Apple Watch: Swiss luxury watch industry faces extinction level event

“Just like a soothing sunset can be ruined with a particular cloud cover forewarning of an upcoming storm, there are signs that the luxury watch industry is about to experience the closest thing it has ever faced to an extinction level event,” Neil Cybart writes for Above Avalon. “Only a few luxury watchmakers, including TAG Heuer and a handful of others, have bothered to even wake up and take in the lawn furniture. Switzerland is under the spell of a widespread illusion. ”

MacDailyNews Take: Delusion is more like it.

“The upcoming storm is called utility, and Apple is at the front line of bringing it to the wrist. With Apple Watch, Jony Ive and company are looking to change the way we interact with technology, utilizing what some may say is the most efficient region of the body for a wearable device: the wrist,” Cybart writes. “With proper line of sight and ergonomics, the wrist is arguably a better solution for a good portion of computing and communicating compared to carrying around 5-inch pieces of fragile glass in our hands and pockets.”

Cybart writes, “We will likely look back at this era with interest and intrigue, and wonder why luxury watch makers didn’t see the upcoming storm approaching.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Tick tock, tick tock…

Related articles:
Apple Watch and iPhone 6 Plus might flip your mobile computing habits – March 23, 2015
Inside Apple’s gigantic Apple Watch rollout – March 21, 2015
Apple’s arrogance, audacity, and alchemy as it challenges human evolution
Once you get your Apple Watch, you’ll be surprised how little you use your iPhone – March 7, 2015
Maybe this is the real reason Apple made the iPhone bigger – January 31, 2015


  1. Nothing can emphatically replace a good mechanical watch. This is like saying digital photo frames, as if Apple were to produce one, would replace paintings.

    They are totally two different things.

    1. yes, watches are different. most people like their watches, especially the more expensive ones. the phone industry was easy to destroy – most people hated their phone interface and the way it worked. most people did not like the existing tablets before the iPad came out – hardly any were sold! apple will sell a lot of watches, but it won’t be even close to an extinction level event for the luxury watch industry.

      1. Swiss watches are going to be in the dress watch market space. Mechanical, jewelled movements and the like will retain an appeal.
        However, for very many the phone removed the need for a watch and most youngsters have probably not worn one since they were given a little ‘tic-tock’ kids watch by their parents in order to learn how to tell the time.
        Apple are attempting to put a new interface with the phone on the wrist – so its a watch – but not as we used to know it.
        Will the $17,000 smart watch replace the Rolex worn with Dinner Jacket – probably not- but all the lesser models may well be seen as obsolete within a couple of generations of the apple watch.

      2. It isn’t a matter of hating existing watches. The problem for the current watch industry (even high-end), is that you probably only want one watch.
        While some people will forgo all the utility benefits of AppleWatch and stick with a mechanical one, a big percentage of current watch owners will probably switch to AppleWatch to get all the new features it provides.

        1. Exactly. You only have one wrist (guess you could wear the apple watch on one and the thing of beauty on the other).

          But when you get up, you will have to make a decision:
          * Put on my Apple Watch
          * Pull the exquisite mechanical watch out of the auto-winder and wear it instead

        2. I disagree. People who love high end watches often have several. People collect them because they are beautiful mechanical wonders. It remains to be seen if the Apple Watch will have much effect on the Swiss watch makers. Swiss watches are high end jewelry, the Apple Watch is a computer on your wrist. Yes, the Apple Watch is very attractive, beyond that I don’t see much overlap.

        3. I guess the question is if a significant chunk of the luxury watch market is happy to: A) not get the features Apple Watch provides, or B) wear two watches at the same time, or C) sometimes leave their Apple Watch and its features behind while they wear some other luxury watch.

          I’m guessing groups B and C will be small. Not sure about how big group A will be out of the existing luxury watch market. I guess we’ll find out.

        4. I get the idea that people who love high end watches often own several. The question is whether that will still be true when wearing any of them other than Apple Watch means you don’t have notifications, or access to ANYTHING that it provides.
          Maybe, maybe not.

      3. Over the last 25+ years, a lot of us have simply given up wearing watches. I suppose that was the first real big survival challenge the watchmakers faced. And they’ve carved out what market they currently have.

        They didn’t survive it by making time-telling a necessity again. They seemed to have successfully extended the fashion grasp — Swatches, for example — while the high-end market wasn’t affected all that much.

        It could remain that way, but I suspect the low end of the market will be challenged and gutted first, and to a lesser extent the high end, too.

        It may not kill the market, but I would expect it to be increasingly reduced to irrelevancy.

