Swatch co-inventor: Apple Watch will succeed and an ice age is coming for Swiss watch industry

“Apple Inc. may soon sell as many timepieces as all of Switzerland, threatening the country’s four-century-old industry, the co-inventor of the Swatch predicted,” Corinne Gretler reports for Bloomberg. “The Apple Watch may reach sales of 20 million to 30 million units annually in the first few years, Elmar Mock said by phone on Tuesday. Switzerland exported 28.6 million watches in 2014. ‘Apple will succeed quickly,’ said the 61-year-old, who helped create the low-price Swatch in the 1980s. ‘It will put a lot of pressure on the traditional watch industry and jobs in Switzerland.'”

“‘Anything in the price range of 500 francs to 1,000 francs is really in danger,’ said Mock, speaking by phone from Biel, Switzerland,” Gretler reports. “‘I do expect an Ice Age coming toward us,'” Gretler reports. “While “’Swiss Made’ has become a gauge of quality, the country’s watch industry isn’t impervious to threats — 60,000 jobs disappeared in the 1970s and 1980s when Swiss watchmakers underestimated demand for more exact battery-powered quartz watches from Japanese producers such as Seiko.”

“The success of the Swatch, a mass-market plastic watch that kept factories running, helped the industry revive,” Gretler reports. “‘Unfortunately, I’m reminded too strongly of the quartz crisis,’ Mock said. ‘So far I see watchmakers in this country making the same mistakes as back then. We’ve seen a lot of arrogance in the Swiss watch industry in the past few years, calling the smartwatch a gadget and not taking it seriously… Apple won’t die if the smartwatch isn’t a success. But in the next two to three years, a part of the Swiss watch market will suffer strongly.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: There’s nothing quite as refreshing as brutal honesty.

Good luck, Switzerland. You’re going to need it. Our advice: Focus on chocolate before Apple gets any Wonka-ish ideas.

Ah, would that Steve were still here:
Steve Jobs WIllie Wonka ©2010 MacDailyNews

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

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31 Comments

    1. I do. Young people will come to expect to get notifications and not just static time on their wrist.

      High school and college kids will expect their friends to be able to “tap” an answer, and will soon join companies in the ‘real world.’

      This is interactive watch concept is going to explode.

      Apple has the tens of thousands of people to make the new product integrate and function seamlessly with all the other devices we have. That is Apple’s big advantage, which represents a massive head start on any “Swatch.”

      1. Classic watches like classic autos are already lost on the most of the young. So many raised on smartphones have gone bare wristed. It will take the Apple Watch and other wearables to bring them back into the fold of technology wearers (a mechanical watch is still technology). I’ve always worn a watch, but I am no longer young. I am looking forward to the Apple watch because I’m one of those that does NOT like digging my phone out of my pocket. I predict success. I’ve a near 80-year old friend who ready to go camp out at the Apple Store to get a first look on April 10. Once they are out in the wild and people see their friends using them, it’s going to explode.

          1. You took the words out of my mouth, as and when the young get a taste for tech on your wrist which will quicken their disinterest in traditional watches, the addressable market for the traditional watch will slowly but very surely over time decline. And that for Apple is the important point in all this, many of those with a superglued love of the traditional watch will likely reject this but it simply doesn’t matter for as the smartphone has taken over from the Nokia so the smart watch will increasingly eat into the previous generation of watches and as it does will make the finances of those making the traditional watches more and more shaky especially where the Banks are concerned. The top end will survive, the bottom end will survive for a while but the middle segment won’t and will become a bigger domain for the smart watch over time.

        1. I’m a Rolex-wearing watch nut, and I already want an Apple a Watch. We’ll be paying for things, opening doors, starting cars, finding our way, and summoning drivers. Give developers a couple on years to invent the killer app and I’ll have to switch. (It’s also possible Apple has already given us the killer app, in which case I may need one by the end of the summer.)

          1. I too am a Rolex guy and own a couple. I will no doubt be getting an Apple Watch but I am concerned about the longevity of the Apple watch compared to my Rolex’s.

            My one Rolex is going on 20 years old and still works perfectly and is still stylish. What I’m concerned about the Apple watch is if it will only last a few years before it can’t be updated any longer. Like my first iPad or my first iPhone, at some point it becomes obsolete. Will this be the case with the Apple watch? If so, will it become useless and worthless over time? My Rolex doesn’t.

            Just saying. What do other think, I really want to know.

            1. Because of the longevity issue, I think that the market for a $17,000 Apple watch is pretty small. However, it is huge for the lower price points.

              I only have one watch that is worth more than $1000, and I’ve had it since I got it for my high school graduation 25 years ago.

              However, my daily wear watches are usually $500 items, and I wind up buying a new one every couple of years anyway, mainly because I beat them up pretty bad anyway between sports and working around the yard and house, and they start showing wear or crack the crystal face.

              I don’t think I’m the only one who wouldn’t have a problem upgrading an Apple Watch every 2-3 years, especially if the bands can be swapped over.

