retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Is the Swiss watch industry being disrupted out of business?

CNN reports that in 2019, "the Apple Watch outsold the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019.  The Apple Watch sold 31 million units worldwide, while all Swiss watch brands combined sold 21 million units, according to research from consulting firm Strategy Analytics."

Now, Swiss watches still bring in more revenue than the Apple watch, but experts seem to be divided on whether this trend means that "the end is near" for the traditional Swiss watch industry.

Part of what has happened is that Apple has accomplished something unique - it has turned its smart watches into both a fashion statement and a kind of status symbol.  And the revenue advantage that Swiss watches have might not last forever; the very nature of technology means that people will replace them with the latest and greatest, which will generate more sales for Apple.  Not to mention the fact that smart watches have managed to get a generation that is used to checking the time on its smart phones to actually wear the devices on their wrists.

Plus, CNN writes, "The company also benefits from its greater ecosystem of iPhone, iPad and other Apple-branded products. While Swiss companies also sell smartwatches, they operate in the Android ecosystem."

It is, I think, a metaphor for many businesses, just cruising along on tradition until someone has a transformational insight … and then, boom.  Suddenly your item movement ain't what it used to be, and people are wondering if your business is going to survive.

Tick, tock.  Tick, tock.  Tick, tock.

Still, there may be limits to Apple's ability to disrupt the traditional Swiss watch business.  While it could be wishful thinking, some experts believe that Swiss watches will speak to a desire for "timeless luxury" in a way that Apple watches never will.

Which is possible.

I say this as someone who wears a regular non-Swiss watch and has no interest in any sort of smart watch.  In fact, one of my watches was given to me in 1980 by the woman who would become Mrs. Content Guy, and it still is working just fine.  When I look at that watch, I see the time, but something else, too … and it has nothing to do with timeless luxury.

What I see is an Eye-Opener.