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About-face: Spurred by Apple, Swiss warm to smartwatches

Tim Hornyak | March 23, 2015
The Apple Watch turned venerable watchmakers on to the potential of wearable computers.

"The key reason for the changed mindset was the market entry of Apple: clearly, this company is taken seriously from a marketing/branding perspective, and everybody knows that Apple can revolutionize markets," Pascal Koenig, an analyst with Zurich-based Smartwatch Group, said via email.

vector smartwatch
IMAGE: VECTOR (SCREENSHOT)/ A smartwatch from London-based watchmaker Vector.

"With pricing that reaches well into the premium segment, executives from the traditional watch industry realize that smartwatch technologies do not only impact the low-cost watch segment."

Non-Swiss manufacturers are also joining the parade. Italy's Bulgari presented at Baselworld its Swiss-made Diagono Magnesium concept watch. It's an elegant, mechanical timepiece that also has an NFC (near field communication) chip which can be used to unlock doors, start car engines and make payments. It can be paired with a smartphone and linked to credit card information and passwords.

Also introduced at Baselworld were sleek smartwatches from Vector, a London-based maker. The Luna ($349) and Meridian ($199) have classic analog stylings along with activity and sleep tracking, smartphone links for social media notifications, waterproofing to depths up to 50m and, best of all, a 30-day battery, achieved through the use of monochrome LCD screens and a its own smartwatch OS.

Koenig believes smartwatches will profoundly change the entire watch industry, instead of being a complementary market as some Swiss officials have seen it. One thing is likely -- the success or failure of the Apple Watch will be a huge factor in the extent to which traditional watches continue to get smart.

 

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