The Apple Watch: A gateway drug for Swiss horology

“In September, famed Apple chief designer Jony Ive used some colorful language to say his company’s debut wearable device meant the Swiss watch industry was — ahem — in trouble,” Robert Hackett writes for Fortune. “This is not the first time, however, that Switzerland’s horologists have been on extinction watch. With cunning and a little bit of rebranding, they’ve survived upheaval before. And this time it will be even easier.”

It’s the “reputation of the Swiss watch as an heirloom, a treasure, an encapsulation of the lifetime of an ancestor, that may insulate it from would-be competitors,” Hackett writes. “It’s playing a different game than Apple, a company with cutting edge technology that tends to blunt on an 18-month cycle. “’The question is are these competing in the same market category and my belief is that they’re not,’ Raffaelli says. ‘The traditional $10,000 watch produced in Switzerland they’re hoping you’ll not only wear, but you’ll pass down to your children and great grandchildren.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Of course.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

However, we do not foresee anyone wanting to take off their Apple Watch in order to wear a “jewelry watch.”  Apple Watch is not just a watch to be replaced with another regular watch. Maybe wearing two watches will come into vogue for special occasions?

MacDailyNews Note: Today is Good Friday. As such, the U.S. financial markets are closed for the day and posting will be less frequent today.


  1. “A rising tide lifts all boats.” – MDN

    Great MDN comment. Suspect the Apple Watch may well bring more attention to watches. Many will add an Apple Watch to their collection and wear others when the occasion calls for it.

    1. Apple WATCH has already brought more attention to watches. I have noticed over a year ago, that more and more non-Apple watch ads were popping up in magazines all over the place.
      Those companies were scared and probably thought to get their watches in the face of the consumer and sell some — before Apple WATCH becomes available.

      1. You are probably just noticing the ads more, because you are primed to look for them. There have always been loads of expensive watch ads, particularly in New York Times Sunday and New Yorker.

  2. The watch is in a class by itself. The watch is a computer, communications device, and an iPhone complimentary device. “Watch” gives people a familiar frame of reference. Maybe in the future Apple will rename it.

    Presently iPhones are being passed down to family members as newer models are purchased. I see no reason why this trend will not continue with the watch. Doing this extends the effective useful life of the watch. I don’t see the watch being passed on to others as a “heritage” watch, however, the expected life of solid state circuitry is about 1,000,000 hours. 😀

  3. In past upheavals the basic function was still the same, the watch still just told time.

    This time I think the Swiss watch industry may be out of their league. At least in Apple’s market that is.

    Time may not be on their side.

    1. This the crux. There’s only so much space on the wrist. Wasting it on a mere clock will be foolish. And they can forget that whole “heirloom” notion. The grandchildren will say “That’s…uh, nice, Grandpa. Now how do I get it on the net?”
      Luxury watches will be as much a prized heirloom as a solid gold buggy whip.

      1. 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. 😀

        1. Personally, I see the Apple watch becoming prevalent in the mid-high end at best. The high end of the 1% will probably still wear their luxury mechanical watches more often than the Apple watch (assuming they even deign to buy one) in ‘polite’ company..

  4. As the article asserts, the Swiss watchmakers are in a different business. They are not selling functionality. They are selling a kind of jewelry. I don’t see them being much affected by Apple Watch. I also don’t see them being very effective at creating their own smart watches.

    1. The only reason Swiss watchmakers will see a decline due to the Apple watch, is due to people having only one wrist. But I think they may actually see an increase in sales due to more awareness surrounding wearables in general.

            1. Ok, may seem weird if it was an Apple Watch being one of the two.. But consider this.. If the watch/sensor device pair matched I would think women would love the symmetry and usefulness of devices as wearable accessories more closely resembling bracelets. More so than a singe watch would. Also there would be an added benefit of the pair being interchangeable so you could sell it to both lefties and righties and still have the same look. If the band were wider, the pair may also appeal to the more cosmopolitan men. You could go further and just make it a single device that can pair with another of its model so you don’t have to build two separate types of devices and also allow the workload to be shared between them, in addition you would sell twice as many. The fixation on making the Apple Watch actually look like a watch may pull their leg sooner or later.

      1. A Timex is a watch? No? A Rolex is no more accurate that a Timex or an Apple Watch. What’s the big deal? Some people want to show of that they have $$. I just want the Apple Watch. I had a Rolex. It was great for telling time. The Apple Watch is like a Dick Tracey gadget for the 21st century. It isn’t just a watch, but it is nice enough to replace the just Nice Watch.

  5. ” “reputation of the Swiss watch as an heirloom, a treasure, an encapsulation of the lifetime of an ancestor,”

    B.S (mostly). Swiss Marketing B.S which they have repeated endlessly to boost sales like a national hymn…

    IN actual fact many mechanical watches are non functional if they break down, often after a few years parts are no longer available (worse for small edition watches.). Custom making parts can cost more than the watch itself. For newer watches a service BEFORE PARTS can cost $500 or more.

