Longines CEO on Apple Watch: ‘Two billion functions that no one understands’

“The Apple Watch may not be hitting stores until April, but many of the world’s leading watchmakers haven’t been shy in sharing their opinions on the hotly anticipated device,” Phil Han reports for CNBC. “At the watch industry’s leading trade show, BaselWorld in Switzerland, many companies were debating whether to head high-tech or stick with a centuries-old formula of watchmaking.”

“Watchmaker Longines said that it was not involved in developing a smartwatch. ‘We respect the brands that have the courage to go in this field, (but) Longines will not go in this field. We will stay with our traditional analogue watches,’ President Walter von Kanel told CNBC.

Longines' befuddled Walter von Känel
Longines’ befuddled Walter von Känel
A watch is not only giving time, it’s a status symbol and I don’t think you’ll get a status symbol in an Apple Watch with two billion functions that no one understands. – Longines’ befuddled Walter von Känel

Read more in the full article here.

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52 Comments

      1. Well, I know (1) how to talk and (2) how to listen on my iPhone. You mean to tell me there’s MORE I could be doing with it?!

        Well I’ll be dipped in s**t!!

    1. “McTavish is dead and his brother don’t know it.
      His brother is dead, and McTavish don’t know it.
      Both of them dead; they’re in the same bed,
      And neither one knows that the other is dead.”

  1. Years ago, a good friend’s father, the VP of a Fortune 50 company said to me, “I see no use for email. I will not learn it.”

    Brontosaurial hubris is amusing.

    1. A lot of VPs use to feel that way about doing it themselves. They simply would tell their secretaries to learn and use it. Many presidents and higher executives acted as though they were dirtying their hands using computers. That stuff was strictly for underlings. They’d say to me “Just get me the information and don’t annoy me with the details.” They’d already reached the top and there was nothing more for them to learn.

      1. That form of hubris went far below the VP level in the early days. Many VP wannabes didn’t want to sully their promotability image by having a computer on their desk. Silly boys.

    1. The assumption that a CEO can speak for all his customers is shallow.

      Customers only need “analogue watches” until the “time” they want or need or absolutely demand some more info.

      1. The man grew up in an analog world. What else is expected of him to say? The world at large moves on but some people honestly don’t realize it or don’t care. He’s locked into his own little world. I think he can speak for most of his customers who are only interested in traditional watches. There are probably younger executives in his company who differ in opinion, but this dude will have to retire or die before any changes are to be made within the company.

      2. The key phrase in his statement was “watches are status symbols “. That’s just code for “watches are a way to flash your wallet in public”. But there are many who view true standing in the world with measures beyond money, quite possibly many in his current customer base. If he can only sell to braggarts, his company is in deep trouble.

  2. Functions are called ‘complications’ in the horological world, and they are painstakingly crafted by extremely trained artisans, and release in very, very, limited quantities. This is a world that, sorry, Apple has no place being in. But, hey, no reason to think they should be. Likewise, computers on wrists is not a place Longines should be in, either. Two very different worlds. And just because Apple wraps their painstakingly designed and machine-crafted electronics in solid gold does not a full complication horological device make.

    1. Just like a fine bicycle is not like a fine moon rocket. Both are a marvelous feat of engineering, but one is designed for more advanced levels of transportation use and neither one will ever be mistaken for the other. I still love my bike.

    2. A finely crafted mechanical watch is a thing of beauty and a marvel of mechanical enginering.

      An Apple Watch is a a beautiful example of industrial design, modern manufacturing, and a marvel of electrical engineering.

      I still marvel at the engineering, craftsmanship, and function of a well made mechanical typewriter and I could still use one, but, I actually use a Mac, an iPad, and an iPhone to perform “Billions” of different functions.

      1. You’ve bridged both worlds and both worlds are grand. This is why I don’t understand all this rivalry about what’s better. It’s not a matter of what’s better. It’s more about what is more suitable to certain individuals. Why can’t both worlds be treasured without one sacrificing the other? I see no way how AppleWatch threatens the traditional watch industry. It just seems absurd that there are people that think this way. I think people just feed off of controversy where none actually exists. To me it’s like arguing over which is better. A fork or a spoon. Both utensils have their specific uses. Both of them are around for a reason. And still someone built a spork which is a useful combination of the two.

