Remember my last article about the Apple Watch? If you missed it, you might want to read about it here.
Apple has been getting serious and is quietly positioning itself in the luxury watch market. They just hired Patrick Pruniaux, former TAG Heuer Vice President of Sales, to help launch the iWatch, which is supposed to be released sometime this fall. Some feel that is very optimistic and that spring is a more likely date. According to industry rumors, Pruniaux was recruited heavily by Apple. No details yet on what his new job will be. Pruniaux had been with TAG Heuer for seven years and prior to that, also held a variety of positions at the watch brand’s parent company, LVMH. LVMH as we all know, is the company that is taking over the luxury world.
Apple has attempted to recruit a number of top employees from other watch companies, particularly Swiss watch companies, without much success so far, analysts have told CNBC. Apple’s attempts to hire Swiss watch experts are part of the company’s efforts to market its product as “Swiss made,” Mario Ortelli, a senior luxury goods analyst, told CNBC, noting that Swiss watchmakers don’t want to cooperate with Apple and risk “dilution”.
They have snagged a few people from the luxury sector in recent months, including bringing on Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts as its new head of retail and online sales in May, and hiring Yves Saint Laurent CEO, Paul Deneve to head up special projects last year.
In thinking about the future of the Apple Watch, think about how Apple products have altered American culture in the past decade. Let’s talk about good old fashioned table manners forever altered by the omnipresent iphone complete with texting at the table. Ok, let me just say, some peeps have brought this on themselves – my family does not and would not dare bring a phone to the table. Let’s talk about the alarm clock – yep, it was replaced by the iPhone. How about driving safety (iPhone texting)? How about “the app”? Apple introduced “the app” which has transformed our culture from the way we book a restaurant, to the way we travel to the way we complain and date. How about our attention spans and real life conversations – can you spell iPhone interruptus?
At least 17 global tech firms have launched their smartwatches with many others on the drawing board. Most are geek gadgets that no one wants to wear. Apple has been watching the smartwatch landscape closely. They know what consumers want. Consumers want new, unique, cool, special, beautiful, flashy……shall I go on? Sir Jonathan Ives, reputed to be the world’s foremost industrial designer, leads Apple’s 100 professional (watch) design team. Industry insiders are guessing that the istrategy is aiming at watch brands with a retail price of $1,000 or less. I can’t wait to see what Apple does to position itself in the luxury watch/jewelry market by creating a “must have” smartwatch piece of jewelry.
Once again, Apple is going to create a new industry in the consumer market. Wearable technology will rule, which is a natural evolution from a handheld device. As The New York Times’ Eric Pfanner recently wrote about our future of “turning the human body into a mobile computing and communication platform”.
What about the rise and decline and rise again of the wristwatch in modern times? “During WWI soldiers had to be alert to precise timing,” writes David Boettcher in Smithsonian Magazine. “Suddenly, wristwatches seemed manly. It was the iPhone of its day, (considered a) leading edge technology”.
After both WW wars, the watch industry boomed, climbing steadily upward to the 1970’s and 1980’s, a wristwatch heyday. Think of the decandant watches of the 1980’s, where Rolex reigned supreme and Rado was a big contender. Every man owned a really expensive watch and every woman had a watch with diamonds. Then a decline began with the rise of the quartz movement, even Cartier embraced them! Over a few years, the Swiss mechanical watch industry lost over 60,000 jobs. The less expensive quartz movements were made in Japan where of course, that industry had it’s own boom.
Switzerland, at that time, was the watch capital of the world. Not wanting to but knowing they might have to, the Swiss government was prepared to hand over a major portion of Swiss pride and history to the Japanese. However, Nicolas Hayek, a successful Swiss management consultant, was asked by two major Swiss banks to prepare a plan for the sale of two of the country’s struggling watchmaking giants to Japan. Hayek designed a Swiss rescue plan. He created and executed strategies that resulted in a spectacular industrial comeback for the Swiss watch industry. To quote William Taylor, a former associate editor of Harvard Business Review, “The dimensions of the turnaround were staggering”.
One part of the plan was the development of the Swatch watch. In its first full year of global distribution 1983, Swatch sales totaled 1.1 million units and ballooned to 12 million units only three years later. That one part of the plan saved Switzerland and its amazing watch history.
It has been reported that Apple is the most valuable company in the world, reporting a $10.7 billion profit in the second quarter of fiscal 2014. It would seem they are poised for another huge takeover (market share) of another part of our culture that has been in the making for quite some TIME (no pun intended).
Will you buy a smartwatch? Do you wear a wrist watch or do you rely on your cell phone? Let me know!