Famed Montblanc Watchmaker Thinks that the Apple Watch will be seen as a Joke by the end of the Decade
As the Apple Watch gains steam in the market and the likes of Morgan Stanley and TrendForce see Apple leading the smartwatch race handily in 2015 and 2016, the traditional watch makers have gone into high defence mode. For months we've heard from Tag Heuer's Jean-Claude Biver talking up their upcoming smartwatch that will go on sale this fall. The psychology that the traditional watch makers are touting is about long standing tradition. Biver recently noted that "We want to create something that will stay on your watch for a lifetime, that's what TAG Heuer does. And as the technology changes, it will change." Now Montblanc is stepping into the picture with a similar mindset specifically against Apple.
A report published by Bloomberg noted that Alexander Schmiedt, Montblanc's managing director for watches said in an interview that "The speed at which gadgets evolve poses a design challenge to the four-century-old Swiss watchmaking industry. High-end wristwatches are made to last, while electronic devices become disposable within years."
More specifically, Schmiedt said at Montblanc's watch factory, housed in an Art Nouveau villa in the rural Swiss town of Le Locle, that "Our products should have very long life cycles. In modern technologies the life cycle is exactly the opposite. It may be the hottest thing today, and in one year it's already outdated, and in two years you're made fun of for still using it."
Schmiedt then stuck his knife a little deeper into Apple's side by stating: "By the end of the decade, smartwatches from Apple Inc. and others might elicit guffaws rather than envy."
Although Schmiedt admits that he loves Apple's products, he wanted to make the point that when he finally had his iPhone 5 set up and running, it all changed with the iPhone 6 that required a new chord [lightning]. He further noted that this is "not to say the Apple Watch is not a great product. I predict it will do very well, but I don't think that customers are going to be ecstatic to throw away watches in one to two years when the technology is obsolete." This is a common psychological theme that the Swiss watchmakers are using when talking about the Apple Watch.
Of course Schmiedt has motive for coming out at this point in time with his opinions, because Montblanc, owned by South African billionaire Johann Rupert's Richemont, has created a luxury item with high-tech appeal by putting the electronics in the watchband rather than the timepiece.
Montblanc's $390 "e-Strap" goes on sale next month in the U.S. at Bloomingdale's and will accompany its TimeWalker watches, which sells for $3,700 to $5,800. Richemont will probably only embed technology in watchbands, Rupert said on a conference call about full-year earnings announced Friday. For more on this story see the full Bloomberg report here.
Patrik Schwendimann, an analyst at Zuercher Kantonalbank talking about the e-Strap, stated that "The pricing is reasonable and if it turns out to be just a fad, at least the consumer still has a nice, normal watch they can continue to wear."
There's certainly no lack of snobbery in that statement. Then again, you kind of expect that kind of commentary from an analyst from a bank in Zurich Switzerland. Their whole country is freaking out about the potential damage that the Apple Watch may bring to their economy over time. And they certainly remember that Finland's Prime Minister is still blaming Apple for destroying the Finnish economy – and so the war against the Apple Watch in Switzerland is about to begin.