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Businesses Japan Technology

Japanese and Swiss Watchmakers Scoff At Smartwatches 399

jfruh (300774) writes "With rumors swirling about Apple entering the wearable space with an iWatch, you'd think that the Japanese and Swiss companies that have dominated high-end watchmaking for more than a century would be scrambling to catch up. But there were virtually no smartwatches on display at the Baselworld trade fair, and the watchmaking giants had no plans to produce any. Company representatives seemed sure that people in practice would be uninterested in constantly recharging their watches and downloading software updates just to tell time."
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Japanese and Swiss Watchmakers Scoff At Smartwatches

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  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:43AM (#46858321)

    There are two markets:

    One -- served by commodity electronics -- watches that do something useful.

    The other -- served by high-end, hand-made jewellery that don't actually function all that well as watches. For richarses with more dollars than sense, who want to show off.

    This is like comparing apples and oranges.

  • The problem with that assumption is that a watch isn't a timepiece. At least upscale watches aren't timepieces, exactly. They're principally jewelry. And much like Rolex never made a calculator watch, don't expect them to make a smart watch either. In any event, I don't see much advantage to being an early adopter in this space. Their customers aren't banging down the door asking for a smart watch. The people I know who have smart watches so far are not your typical watch customer.

  • Jewelry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:53AM (#46858441) Journal

    I wear a watch 1) to tell time and 2) as a piece of jewelry. Besides a wedding ring it's about the only piece of jewelry a guy can wear, and if you buy something nice (I have an Ebel Brasilia) it'll last forever, retain its value, and you can pass it on to your kids as a family heirloom.

    That's the target market for luxury watchmakers. A smart watch is never going to compete with watches worn as jewelry.

  • what's a "watch"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:53AM (#46858449)

    did a little googling - turns out that people actually used to pay money for a single-purpose device that was advertised as keeping time but had no ntp support & left a tan line! they were apparently popular when it was fashionable to navigate with floating magnets, capture images with chemically coated strips of plastic and listen to music stored on removable media.

  • Style (Score:5, Insightful)

    by McGruber ( 1417641 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:55AM (#46858473)

    But there were virtually no smartwatches on display at the Baselworld trade fair, and the watchmaking giants had no plans to produce any.

    That's because they understand that good taste never goes out of style.

  • by xclr8r ( 658786 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:58AM (#46858513)
    Just as there are certain types of "Audiophiles" (for better or worse and they do not all exhibit the same amount of ...), there are also Watchphiles too. They hang out at sites like [] . Watches are highly individualistic time peices. I see lots of people foregoing the watch because their smartphone has the time. There will be some culling of the lower tier watches that don't adapt but their will always be room for the "classic time piece" e.g. there's still a market for pocket watches.
  • I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:10AM (#46858653)
    How much smart device redundancy do you need on your person at any given time? I think my phone is enough, especially given Its huge screen and larger battery. No reason to compromise my watch with a battery life hundreds of times shorter just to have it do crap my phone already does.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:18AM (#46858765) Homepage

    10 years from now there won't be watches without some sort of connectivity except for specialty pieces designed from the outset to satisfy luddites.

    Bullshit. Not everybody wants a smart watch. That doesn't make you a luddite ... you may in fact be a fan of time pieces.

    I have a couple of skeleton watches, meaning you can see through the watch face to the actual gears and mechanical bits of the watch.

    The aesthetics of the watch itself is the point. Just because someone doesn't feel the need to use every shiny bauble and gew gaw the tech industry comes up with doesn't make them a luddite.

    I'm completely surrounded by electronics and technology already, and I don't see a smart watch as being something I'm particularly interested in. In fact, it's something I can't see the point of for me ... I don't text enough to need to have it constantly attached to me, any more than I can't be away from my phone (which I refuse to buy a data plan for, because wifi covers my needs). I also don't need Apple (or whoever) to be able to track every little I thing I do throughout my day.

    If you think the big name watch makers all need to get on board with this or die, you're overly fetishizing technology. There will always be a market for mechanical watches. You really think suddenly nobody is going to want to own a Rolex because there exist smartwatches? If you do, you don't know anything about people who buy watches.

