Do you remember Apple’s iWatch? It was a thing a few years ago; so much a thing that those in the know said the Swiss watch industry was f@#$ed. Who said that? John Biggs recounts the story:
Apparently Jonathan Ive chortled that the iWatch would tear down the Swiss watch hegemony. Low-end watchmaker Fossil has even gone so far as to join Intel on future wearables, a partnership that could bring about such delightful but also awful chimeras as the Palm Watch and Microsoft’s SPOT platform. Silicon Valley watchmakers have failed so many times that they are barely a contender.
That was almost four years ago. Maybe the hubris was not so much from Apple’s executives as it was from iWatch critics like Biggs. Fast forward a bit and Apple Watch launched, and over the next few years– few companies can play a long game the way Apple does– and Watch became a thing. Why?
But the thought that the Swiss watch industry is concerned about the iWatch is a tantalizing one. It’s also full of hubris and a fundamental misunderstanding of how that strange, incestuous, and sometimes predatory clan does business.
That was the common understanding of Apple’s impact on the watch industry with Watch and we saw it everywhere in the headlines. Watch was doomed! became a tech industry meme. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to reality.
The same John Biggs writing in TechCrunch just two years after his consideration above.
The Swiss watch industry is doomed
What happened? As always, reality happened. Now, remember. This was from two years ago.
There was one slide in Tim Cook’s keynote that probably made the watch industry potentates choke on their oysters St Jacques. It was a simply a clear comparison between Apple Watch sales and sales of traditional watch brands, both high and low. And it wasn’t good.
Yeah, Rolex sat on top, as always, Apple was in second place, and the rest of the Swiss watch industry– in fact, the entire watch industry, was below Apple and falling fast. A year later the Swiss watch industry had fallen on hard times. That was then and this is now. Guesstimates vary but the consensus is this: Apple Watch sold more last year than the entire Swiss watch industry. Canalys:
Apple Watch shipments beat expectations, topping 18 million in 2017, up by more than 54% on 2016. The Series 3 was the key growth driver, as total shipments of the latest version of Apple’s Watch were just under 9 million, making up nearly half of all shipments in 2017. Apple’s Q4 performance was impressive in itself, as shipments grew by more than 32% over Q4 2016 to 8 million, the highest ever number of shipments in a single quarter, not just for Apple, but for any wearable vendor.
The kicker? Joe Rossignol:
Not only did the Apple Watch just have its best quarter ever in terms of sales, but it also had a record-breaking year overall, capped off by topping shipments from the entire Swiss watch industry combined last quarter.
Obviously, Jonathan Ive’s comment was prophetic, but that was just a few years ago. Since then, Watch has become a thing; a dominating presence among wearables and smartwatches; a mixture of fashion, exercise, health, and convenience in a wristwatch.
What’s coming? Health.
Watch of the future may well be able to monitor blood glucose, heart rate, blood oxygen and more– in real time, perhaps all the time (as sensors improve and require even less battery power). What impact will tens of millions of Watch users and their collective health data have on the entire health industry?
Yes, Apple’s iPhone was a disruptive product, perhaps one in a generation, but Watch has already disrupted the entire watch industry and could be on track to disrupt the health industry, too. Apple is more about market disruption than critics, pundits, watchers, and analysts are willing to give credit.