Fossil’s fashion-first smartwatches are doing what tech companies never could

When Fossil Group said its brands would launch 100 wearables in 2016, everyone thought the company was completely nuts. After all, if Apple only launches one smartwatch every year, how can Fossil and its brands expect to launch 100? The problem with that logic: It’s a tech geek’s logic. Tech geeks are conditioned to expect a bevy of new features with every single product launch. The concept of design being a noteworthy feature that merits its own launch event is entirely foreign.

But that’s just it — Fossil is a fashion company, not a tech company. Fossil thinks about design first and last with every wearable it makes. That’s why it releases new analog smart watches and Android Wear smartwatches every season. Fossil makes decisions based on color trends, materials, different dial designs, and other fashionable features. So what if the tech hasn’t changed between seasons? The styles and fashions have.

While tech companies like Apple, Samsung, LG, and others think about wearables as one-size-fits-all devices; Fossil is innovating in the space and making wearables that are truly wearable. After all, wearables go on your body; you wear them publicly, so shouldn’t you be proud of the watch you’re rocking? Fossil thinks so, and that’s why its smartwatches are more likely to attract women, serious watch collectors, and anyone who cares about fashion.

Different strokes for different folks

Fashion is all about self-expression. It’s about what you want to project to the world. Everyone has a distinct sense of style that’s entirely original, and wearables have to reflect that. Not every man likes shiny watch casings; not every woman likes big statement watches, and it’s time tech companies saw the light. So far, Apple and Motorola have come closest in the tech world with their different strap options, casing colors, and personalization options; but neither one holds a candle to what Fossil showed off at CES 2017.

Fossil offers hundreds of watch straps, all of which work with its smart analog and Android Wear smartwatches. The breadth of customization based on straps alone is huge. Then you have the dozens of smart analog watches Fossil has released in a number of colors and styles, all of which have different watch dial designs. Fossil has something for everyone: women who like big watches, women who like slim watches, men who like chunky flashy watches, men who like subtle darker watches, and so on and so on. The array of colors is also a big deal. Fossil has rose gold, gold, silver, matte, shiny, dark blue, black, and other casings for the watch itself.

If you don’t like Fossil’s design aesthetic, you can always get more smartwatches from its other brands, including Kate Spade, Skagen, Armani, and many more. Your choices are many and varied, because you’re buying a piece of jewelry. Tech geeks think about smartwatches in terms of utility, but there’s so much more to it than that.

After all, you wouldn’t expect H&M to produce only one shirt in one color, would you? Watches are no different. The more colors and styles you have in store, the more likely you are to draw new customers.

Size matters

It’s not just color. While Fossil and other fashion brands are making gorgeous smartwatches for women almost more so than for men, tech companies seem to forget that half of the world’s population exists.

Initially, tech companies only made “unisex” smartwatches that skewed male and were often uncomfortable to wear on small wrists. Then, after Apple started targeting women with fashionable straps and a smaller watch size, all the other tech companies began to make rose gold or sparkly (and sometimes both) smartwatches for women, which weren’t any smaller or more comfortable for smaller wrists.

Fashion first

Tech companies still don’t get it: Wearables are fashion. It’s time they look to fashion brands to learn how business is done in an industry that cares more about seasons than pixels. In spring, you may want to jazz things up with a bright, light, colorful design; but in winter, you may want something warmer and deeper in color. Spotting fashion trends is key if tech companies want to grab the attention of non-techy people who might not otherwise consider a smartwatch. Fossil and its brands are leading the charge, and they’ll reap the benefits.

Fossil is just getting started. The watchmaker told us that the smart analog watches it sells are doing really well with traditional watch fans. Getting watch aficionados interested in Android Wear smartwatches may take more time, but Fossil is taking the long view. It takes time to change mores in the fashion industry, and even longer for watchmakers, which have honed their hallowed tradition for centuries.

It’s hard to force innovation on these companies, but that makes it all the more exciting to see high-tech features infiltrating their portfolios. And there’s more to come. We expect to see many more smart analog watches and fashionable Android Wear devices at the watch industry trade show Baselworld in March. Fossil’s big bet on techie watches is just the beginning of a revolution in the watch industry.

See at Fossil

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