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Why smartwatches are no longer a threat to Swiss timepieces

Sales of smartwatches, including Apple’s top selling version, have plateaued, according to Morgan Stanley

A showcase at the Rolex booth on the opening day of luxury watch fair Watches and Wonders Geneva, on 27 March(AFP)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 07.05.2023  |  11:08 AM IST

Smartwatch sales are no longer a big threat to the pricier end of the Swiss watch industry, according to Morgan Stanley.

The Swiss watch sector has significantly refocused on higher-end products over the past 10 years, boosting prices of the best timepieces to offset an overall decline in volumes, analysts led by Edouard Aubin, said in a report. 


When, in 2015, the Apple Watch launched, it was viewed as an existential threat to an industry which couldn’t compete with the range of health and wellness features that smartwatches can offer, states a Bloomberg report. 

Also read: How luxury watchmakers are wooing Gen Z

"Smartwatches are still outselling the Swiss watch market by a wide margin, with Apple selling more during one quarter than the Swiss industry does in a year. Yet volumes are starting to decline for the first time since the launch of Apple Watch, with smartwatch unit sales down 17% year-over-year in the fourth quarter and Apple units falling 16%," adds the Bloomberg report. 

“Overall, going forward we think the incremental negative impact of smartwatches on the Swiss watches industry will now be relatively immaterial, with the exception of some brands such as Tissot, Rado," the Morgan Stanley analysts said. 

Meanwhile, in March, at the Watches and Wonders, the annual luxury watch fair in Geneva, a new trend emerged. More than a dozen brands welcomed new product lines in small sizes or reduced versions of existing popular wristwatch models. The new watches were below 40mm—even for brands that traditionally opted for huge timepieces.

With smaller watches becoming mainstream, it’s no surprise that many vintage revivals were introduced at Watches and Wonders, in diameters ranging from 32mm to 40mm. For instance, TAG Heuer’s Glass Box Carrera Chronograph is now 39mm. Inspired stylistically by the original Carreras from the 1960s, it ranged from 36mm at the beginning to 40mm for more recent models.

Tudor unveiled a Black Bay 54 diver’s watch with elements from the 1954 original, including its 37mm size. Chopard’s 36.5mm L.U.C 1860 is modelled after an original 1997 timepiece. The 1980s cult favourite Cartier Pasha was introduced in a 35mm version this year, as reported by Bloomberg.


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This year, IWC honoured its Ingenieur line and reissued the timepiece created by design maestro Gerald Genta in 1976, in its original 40mm size. This watch was considered so huge at the time that it was nicknamed the Jumbo.

Also read: Smaller watches are the biggest timepiece trend of 2023