At the 33rd Hong Kong Clock & Watch Fair it was impossible to escape the ubiquitous smartwatch. The watchmaking world is asking: how do we categorise it? What is it for? Will it really open up a market estimated at 50 billion dollars by 2018? And most of all, will it sound the death knell for the traditional watch on the wrist of the 21st century ‘homo internetus’? Watch federation presidents express their views.
(Hong Kong) kicks off the debate with some quotes from the media: “Smartwatches will be adopted by consumers as they are relatively discreet and capable of functionalities that smartphones cannot provide”; “Google has launched an operating system for smartwatches - Android Wear - which is already being used by eleven manufacturers”; “Hong Kong possesses all the ingredients to become the future capital of smartwatch production”. With an amused smile, Mr Kao notes that Dick Tracy’s radiophone watch from the 1940s comic strip has left the realms of science fiction and become a reality, 70 years later.
But some observers think that, “even if the technology is capable, it might not necessarily be something that people want.” This is the view of Dae-Boong Kim (South Korea): “Koreans don’t think of smartwatches as watches per se, but more like electronic gadgets. We don’t believe their arrival will impact the watchmaking industry.”
“Hong Kong possesses all the ingredients to become the future capital of smartwatch production.” Geoffrey Kao
(France) adds: “We thought about the question, and finally came to the conclusion that smartwatches will have a problem: technology advances very rapidly, and models will go out of fashion just as quickly.
The advent of smartwatches also reminded us of the era of the first digital watches, when people predicted the end of analogue watches. In the end, we witnessed a rebirth of the mechanical analogue watch.” Patrice Besnard therefore remains positive: “The classic wristwatch is also an item of jewellery and, that being the case, smartwatches could even stimulate interest in watchmaking.”
“The advent of smartwatches also reminded us of the era of the first digital watches, when people predicted the end of analogue watches.” Patrice Besnard
(China) points out: “First of all, we have to define precisely whether the smartwatch will be a standalone watch, or if it will have to be paired with a smartphone. There is also the problem of poor battery life, which is a long way from watchmaking standards.”
“Smartwatches will have a problem: technology advances very rapidly, and models will go out of fashion just as quickly.” Patrice Besnard
(Japan) notes: “We are in a similar position to that of South Korea: we produce both traditional watches and smartwatches. The classic watch satisfies the canons of fashion and is also more artistic, whereas the smartwatch will inevitably remain more functional, which in theory should make it less appealing to female customers. However, some functions could well become essential in their eyes, such as the ability to make emergency calls if attacked.”
“Some functions could well become essential such as the ability to make emergency calls if attacked.” Takashi Yamamoto
raises a laugh: “And with a smartwatch on their wrist, they’ll waste less time looking in their handbags for their smartphones...” The representative of French watchmaking returns to his Korean counterpart, Mr Kim, with a more serious comment.
“Ten years ago, you may remember, we were discussing a very similar topic. You said that with the advent of smartphones young people would no longer buy traditional watches, because they would be able to see the correct time on their touch screens. Well, watchmaking today is in better shape than ever.”
“Watchmaking today is in better shape than ever.” Patrice Besnard
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Source: Europa Star October - November 2014 Magazine Issue