    1. And what do you mean “He’s going to look really stupid..”. He opened his mouth talking about a sector and a company he has no clue about. He is acting stupid but maybe the audience listening to him are even more silly listening and I guess we are all even more silly commenting on his stupidity.

  3. “We respect the brands that have the courage to go in this field, (but) Longines will not go in this field. We will stay with our traditional [products]”

    Might as well as the horse breeders if they will start manufacturing automobiles. Some may say yes. The smart ones will say no. But at the end of the day none of them will be able to to make the jump. They don’t have the ingredients (hardware design & fab, operating system, development platform, app distribution, support, etc, etc.)

    There are maybe three companies on the planet who could do this and none of them are based in Switzerland.

  4. Time alone, oh, time will tell
    Think you’re in heaven, but ya living in hell
    Think you’re in heaven, but ya living in hell
    Think you’re in heaven, but ya living in hell
    Time alone, oh, time will tell
    Ya think you’re in heaven, but ya living in hell
    –Bob Marley

  5. If everyone shared Walter von Kanel’s opinion, we’d most likely all be using sun dials, fortunately timepieces keep evolving unlike certain CEOs and Presidents. Will someone break the news to him gently and whisper in his ear “Apple Watch is a computer that happens to tell the time”, actually perhaps not we don’t want to induce a cardiac arrest.

  6. If I was the CEO of a major watch company, this would be my game plan:

    • I would first of all not poo poo the Apple Watch . . . because in the short term you can get away with that but in the long term you’ll look really, really silly.
    • If asked, I would differentiate my products entirely from it. Maybe even call it a remarkable achievement and interesting direction for technology and that “we’ll be paying close attention to how the market responds.”
    • And then I’d get talking and really emphasize the quality of the timepieces, in the classic sense, that my company creates. Whether that be the craftsmanship of the high end models (Rolex) or the beauty and affordability of the sub $400 models.
    • Lastly, I’d be working my ass off on a direct competitor to the Apple Watch but would spend the time necessary to make something that is good instead of rushing shit to market.

    Now just watch as the CEOs of all of these companies do the exact opposite of what I would do in their position. They’ll come off as arrogant, short-sighted and, eventually, inept.

    1. Nah! You got it all wrong. What you should have done is approached Apple and said, “What do you need? My whole company is at your service. We surrender completely to your direction and hope you will consider us worthy enough to be a part of Apple in the future”.

  7. His biggest mistake is in realizing that, like with the iPhone, some people will sacrifice a ‘status symbol’ for practicality and usability. Just because some people can afford a diamond-encrusted euro-phone with a mechanical keypad, doesn’t mean that most of them didn’t buy an iPhone instead.

    Same may happen with the Watch. If the features are sufficiently usable, compelling, and/or can improve quality of life, the people that feel like they need a status symbol will go ahead and shell out the big bucks for the Edition. A few may still buy analog watches, perhaps for special events (awards ceremonies, galas, or whatever else the well-dressed rich do), but you’ll definitely see an impact on the analog market, because their day-to-day watch will likely get replaced.

  8. Fifty years ago, in my home town, there were all these watch repair shops. Everybody wore watches, and when they broke down, you would take them to the watch repair shop and they’d fix it for you. The common wisdom was that watch repair was one of the most stable, most secure professions in the world: “As long as there are humans on this planet, they will be measuring time”. Well, there are none of such shops today. All those watch repairmen are out of business, because almost nobody wears mechanical watches anymore.

    When someone like Apple walks into someone else’s traditional market space, the dominant players from that market space fall into two categories: those who react with arrogance and indignation, and those who show respect for the new entrant. Most often, there are many more of the former, very few of the latter. Former Swatch CEO is the only one we heard from so far that falls into the second group.

    Here at MDN, we love pulling out those arrogant quotes years later, when their companies have been pushed out of existence by the competitor they once so quickly and publicly dismissed. Not to be forgotten:

    Ed Colligan (Palm)
    Mike Lazarides / Jim Balsillie (RIM / Blackberry)
    Steve Ballmer (Microsoft)
    Roger McNamee (Elevation Partners)
    David Goldstein (

    If you can’t remember what they said, google their names plus ‘iPhone quote’.

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