Smartwatches don't make the grade for luxury brands

Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:19pm EDT
 
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By Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH (Reuters) - Don't expect your $10,000 wristwatch to be surfing the Web or calling your broker any time soon.

High-end Swiss watchmakers seem agreed that their concept of timeless luxury does not sit well with the "gadget" appeal of smartwatches.

"A smartwatch is programmed to become obsolete," Jean-Claude Biver, chairman of luxury watchmaker Hublot, told Reuters.

"How could I mix Hublot with something made for obsolescence? It's impossible," said Biver, who added he had rebuffed a big technology group which wanted to explore future projects.

Technology firms like Sony, Samsung and Qualcomm have already launched smartwatches which can replicate smartphones in making calls, accessing the web and running apps.

Technology heavyweights Apple Inc and Google Inc have also shown tentative signs of interest in developing the devices, with Apple launching an iWatch trademark in Japan this year.

Smartwatch shipments are expected to reach 36 million by 2018, compared with just 1 million this year, according to Juniper Research, and Credit Suisse analysts see the market for wearable technology, including smartwatches, interactive glasses and monitors, growing to over $42 billion in the next three to five years.

But luxury watchmakers, whose time pieces sell for anything from 3,000 to 50,000 Swiss francs ($3,500 to $55,000) and often much more, are lukewarm about launching crossover products which could dilute their brand appeal.   Continued...