    2. Absolutely this. A mechanical watch is timeless while an electronic one is only good until the technology in it is supplanted. Bottom line is that the Apple Watch is disposable and won’t be passed down like a traditional heirloom watch.

    3. A car cannot replace a horse, either; however, the convenience and utilitarianism of a car places one in every yard, and horses a few and far between these days.

      I suspect expensive, mechanical, Swiss watches will remain a snobbish status symbol for quite some time, but those who are looking for functionality rather than envy will be buying smart watches.

      1. You assume a Swiss watch is comparable to a common horse or car. I am saying that they are not in the same league. A car can not replace a thoroughbred race horse, like the Apple Watch Edition (very specifically) can’t replace a Swiss mechanical tourbillion watch for example, as much as an Easter egg can replace a Faberge egg.

        I am not saying the Apple Watch is an Easter egg, I am saying that writers out there have no sense of proportion. Are the Swiss being senseless? Sure some of them are, but what we openly think of as Swiss made watches, are not. The crème de la crème will remain.

    4. Apple is not reinventing the watch, Apple is reinventing computing. Apple is selling a wrist computer that takes the space formerly reserved for use on a person’s wrist for a watch. It’s home screen is a watch face. Calling it a watch gives a person a frame of reference and feeling of familiarity.

      Tethering the iPhone and watch synergistically makes each function better where the sum of the two together is greater than either individually, i.e., 1+1>2. 😀

    5. Ooh! A Kodak moment! In a completely different sense from the original meaning though — more akin to the way Kodak & proponents of film were quite sure that their product was unassailable by the pixelated digital fledgling. You are probably quite correct in saying that “nothing can emphatically replace a good mechanical watch” — as a good mechanical watch –. Nothing can replace a fine riding horse — as a fine riding horse–. But a car and a roadway system and mechanics and a burgeoning car industry, etc., etc. can perhaps relegate the riding animal to a role in sport, in ranch work, or other important but no-longer-mainstream transport/travel ubiquity. The horseflesh remains as fine and admirable as ever, breeding just as appreciated as before. But the horse is no longer what defines movement and flexibility within the majority of endeavors that involve getting places. I doubt that the luxury appeal of a fine watch, or the utility of a good mechanical movement is going to suddenly go unappreciated. But the odds are that a new area of utility will bloom around wrist-worn devices that are not “only” the timepieces of old. And that market will probably be far, far larger than that regarded as the world of watches today.

      1. I understand what you are saying. The phone and Quartz watch has done all the damage they can, to the mechanical watch industry. It’s all past dead, since the 80’s. The space reserved for the wrist watch is now occupied by human endeavor of mechanical devices of precision – to quite possibly, atomic significance. Where the art of construction is the very nature of its existence. Some of these time pieces run a cool quarter million dollars.

        Do you ride a horse to work? No. And I don’t wear a wrist watch to tell the time. As funny as that sounds. Of course I will use it to tell time. But I don’t “need” to.

        Anyone remember the Power Balance wrist band? Although a scam, the same interested people are looking for a health device for their wrist – as in, space for rent.

        This is the market for the Apple Watch. I am looking for good bio-feedback. I want to monitor my health, be healthier.

        A good mech wrist watch, liking to a Stradivarius on the high end and a fabulous wine on the low end, isn’t going anywhere. The people who would buy an Apple Watch, instead of a Swiss mech, would not have bough a Swiss mech, in the first place.

    6. The Fate of Swiss Luxury Watches-Becoming Antique

      Those who value the luxury, status, and prestige of expensive Swiss watches, timepieces, and Certified Chronometers are a dying breed; literally. Those that grew-up with mechanical watches are those that value them most.

      When it comes time to pass on a heritage timepiece to someone accustomed to the daily usefulness of an watch, what will happen?

      I expect the timepiece will be looked upon with a certain awe given to antiques of superb craftsmanship that still function. I also expect, that except on rare occasions it will go unworn and unused. Like an antique Model T Ford driven only in parades.

      I expect the heritage watch will end up in a jewelry box or drawer, or perhaps a special display place on a mantle or shelf.

      watches were designed, styled, and fashioned such that people want to wear them. Technology on your wrist that won’t embarrass and brand you as a tech nerd. Watch Sport for everyday wear, Watch for business, or as dress watch, Watch Edition worn for status and prestige. watches, useful fashion beyond timekeeping. 😀

  2. I frankly pity those watchmakers. They desperately try to save their business. What they don’t understand is that Apple is not really after the watch industry. Apple is after the much more profitable health industry and entering the watch market is a mean to an end. There is no way for them to win in that kind of multi-industries positioning.

    1. The Swiss watch industry does NOT have a programming and electronic device integration system mentality, so it is not going to instantly move into the communication arena.

