The Apple Watch is beating not just one or two traditional watch makers with its shipments, it’s crushing the entire Swiss watch industry single-handedly, according to statistics released by research firm Strategy Analytics. In 2019, it estimates Apple sent out just under 31 million Apple Watches, while the Swiss watch industry shipped 21 million in its entirety.
It gets worse, but not for Apple. Strategy Analytics’ data shows a 13% dip in numbers for the Swiss watch industry in 2019 when compared to 2018, when 24.2 million watches were shipped. Apple’s numbers in 2018 were 22.5 million, which gives it a 36% increase in shipments in 2019, reaching a massive 30.7 million.
The problem faced by the Swiss watch brands is starkly laid out by Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, who said, “Analog wristwatches remain popular among older consumers, but younger buyers are tipping toward smartwatches and computerized wrist wear.”
While some Swiss watch brands have made impressive and desirable connected watches, none can match the Apple Watch for features, ability, versatility, and usefulness. Alpina’s AlpinerX remains a favorite, especially in design and build quality; but it can’t compete with the Apple Watch on software and connected features. Other brands are trying different approaches to win you over. Timex-owned Teslar has made a watch supposed to help with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, while Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting uses a smartphone to set the time accurately.
Montblanc and Tag Heuer are probably the best known big-name Swiss brands to embrace Google’s WearOS software, and produce full touchscreen smartwatches. Both are beautifully made, but let down by a poor software experience, which is where Apple excels. Anyone with $1,200 or more to spend on a high-end smartwatch, who then played with the software installed on the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Golf Edition, Montblanc Summit 2, and the Apple Watch Hermès edition, would likely walk away with the Apple model.
The Swiss watch industry has been underestimating the rise of the smartwatch for years. In this 2017 Deloitte report on the Swiss watch industry, just 14% of executives considered smartwatches a threat to sales, with a massive 72% dismissing them as likely to have no effect at all. Only 14% saw an opportunity. At the end of April, the Swiss watch industry will hold two trade shows, Watches & Wonders Geneva 2020 (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld, to reveal its latest wares. Whether new smartwatches are among them remains to be seen.
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