Face-Off: Apple Watch vs. Swiss Watch Industry

Today one of the most premium Swiss watch brands, Tag Heuer jumped (or was forced to) into the smart wearables space partnering with Google (Android Wear) and Intel.

This is not the first time we are seeing fashion brands stepping into branded electronics space. From Lamborghini to Porsche to Prada we have seen it all trying to capture the niche but hyper-premium segment.

Tag-Heuer itself launched a premium mobile phone MERIDIIST in 2008, right around the early days of the Apple iPhone.

“Fashion brand” smartphones, I believe don’t make much sense. However wearables are a more natural category of devices where partnering with fashion brands makes sense as it is actually worn and shown exposed more often than a phone.

The Swiss smartwatch industry for sure does not want to cede the premium watch market to Apple Watch. However, there are some questions which could set tone for the success of these brands:

  • Adopting Android Wear as a platform, makes me curious if there would be enough differentiation for these brands from interface perspective compared to competing Android wear brands.Or will the Tag Heuer customers care about the software design, functionality over the aesthetics?
  • Will this induce a sense of fragmentation in terms of software?
  • Will these brands be willing to share highly valuable info of their highly valuable premium customers with Google?
  • Google will have to make these watches compatible to iOS platforms as there is a higher probability that many of the Tag Heuer customers might be iOS/Apple users which could make Google a bit nervous.
  • However, on the flipside it will be interesting to see if Android powered Tag Heuer smartwatch makes the rich iOS users switch to premium Android phones for a much more holistic experience.

Definitely the segment is in very nascent stages but this is evolving into a very interesting battle of mindshare, partnershare and race to protect marketshare by Swiss watch incumbents to fight the upcoming Apple Watch.

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