A friend forwarded me this NY Times article about the mechanical watch makers responding to the Apple Watch. It prompted me to write a long email response which I thought would make a good blog post. So here goes.
After wearing the Apple Watch Sport for more than a month now I can tell you it’s going to stay on my wrist. It is not a reduction of the phone but rather an extension of it. A very useful one. I’ve purchased two additional color bands that I switch depending on what I’m wearing. I plan on purchasing additional straps/bands as interesting designers start creating them for Apple Watch.
I use Apple Watch for telling the time, fitness tracking, managing my appointments, and for checking messages/notifications. I’ve filtered down notifications so that only the most important make it to the Apple Watch. When I get a gentle tap on the wrist I simply glance at my watch to see the notification. If it’s a message that I can use a canned response for then I just reply right from the watch. I don’t take my phone out of my pocket if I get a notification on the phone. As a result, I use the phone a little less.
I purchased the Apple Watch Sport because it is inevitable that subsequent versions of the watch will improve. I will purchase a more expensive stainless steel model when it includes GPS and better water resistance. I’d like to keep it on when I’m swimming or kayaking. (I know a touch screen that works submerged is a tall order.) I’d also like to see them make the watch bigger. The current 42mm looks fine on my wrist but I wouldn’t mind a larger face. I’ve worn Suunto watches in the past and I’d love to see Apple make a watch with that form factor. I will probably never consider buying the gold watch.
I’ve always worn watches mostly inexpensive Swatch watches (I am a child of the 80s) but much as I drool over mechanical watches, I can’t justify the cost. They are beautiful objects and I especially marvel at the models with multiple interesting complications. They are truly wonderful. Even with Apple entering the fray, I don’t think expensive mechanical watches are going anywhere. There will always be a market for them. All these hybrid watches these guys are trying to create to compete are a mistake. I mean, smart straps? It’s like building a hybrid Lamborghini. Yes, there is an overlap between people who want expensive mechanical watches and smart watch functionality. I think that market is smaller than the overall mechanical watch market and way smaller than the market for smart watches.
Apple is going to take a great chunk of the smart watch market by making very compelling products. Like phones they aren’t going to dominate market share but they will take most of the profits because of their complete mastery of logistics and manufacturing. They will likely compete with mechanical watch makers at the periphery, maybe for the sub-thousand dollar segment. They will continue to improve not only the function but the materials that make up the watch as well. I doubt they are going to really threaten high-end mechanical watch makers. As long as there are people with money and expensive tastes, mechanical watchmakers will fine. It’s everyone else that’s in trouble.