Swatch inventor says winter is coming for Swiss watchmakers

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A Song of Fire and iOS. Photo: HBO
A Song of Fire and iOS. Photo: HBO

Swatch may be just a couple of months from launching its own Apple Watch rival, but the 61-year old co-creator of the low cost Swatch wristwatch, Elmar Mock, isn’t being shy about describing the havoc he thinks Apple’s debut wearable device is going to wreak on the watch industry.

“Apple will succeed quickly,” Mock told Bloomberg. “It will put a lot of pressure on the traditional watch industry and jobs in Switzerland.”

Although other brands are now starting to investigate the possibilities of smartwatches, Mock thinks people are still selling the Apple Watch short, saying that the Apple Watch is going to bring about an “Ice Age” for makers of mid-priced Swiss watches when it ships in April.

Mock likens the current Apple Watch response from Swiss watchmaking giants to the reaction to battery-powered quartz watches when they first arrived; resulting in 60,000 jobs disappearing during the 1970s and 80s when Japanese watchmakers like Seiko were written off as short-term gimmicks from companies who didn’t properly understand watchmaking.

“Unfortunately, I’m reminded too strongly of the quartz crisis,” Mock says. “So far I see watchmakers in this country making the same mistakes as back then. We’ve seen a lot of arrogance in the Swiss watch industry in the past few years, calling the smartwatch a gadget and not taking it seriously.”

Mock says it’s not too late for Swiss watchmakers, but that they need to move now in order to stay competitive. “I just hope the top managements of the companies will react accordingly,” he says. “Apple won’t die if the smartwatch isn’t a success. But in the next two to three years, a part of the Swiss watch market will suffer strongly.”

Latest estimates suggest that Apple will ship around 15-20 million Apple Watches in 2015 alone.