    Some people still have plain old-fashioned analog sex too, and haven't embraced teledildonics. And, thankfully, most of us never will.

    For many of us, technology is a tool, but not the be all and end all of our existence. Knowing when to draw the line and walk away from it doesn't make you a luddite, it means you have a better perspective on shit that really matters.

  • by rioki ( 1328185 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:18AM (#46858769) Homepage

    Same with fountain pens. People by fountain pens because it is a sign of class and status, same is with watches.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:21AM (#46858807)

    For my 40th birthday, my wife gave me a Tag Heuer chronograph (day, date, with stopwatch indicators for seconds, minutes and hours). I had been a long-time wearer of a digital watch, in fact I still wore the same Timex digital watch I bought at at Target in 1986 when I got this watch.

    I'm not sure what "don't function all that well" means. About the only timekeeping weaknesses this watch has is that it is prone to run a little slow, needing to be moved ahead a minute or so every month, the date needs to be set when leaving a month with less than 31 days and of course DST adjustments.

    Beyond that, it's a great timepiece. It's self-winding, so it never needs batteries. Waterproof to 300 meters. The sapphire crystal is totally clear and free of scratches. The stopwatch is handy for cooking or whatever simple timing needs I have.

    Now, serious watch people tell me this really isn't a "serious" watch from a jewelry perspective, but it was $2300 when I got it and I don't think I'd want a more "serious" watch than this for the kind of money those sorts of watches go for.

  • Corded phones didn't cost $350 - $500 either.

    $350-$500 puts you into the range of cheap trash and knock-off timepieces. Try adding a zero. Or two [].

    I'm a geek, and I've got a Pebble that I wear fairly regularly. But the watch I wear when I want to dress up a bit (or when I get tired of the cheesy plastic smart watch) is a Tag Heurer with an automatic movement. The Pebble is neat, and has IMHO the right balance of features and price. But it has no soul.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:35AM (#46858981)

    >It has no soul

    Oh boy here we go with the weasely marketing words. In the world of synthesizers people peddling obsolete technology have been using the same kind of tricks to get rich chumps to buy their old crap. Digital synths "have no soul" while analog synths are "warm". Ask an engineer to define what the technical definition of "warm" is? A marketing word. That is all.

  • by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:37AM (#46859037)

    I'd say that needing regular adjustments (every other month at least) falls under "doesn't function all that well".

  • by Chatterton ( 228704 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:52AM (#46859225) Homepage

    You can find good hand made mechanical watches from 1000$ but they are still not what I could call high-end. At that price you start to expect to not find someone else with the same watch.

    I have a mechanical watches because:
    1) They are damns fine piece of mechanical art and craftsmanship
    2) Seeing them ticking is mesmerizing
    3) I am pretty sure that I will never encounter someone else with the same ones

    I will never buy a "smart" whatever crap that every one else has. I want my watch to show who am i. I don't want a watch that say: "I am like everyone else". And for the "smart", I already have a smartphone :)
    What a piece of plastic and silicon build by the millions in a fab will say about you?

  • Wow, classic.
    Excuse making to avoid the real issue. You are vain and strive to so things you think other will think you are special and different.
    How often are you at 200 meter below the surface of the ocean? and wearing anon specialty diving watch? I would bet...never.

    They are simply a jewelry piece, no different then a large pinky ring.

    If time was the only concern, you wouldn't own 50 of them.
    That said, fine you like to collect watches. I don't have an issue with that, but stop making excuses in order to make yourself feel like you are better then everyone else.

    Smart watches are coming, in some variety. In the end, they will be far superior then a standard watch.

  • by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @11:22AM (#46859581)
    This Tag Heuer of the parent is an automatic, mechanical watch. Think about it, one minute accuracy over a month realised with only vibrating springs etc. That is technically impressive. FYI many quarts watches are rated +- 15 seconds per month, only 4 times better!
    Nothing wrong with enjoying a mechanical watch for the joy of the fine engineering, and the pleasure of the nearly smooth second hand.
    Interestingly, the mechanism of the modern Tag chronograpths is a close brother of a certain Seiko movement, something that the Swiis company prefers not to mention.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @06:54PM (#46863913)

    The price of vanity has never been cheap.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith