Swiss watch industry denies 'Nokia moment' from new Apple Watch

Wed Sep 10, 2014 2:24pm EDT
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By Silke Koltrowitz and Eric Auchard

ZURICH/FRANKFURT, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Apple Inc's iPod upended the music industry, and its iPhone knocked Nokia off its smartphone perch, but Swiss watch makers breezily dismissed warnings that the technology giant's new wristwatch gadget could do something similar to them.

"They are essentially transient products rather than items of enduring value," one Swiss watch industry expert sniffed.

Franz Tuerler, owner of a luxury watch store on Zurich's main shopping boulevard, Bahnhofstrasse, said the appeal of Apple watches would be to a different class of customer who prizes technology over prestige and emotional attachment.

"I think the Apple Watch will be successful. But it's not competition for the classic Swiss watch industry," Tuerler said.

While the luxury end of the market might feel itself well insulated from the blast of competition from Apple, analysts are far from convinced that the industry can be complacent, especially at the more affordable end.

Vontobel watch industry analyst Rene Weber told Reuters: "(Apple Watch) is the first convincing smartwatch, and we believe it will impact the entire watch industry, but mainly at the low-/mid-end price level."

An industry source acknowledged that watches priced between 500 euros and 1,500 euros ($646-1,940) could feel the pinch.

Investors have singled out diversified industry heavyweight Swatch Group, which makes 20 percent of its sales in the low- and mid-priced ranges, as most at risk.   Continued...