      That is not to say they won’t produce high end mechanical watches, though.

    2. That is the key. “Apple is not going after the watch industry.” The thing they’re calling a watch isn’t that at all. It is a wrist-mounted sensor suite, communication and computing platform that has the capability to display the time. It has been given the form of a traditional watch to blend in, plus the wrist is a pretty efficient location. Some models are given a luxurious finish to let them blend into a fancier setting without looking too industrial.

  3. Yeah… that’s why Apple has no competitors in any of the categories it’s in. If it’s a sea change product all the power to it but stop being so effing pretentious about a gizmo that’s not even out yet and that has some serious gaps (water resistance, battery life, stand alone functionality, en masse production diluting uniqueness and craftsmanship credentials to name a few). Swiss watches will always exist, always… There’s a lot of crap wristwatch industries (looking at you Asia… even though the Apple Watch is made in Asia) that will go before the Swiss goes.

    1. Tim Cook has already stated the he wears his Watch in the shower every day, so water resistance is not an issue. At the introductory event, Apple stated that Watch was not rated for water resistance yet, which could simply mean that production models had not undergone sufficient testing to be assigned a specific water resistance rating.

    2. Water resistance has been addressed to my satisfaction. It has the same or similar IP water rating (IPX7) that other smartwatches boast, meaning it can stay submerged at no more than 1m depth for 30 minutes.

      So surface swimming is theoretically ok, but diving isn’t.

  4. No, the Swiss luxury watch market is NOT facing an extinction level event. People who want a TAG Heuer, Rolex, etc. will still buy them. They are status symbols and men’s jewelry pieces much more than they are timepieces.

    Watch will simply fit into the mix for these buyers. If you can afford a Rolex, you can also afford an Watch Edition if you want one. You won’t do either or, you’ll get both. It’s just not the same market.

  5. Apple will sell plenty of AppleWatches, but not enough to destroy the entire horology industry. Undoubtedly the watch industry will sit up and take notice and likely make some changes but if a consumer has wanted a Rolex or TAG for most of his or her life, they’re not going to decide to get an AppleWatch instead. At least I wouldn’t think most would. Besides, I think the rich would just buy both and almost no harm would be done to the traditional watch industry.

  6. Agree and disagree. I think that for the most part, mechanical watches are safe. However, the Swiss do make a lot of mid-priced quartz watches – and these are squarely in the sights of the Apple Watch. More vulnerable, IMHO, are the Japanese – the mid-priced quartz segment is their bread and butter. Wonder why no one is talking about them.

    – HCE

  7. I think its going to happen more than most people think. Those high priced watches aren’t going away though. But there are a lot of people that don’t wear watches and this is aimed at getting them & those that want the health aspect . I think once people see others wearing them- getting texts on them and talking on them- BOOM they have them

  8. Obviously you know nothing about watches. People that buy Pateks, GP’s, Zeniths may also buy a smart watch but they will NEVER give up the beauty of a mechanical timepiece.

    Smart Watches and mechanical watches will co-exist, one will not kill the other.

    1. Where the damage will most probably be felt is in the watch market that sells the $200-1000 pieces. These mimic (usually) the higher end designs, or go off in bizarre tangents, but, are dressings on standard movements which are mass manufactured. Time will tell.

  9. If cheap quartz watches, calculator watches, fitbits and cheesy chinese knockoffs haven’t killed the fine heirloom luxury watch market, then what makes anybody think that Apple’s watch will? The Apple Watch is a ~5 year investment.

    Moreover, the luxury watch market is totally different than the Apple Watch market. The $3k+ luxury swiss watch is worn by the person at the head of the table. It establishes his/her dominance and strokes his/her ego.

    The “smartwatch”, even one with an Apple logo, is primarily worn by fanboys and marketing geeks whose attendance at meetings is only for the purpose of warming the chair. Those people think they NEED a smartwatch to read their messages and FB their friends discreetly during the meeting while the other people make decisions.

  10. I’m not convinced anyone but the technology press gives two hoots about smartwatches period, let alone those that start at $350. Let’s be real here, the only reason expensive smartphones sell so well is that they’re subsidized. These things aren’t, and the masses won’t be buying them. If a few upper class people have nothing better to spend their money on, that’s fine, but nobody should deceive themselves into believing the Apple Watch will be anything near as ubiquitous as the iPhone.

  11. This article is a gross exaggeration of the facts and predictions of the future. There’ll always be a place in this world for quality time pieces and for little computers you strap on your wrist. These are two completely separate areas of the market. Switzerland need not worry, nor Rolex et al.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.