        2. One aspect I believe Apple is banking on with the “Apple” Watch (note it’s not called the iWatch) over and above everything that was announced, is marketing. Huge free marketing! Unlike the iPhone, the watch is prominently displayed in plain sight for everyone to see. Many in the media, no doubt, will be proudly displaying the watch, providing Apple plenty of free advertising. Also, every time the watch is mentioned Apple gets a promotion.

        3. The issue I see is that people who like classic watches such as myself have more than one, and like to wear different ones at various times or functions.

          But the Apple Watch is like the iPhone; you have to have it on you all the time. I doubt if very many people want something on both wrists, and since the AW tells time the classic watch is redundant.

        4. I have to agree with you, I love my Rolex and will never replace with an iToy watch. This is the only Apple product that I will not buy. I’ve been an Apple customer since 1989 and love all of their products except the watch.

  1. Death is the best invention according to Steve Jobs . It makes room for the new things . And if a manufacturer is not willing to kill its own products with innovative ones someone else will do it .

  2. In 10 years any Swiss watch company remaining will be selling watches that start at $15K- $20K. People with big money don’t need a gadget. They have “people” for that. They want a collection of rare and expensive stuff. Yes. They are that shallow.

      1. “Expensive cars, jewelry and such is the entry card to their social & business circle.”

        This is why, despite having the means, I’ve never had the desire to be in the social circles of these people. I don’t want to be judged by my friends by the price of my watch or car.

        However, as an Apple shareholder, I really hope all these pompous a**holes decide that a $17,000 Apple watch is the new criteria for entry into their club.

        1. As an AAPL shareholder, I am in complete agreement. I expect to buy the new one myself. I haven’t work my Rolexes regularly for a few years now. They are jewelry, but the the Apple Watch has the utility I crave, then I will wear one.

  3. All of this seems to have a historical precedent. The pocket watch preceded the wristwatch since it the pocket watch was too big to put on your wrist. Now the iPhone has preceded the Apple Watch since the iPhone is too big for your wrist.

    1. Wikipedia has a good history of the watch. While there were specific one-off reasons for some watches to make the transition to the wrist, they became common in the late 1800s by military men using them to synchronize actions in battle.

  4. the apple watch battery is replaceable.
    when the version 2 comes out used ones at a couple hundred bucks or so will hit the market.
    (i believe you can even use Apple Watch with limited functions without the iPhone ).
    One year after that used ones will be even cheaper and so on…

    the watch industry (of that sub 1000 range) is going to get SERIOUSLY hurt.

    —–
    Sold all my Fossil (watch) shares last year. Good company , good products , all the best to them, but Apple is coming….

  5. I have a hunch that similar articles appeared when companies like Seiko introduced electronic watches. I’m willing to bet that if I searched microfiche files in the library, I could find past newspaper and magazine articles predicting the death of the Swiss watch industry. While Seiko and others have certainly dented the market, Swiss watches, especially the high-end mechanical timepieces, are still in high esteem and demand.

    My hunch is that Apple will be quite successful with its line of watches. But I also believe that handmade Swiss watches will continue to be in high demand in future years. The two can coexist.

    I lust for a Tesla car. But I also get breathless at the sight of a pristine vintage 1950s Ferrari or Bentley. Finely crafted, handmade Swiss timepieces are an heirloom, something carefully preserved and handed down through generations. The same is true for a Leica M3 camera, even in the day when Canon or Nikon DSLR cameras are a marvel.

    In fact, perhaps one of the strongest arguments I’ve seen so far is the perceived value of the gold Apple Watch, if the expectation is that its useful life may be much shorter than an IWC, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Louis Moinet, Patek Philippe, Jaeger LeCoultre or other ultra expensive Swiss watches.

    But that won’t stop the wealthy from wanting an Apple Watch. It may not have the finely crafted gears and springs of a Swiss made timepiece, but offers an experience that will be unique. If you can afford a $10-17,000 gold Apple Watch, it’s likely that you have many other watches in your collection. That won’t change.

    So disregard all the noise and hype you will read. Switzerland will do just fine, thanks. And I have a hunch that the new Cupertino upstart will do equally as well.

  6. The point is that the Apple Watch can make a significant dent in the industry.
    It will hurt the mid range market the most but could also suck revenue from the higher end market.
    Don’t think of all or nothing, look at how Apple knock Samsung’s profit by retaking the high end market.
    Profit comes from making enough sales to cover the bottom line. Component costs increase significantly if order volume is lowered. Even if watches are made by hand, the materials still have to be purchased and inventoried. All that can shrink the profit margin.

  7. I guess this is revenge, or just old-fashioned karma, for the Swiss Rail Company having sued Apple for infringing its clock logo. Or typography. Or whatever it was.

  8. Most people miss one point about dragging the phone out to check the time, read a text or check an alert. It is an action easily doable hundreds of times each day by a person, but how many people do you know who have dropped that phone and are living with a broken screen? With a watch, nothing to drag out of a pocket, nothing to drop, nothing to break.

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