Apple Watch is killing Swiss watches faster than expected

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Apple Watch OS2 add a friend
Makers of Swiss watches may not be adding Apple to their friend circles anytime soon.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The third-quarter figures are in for the Swiss watch industry, and it’s not good news. Exports slid 8.5 percent over the past three months, continuing a trend that has some worried that newer tech like the Apple Watch might be affecting demand for traditional timepieces.

Analysts are citing falling sales in Asia as the reason for the downturn.

“After May and July, September is the third month to show a marked decline in Swiss watch exports,” a representative the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Tuesday (via Reuters). “This negative change has spread to other, hitherto more robust Asian markets and casts something of a shadow over prospects for the year 2015.”

The quarterly drop includes a 10 percent plummet in July, but even before that, the industry saw a 9.9 percent decrease in May. The third-quarter performance represents the biggest slide since 2009.

We can’t quite chalk this up to the Apple Watch making inroads into Asian markets; analysts are also pointing to a deadly disease outbreak in Asia this year.

Reports say the most affected price point is the mid range, which fell 14.5 percent and includes pieces between 200-500 francs. That equates to a cost of around $200 – $525 in U.S. currency, which lines up more or less with the costs of both the entry-level Sport ($349 – $399 with basic bands) and mid-tier Apple Watch, which starts between $549 and $599). So if the Apple Watch is, in fact, having a significant effect on the Swiss market, it’s likely the cheaper Sport edition causing the trouble.

While the Swiss industry isn’t hopeful for the numbers going into the all-important holiday season, when more people are in the market for beautiful watches, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues or if other regions might be able to pick up the hole Asia is leaving. If Q4 sees another decline while Apple Watch sales continue to rise as the device becomes more widely available, it won’t bode well for the future of traditional timepieces.

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  • Ben Kenon

    Correlation does not imply causation. Most of us carry a cell hone at the very least, if not a smartphone, which performs admirably as a clock. If people are buying Apple Watches like crazy they must be hiding them away in sock drawers or something, because nobody wears the things.

    On the other hand, I routinely see people wearing either no watch at all, or wearing super cheap digital/expensive analog watches. The midrange has been eroded by a new, ubiquitous technology, not Apple’s sad, almost funny attempt at the wholly unnecessary “smart watch” category.

    • Gregg_Thurman

      “If people are buying Apple Watches like crazy they must be hiding them away in sock drawers or something, because nobody wears the things.”

      My estimate is that Apple has sold about 6.5 Million Apple Watches since launch in April last – WORLDWIDE. Assuming you live in the US (heaviest concentration of Apple Watches), where the population is around 350 Million, it isn’t hard to imagine that you’ve never seen an Apple Watch in the wild.

      On the other hand, I live in Spokane, WA (pop greater metro area ~600,000) and I’ve seen a half dozen. Maybe you just aren’t paying close enough attention.

      I do agree that smart phones have had more impact on watch sales than the Apple Watch, but how come that impact is just now showing up in the quarter following the Apple Watch launch?

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      • Ben Kenon

        I live in the Chicago suburbs. Population density here is like three times or more the Spokane area. I’ve seen three Apple Watches- one on a rich kid (whose parents weren’t wearing AW), and two 55+ year old women. That’s it.

        As far as AW’s supposed impact on Swiss watch sales- correlation does not imply causation. When was the last time you paid attention to the statistics concerning Swiss watch sales? They’ve been sliding for many years, I’d wager. The US is positively saturat d in tech that replaces the watch, so it’s not surprising that people buy fewer watches- including smart watches, which are overly expensive and of dubious usefulness to the average person at best.

      • Bob Plank

        I live in Indianapolis. I have seen about 20 of them in the wild. About a dozen of them were worn by people at Masonic events I’ve attended in various parts of Indiana.

    • igorsky

      Smartphones have been around a lot longer than three months, and watch exports have declined around the same time the Apple Watch has been in existence. Your hypothesis doesn’t make sense.

      Also, I live in NYC and have lost count of how many Apple Watches I’ve seen.

    • Noicc1128

      A smart phone is a jack of all trades but isn’t a master of all. A cell phone has a web browser too but that doesn’t mean you don’t use anymore computer. A computer is better as web browser/work than a smart phone. Tablets are better for relaxing and reading than a laptop. And a smartwatch is better at time/notifications/fitness tracking than a smart phone.

  • Jared Porter

    Apple Watch is getting to be very popular in Seattle and Bellevue based upon my observations.

    • Guest

      Unfortunately a sample size of one isn’t very helpful. What is it about “correlation does imply causation” that people don’t understand? Is the scientific method no longer taught in schools? If bottled water sales have increased but diesel Fords have decreased, does that mean that bottled water sales are the reason?

  • ITFreakAus

    What a load of garbage. I prefer a Swiss made watch anytime over the Apple Watch which is just a glorified digital watch anyway – and Made in China. I have a Tissot T-Race 2015 Automatic watch, no battery required, self winding, no charger required, and I can see the mechanics of it ticking via its clear back, plus it’s made of Sapphire Crystal, carbon fibre and stainless steel. I would never buy an Apple watch in my life – ever. I don’t need all this app garbage on an watch.

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  • Alex Meier

    Clearly the author doesn t know jack about the swiss warch industry. Mid level is about 30000$ while entry level starts art 2500. The only swiss watches I have seen below that are fakes. Of course you can get a Swatch for 200$ but this is not what we would call a swiss watch. The decline is more likely due to the strenght of the swiss franc with respect to asian currencies where most of the market for luxury goods is located nowadays.