Swatch prefers go-it-alone route for smartwatch plans

Sun Aug 31, 2014 5:20am EDT
 
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By Silke Koltrowitz

BIEL (Switzerland) (Reuters) - Swatch Group is happy to go it alone with a launch next year of watches with "smart" features to compete with so-called wearable gadgets from the big tech companies, a market potentially worth $93 billion.

The world's biggest watchmaker, which sees the advent of smartwatches as an opportunity rather than a threat, will unveil its new Swatch Touch next summer.

Swatch Chief Executive Nick Hayek said these new watches might allow the wearer to count the number of steps they take and calories they burn. And there will be a few other cool 'Swatchy' things on offer via latest Bluetooth technology, he said in an interview at the company's headquarters in Biel.

"All the big technology firms want to work with us and I don't rule out that we are or could be collaborating in some areas. But we can also do many things on our own."

Wearable gadgets, such as smartwatches that allow users to connect to their phone to check emails, make calls or monitor their health, are expected to be the next big thing in the tech world and a potential threat to traditional wristwatch sales.

Apple Inc has just invited media to a "special event" next month, fuelling speculation it might present a much-anticipated "iWatch."

The possibility of an iWatch launch is partly responsible for Swatch shares losing almost 15 percent so far this year, lagging a 3 percent rise in the European sector.

"For Swatch, this could mean a 2 percent hit to revenue and earnings before interest and tax for each 10 percent share that the iWatch was able to gain in its addressable market," Bernstein analyst Mario Ortelli said in a study in July. Ortelli has a "market perform" rating on Swatch's shares.   Continued...

 
The logo of Swiss watchmaker Swatch is seen on the door of a Swatch watches shop in Strasbourg March 12, 2009. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler