Going full circle back to the humble wristwatch

Not so long ago we were chatting on a night out with some friends and the discussion veered round to the impact of technology on our lives. Everyone as you might expect had different views on the way they had been impacted but one thing that did stand out was the number of the group who no longer owned a watch. When pushed they all said that they had no need for a watch as they could always get the time from their mobile phone.

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Samsung prototype watch – image courtesy of Wired.com

Further examination of this, admittedly amongst a small user group, found that those under 30 were more likely to be I the ‘no watch’ group whilst the more senior amongst us (OK, just plain old really) were almost universal in the importance of keeping a good timepiece on us at all times.

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This may of course be a generational thing so to test we started asking a range of 14-18 year olds and in the main none of them were remotely bothered about owning a watch, almost all of them relied on their phones for the time of day.

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Now quite apart from the obvious, such as when your battery runs out and you have to ask a policeman for the time (now there’s a generational thing!), we’ve always worked on the basis that a watch was one of life’s essentials and as such we were quite saddened by this trend.

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Quite suddenly however this has all changed with the introduction of not one but two new wristwatches that could change the game again. Following the announcement that Apple are developing a smart wristwatch, essentially the next iPhone but on your wrist, comes the announcement that Samsung are planning something similar very soon.

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apple-watchThe irony isn’t lost here; the very item that displaced the wristwatch in the first place could itself about to become the next generation of wristwatch. And if Apple and Samsung are jumping in, how long before the major watch manufacturers sense the danger and start to align themselves to either meet the consumer demand or take on the tech giants? Could you for example see yourself wearing a Rolex Smart wristwatch at £10,000 or would a Swatch version at just £20 be more like it? Could established watch brands even compete in this market or would it be a technological leap too far?

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Answers to these and a thousand other questions that rise immediately to mind will no doubt be answered in the coming months and years, but one thing  is for sure and that is that the market disruption being felt by the watch manufacturers will be the biggest thing to hit them since the Swatch phenomenon transformed the sector in 1983. On their website Swatch actually say

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“Permanent innovation – new products”

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“In the nearly 30 years since the first Swatch Gents caught the world by surprise, the Swiss watchmaker has introduced an extraordinary series of innovative products, from the first Swatch Originals to the Skin and an amazing variety of Swatch Irony watches—including the extraordinary Chrono Automatic”

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Can the biggest watch brands in the world find a way to challenge the threat to their market? Moving out of the mainstream and into niches or signing strategic deals with Apple and Samsung to provide the cases for the watch phone perhaps? No one can tell for certain yet and the only certainty anyone has is that time will tell.