Are traditional timepieces out of time after Apple Watch?

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.

It was a long wait, but Tim Cook finally lived up to Apple’s reputation and philosophy with products that many would describe as “old news.”

Certainly what the iPhone 6 offers is nothing new; the 4.7in and 5.5in screens have been offered for years on Android devices, and Google’s Wallet has been available since 2011. As for the Apple Watch, it makes its debut in a market segment that’s already hustling with numerous offerings, in particular Google’s Android Wear, supported by Samsung, LG and Motorola.

But what one can expect Apple to do is what Apple always does: take a tried-and-tested concept and personalize it, presenting it in a singular design with an innovative interface.

With the Apple Watch it has done exactly that, and one would assume it has ensured that in the near future both Apple fans and others will brandish the smart Watch on their wrists.

“It is a new era,” a brand strategist and former senior Apple executive Ellen Leanse told Reuters. “It was a highly confident move that signals, pardon the pun, watch us.”

And that begs the question whether the Apple Watch will edge out traditional timepieces.

Knowing Apple’s track record, it would appear watchmakers should be concerned for a number of reasons. First of all, priced at $349, the Apple Watch is priced about half a Swiss watch’s average selling price of around $700, give or take. But it also does a great deal more than just tell time and look trendy, or classy: It runs apps that include a fitness tracker, and an analog-watch-like “digital crown” on the side can control its functions. This isn’t just a shiny Swatch watch
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Second, the commitment of Apple’s diehard fans to the brand is unflinching, and they will gladly shell out the bucks to get their hands on the Watch, or in this case the Watch on their hands.

Third, expect Apple to work continuously to make the device lighter, slimmer and more stylish as technology allows, a skill that it has repeatedly demonstrated over the course of the iPhone’s evolution. And for that matter, expect the technology itself that drives the Watch to constantly improve.

And last, but certainly not least, each Watch that Apple is offering will eventually end up running a plethora of apps developed for the platform by incredibly talented developers, so thoroughly personalizing the device that it becomes akin to a signature wearable.

So do watchmakers need to be concerned?

“Not in the least,” says Mher Atamian, managing director of Ets. H. Atamian, a firm based in Beirut, Lebanon that carries high-end luxury watches and jewelry.

“Consider the target market,” he explains. “The Apple Watch will retail [in the U.S]. for $350, while most of the people interested in smart watches are in the younger age bracket. This will be beyond the means of most.”

And according to the retailer, smart watches themselves are nothing new in the new market, with numerous brands offering products that do everything that Apple timepiece can do.

“Even Swatch, Timex and several other brands are gearing up to release their own versions of the smart watch,” Atamian says.

And while he admitted that smart watches in general had carved a slice out of the timepiece market, that still only represented a marginal portion of the market as a whole, “barely 1 or 2 percent,” he adds.

Atamian also remarks on the Apple Watch’s design itself, pointing out that regardless of functionality, style matters to buyers of watches, just as it does in the case of smartphones. “Of all the watches that we sell, 97 percent are round, while the Apple Watch is square,” he noted, suggesting that Apple had already got off on the wrong foot.

“And that applies to both traditional watches and their ‘smart’ counterparts,” he added.

“In the end, the Apple Watch will appeal only to fans of the brand,” he said, “and even then it’s not for everyone.”

“It can’t replace the traditional watch.”

 
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