Smartwatches? Not at this time, say wary Swiss

Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:09pm EDT
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By Silke Koltrowitz

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters) - With their hundreds of years of watchmaking experience, Swiss watchmakers can afford to take a long view of technological fads and fashions. So-called smartwatches, packing computing power into a wrist-sized gadget, aren't in their plans for now.

Technology groups from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to Sony Corp are counting on wearable electronic devices able to hook up to the Internet, melding fashion and technology in what could be the next mass consumer trend.

Yet so far the Swiss see little appeal in such devices.

"There's a lot of noise about smartwatches, but you don't see them on people's wrists," Francois Thiebaud, head of Swatch Group SA's Tissot brand, told Reuters in an interview at a watch fair in Basel.

"We don't want to do anything that doesn't add value for the customer, we're not interested in launching a gadget watch," Thiebaud said.

Family-owned Patek Philippe and La Montre Hermes, the watch unit of luxury goods group Hermes International SA, don't see smartwatches as a threat for their business, their heads said.

Both Patek's Thierry Stern and Hermes' Luc Perramond said their target market was different from the young buyers who might be looking for something to wear on their wrists.

"When they grow older," Perramond said, "that may be a watch."   Continued...

Patek Philippe Chairman Thierry Stern gestures as he speaks during a Reuters interview at Baselworld fair in Basel March 26, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann