are more thoughtful,” Gassée writes. “They consider how the product will actually be experienced by real people and how the new Apple product will impact the watch industry.”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. I do not agree; “analysts” have to be contested because their “expertise” actually is solely based on whether they are paid by “bulls” or “bears” of stock market. So even if they do not believe in things they “report”, they do not care.

      That said, watch could sell over ten million next year, possibly up to twenty million. This prognosis is nothing like final say, but it is based on various polls, not on anecdotes and “analysts'” wishful thinking.

  1. My prediction is that Apple will sell lots and lots of Watches, enough to keep making and improving them, and that the people who buy them will love them. I predict people will want to see, touch and experience the Watch, even asking strangers if you can use a stylus with it (for Samsung devotees). I predict third parties will develop many different bands for the Watch, even slick non-wrist deployments, and that Watch people will be almost cult-like in their love and devotion. I also predict the luxury watch industry will continue to bark and whine about the Watch, when it really doesn’t affect their business at all.

  2. Interesting article but two things:
    1) $5,000 isn’t “High end” for watches, expensive yes, high end is ten times that. People who can spend $5k on a watch, can spend $2k on an Apple Watch.
    2) Jean-Louis forgot about the “killer app” for a smart watch. Here is one (non) killer app for you: an app that gives me 2 minutes warning of a pending heart attack. What’s that worth to you? Not sure if the technology is there yet but if and when that comes, you’d be a fool NOT to have an Apple Watch. I am impressed by the current blood pressure/pulse monitoring apps now available for the iPhone. They don’t yet replace professional equipment but they have the big advantage of being with you all the time.

    I have no idea what the killer app for the Apple watch will be but it could be anything. I thought email and most of the web would be the killer app for the iPhone but it turns out Maps, directions, and location services are much more valuable to me. Facebook, Twitter, books, photos, games, movies and music are just gravy. Give me 2 minutes warning and it will make all the difference in the world.

      1. And as I’ve said numerous times – make it monitor blood sugar non-invasively, and I’ll pay anything, as well. It surely wouldn’t come to $20K, but if it did, I’d find a way. My wife’s blood sugar issues aren’t a matter of “if”, but “when”, or even “how many times and how bad this week”?

  3. Rolex, Patek and Tag cannot check your pulse, open your garage door, map your run, pay for tickets, be the ticket, open your car, open your house, adjust the temperature, music, volume, etc.

    The Apple Watch cannot last for more than a day or operate under water.

    I’d say that these are apples and oranges and predict that some may even wear two apple watches or an apple and a traditional watch on different or the same wrist, or at different times.

    $350 is not a lot for a sport watch. I do wish I had 5 timers on my wrist when cooking, esp. when doing BBQ and slow cooking things.

  4. Fascinating how such a wild point is missed in the analogy.
    Comparing the analogue watch/watch by looking at the analogue to digital cameras looks nice at the start but then misses the whole point.

    Consider the act of taking a photo on an analogue vs. digital camera. The process is about the same, the devices weight the same, and it can be as simple as shoot and point or as complex as setting up things manually.

    The real difference is what happens after. For an analogue camera it involves, winding up the film, sending it off for development, getting them back having to deal with thin negatives and books where you have to sort out your photos, buy new film a constant expense. Compare that to digital, developing the photos is instantaneous and there is no continued expense of film. It’s amazing but not surprising to have a whole article using such an analogy without any commentary of the use and what I call the artifact.

    A luxury watch doesn’t have that, and here the camera analogy fails. Consider the analogue vs. the digital watch. Digital watches are everywhere, on your stove, microwave, VHS/DVD/BluRay players what ever. They haven’t done a thing to supplant the luxury analogue watch, and I don’t think the watch will do the same.

    Yes the watch is a device that is worn on the wrist and will be able to tell time, but I prefer thinking of it as a device worn on the wrist. As people have two wrist, I think one day we might see the double wrist luxury watch watch wearer.

    Both can coexist harmoniously, for those who can grok the concept.

    1. & considered as ornaments, — I often wear two or more bracelets on one arm. I’d be even happier if they were not only beautiful but functional, like James Bond devices: a BS detector would be really helpful at cocktail parties, for example.

      And does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care? (Chicago song)

  5. interesting read. Biker of TAG Heuer, who I pilloried previously, does make a good point about expensive smartwatches. His notion of whether a smartwatch that could succumb to Moore’s Law is worth $2,000 compared to a similarly priced mechanical watch is an interesting argument.

    To a point.

    I believe that there are compelling markets for an Apple Watch and a Patek-Phillippe, IWC, Rolex, and other mechanical watches. A $50,000 Swiss watch should be highly prized next year and in future generations. But that in no way would doom an Apple Watch to potential failure. While Moore’s Law could potentially depreciate an Apple Watch model over time (no pun intended), I believe that if a Apple executes on the hardware and software for it, this upcoming product will be highly in demand for many years.

    There is and will be a market for both traditional mechanical watches, as there will be with Apple Watches. My biggest fear for the Apple Watch will be attempts by lesser competitors to commoditize smartwatches in general, thus potentially diminishing the perceived value of the Apple Watch. It’s no surprise then that Apple has chosen to position the Apple Watch as a valuable fashion accessory, not just an electronic timepiece or fitness tracker.

    While the mechanical watch will be obsolete by comparison in terms of what it can do, consumers will value an expensive, high-end watch for its hand-made craftsmanship and style. I’m sure this is not lost on Apple, and must be a closely discussed topic. How Apple can uphold the price it will charge for a smartwatch when knock-off competitors will try to undercut it on price, and diminish the marketplace to define all smartwatches as mere commodities will be a fascinating development over the next several years.

    Commoditization is a race to the bottom. Eventually, it is a fire that consumes itself. Apple has succeeded by resisting the temptation to jump into the pricing/market share quagmire, carefully using positioning and value to stay ahead, and profit greatly from it. With smartwatches, Apple will need to define the value of the Apple Watch to prevent its advantages from being eroded by copycats and cheap rip-offs.

    Warren Buffett insightfully said that great companies profit by taking a commodity and adding branding, something that Apple does better than any other company on earth. Coca Cola takes corn syrup and other ingredients, adds brilliant branding and marketing, and creates billions of dollars of value to something that would otherwise be generic. Starbucks does the same. Some consumers see no difference between a crappy Windows box or Android and a competing Apple product, but you do.

    I see the difference between a Leica or Nikon DSLR and a lesser camera. These products might do similar basic things, but consumers feel strongly about the results. That is what value is about, and why we willingly pay more for it.

    As long as Apple can clearly demonstrate the value, capabilities and style of the Apple Watch, I have no fears for its success. Likewise, I am confident that wealthy consumers will wear a Patek-Philippe or IWC watch years from now. Different product types within the same category. But both will be successful as long as they can define value and style.

    1. I believe that if a Apple executes on the hardware and software for it, this upcoming product will be highly in demand for many years.

      The obvious concern is the swift antiquating of the software and battery. The ultimate mechanical timepiece was invented centuries ago and miniaturized onto the wrist in the 20th century. If it has good works, with minor care it will last for a long time.

      But with an Watch, how long is the battery going to be usable? Can you swap it out? And the software is obviously going to progress with time. How backwards compatible is that software going to be? Is the last version of compatible software for the first generation Watch going to look archaic and be archaic in 10 years? How about 20 years? Will it be that thing passed down from your parent that sits in a box as a sentimental piece with no modern applicability?

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