    Rolex says that ” by law, Rolex is only required to have and guarantee supplies for watches that are up to 25 years old.”
    (what they are saying if they run out of spare parts, Tough Luck, so much for ‘heirloom Treasure’ ).

    ASK yourselves, if the watches are REALLY heirlooms to be passed down through the generations why don’t they guarantee repairs for 50, 100 or more years?

    Rolex forums are filled with customers frustrated with expensive repairs e.g for a simple crystal replacement: “Rolex would only change the crystal with a service $800 plus the cost of the authentic sapphire crystal – another $150).”

    That’s rolex one of the most POPULAR brands (they sell lots so have lots of spare parts) , think of the even more RARE watches, give it to your grandchildren? good luck.

    And the reason for the service expense (see the $800 service charge above for the 150 part) is NOT that the watch repairs are so wonderful but that they can’t get watch repair guys anymore and so you are paying for the ‘privilege’ of them working on your watch! Average age of American Watch makers is 50-60 years old!. i.e in few years it will be even harder and more expensive to fix your mech watch… !

    and old rare watches only have good resale value if they are in mint condition, scratched, have a ‘fake’ replacement part and they are cheap. (just like comic books, a mint rare copy is $$$$, one with a torn cover is $).

    Of course you CAN keep it in mint condition and pass it on, just don’t WEAR it….

    Those of us who are old enough know people with boxes of scuffed non working mechanical watches left over by relatives which “they will somebody spend the thousands to get working again”.

    Yeah those who buy 100,000 watches can probably afford to get them fixed (although unlikely the parts will be ‘original’ ) but thats not apple’s market, (the hyper expensive watches are actually a small part of the Swiss industry) the watch makers in Apple’s PRICE RANGE are in serious trouble. Even in more trouble are the ASIAN watch makers without the snob Swiss cachet.

  6. This multi-pronged culture clash is fascinating. I expect it is going to become more acute over time. There are so many ways to view it: The most obvious is the Luddite vs the Techno, the traditionalist vs the progressivist, folk art vs futurist art. But it’s not at all that simple. I’m enjoying the harmonics amidst the noise of conflict. 😎♬

  7. Good point MDN if people get used to wearing smart watches then having an expensive traditional watch left to you will be like being left a pocket watch a matter of interest in archaic mechanics one keeps in a Draw to pull out to show ones friends in a rather humorous conversation upon family and technological history.

  8. One way of guaging the success of Apple Watch will be the speed of its take-up by TV shows.

    We’ve watched our favorite cops, Feds, whiz-kid analysts, doctors, lawyers etc swiping, wiping, touching and speaking into their iPhones and iPads (and competitors) for some time.

    But how quickly will Gibbs and Sciutto, Garcia and Morgan, Grey, McGarrett and all the rest be yelling messages or endlessly tap tap tapping away at the AppleWatch on their wrists?

    And will the bad guys have AppleWatches or will they be foiled because they only have inadequate “smart watches” (so-called), and even more important, when our heroes get into a fight, will the AppleWatch break?

    1. More likely the writers will be forced to keep villains from owning Apple Watches because they can’t think up any credible way of ‘foiling’ them and making the ‘good’ guys look inept. 😛

  9. davewrite…..didn’t you just shoot a big hole in your argument? Rolex will guarantee parts for 25 years and just how long will Apple guarantee parts? I mean com’on, Apple has a pretty strict one year warranty, maybe extendable to two or three years. If I spent 17k on an watch I’d like to be assured it will be fixable in even just ten years. Believe me the high spenders in this world are even more quality conscious that the rest of us.

    1. Rob,

      i am commenting on the article:
      “pass down to your children and great grandchildren.’””

      how many of you have great grandchildren within 25 years?


      1. and dude

        “I mean com’on, Apple has a pretty strict one year warranty, maybe extendable to two or three years. ”

        you are confusing WARRANTY with PARTS availability (which I was talking about. )

        the Rolex Warranty is TWO years.
        WOW so that’s way better than the Apple warranty….
        and great for the writer’s point of watches for your ‘GREAT grand children’ ???

        the Rolex warranty also only covers watch movement. Not damage to the watch body etc.
        the Rolex warranty is also not transferable.

        1. Apparently Apple’s standard warranty on the Edition will be two years. And this whole notion of a watch being an heirloom is simply of a different era now. It will be no more of an heirloom than a phone is today. The continuous improvement of the technology will assure that. “The grandkids” would look upon it in the same way as if he passed along a B&W RCA Victor console TV and told them it was a family heirloom.

          Nobody’s going to be sacrificing that wrist space to a mere clock when so much more functionality is available instead.

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