Smartwatches: Will Fashion Take Over Technology?
Smartwatches are everywhere – in the press, in shops and on wrists, and with the release of the long awaited Apple watch coming up soon and other brands such as Sony, Motorola and LG jumping on the trend, there’s guaranteed to be some stiff competition. So now that they’ve been introduced to the market, what can we expect from smartwatches this year? We’ve taken a look at what Breitling, Gucci and TAG Heuer are going to do to make their smartwatch different to those already available on the market, and for most, it seems that style is the way forward.
Here’s what we can expect from smartwatches this year…
The Apple watch
The Apple Watch will be released on Friday 24 April 2015. Pre-orders have already begun and it seems that many models have sold out already, with one million people buying the Apple Watch on the first day of pre-orders in the US, according to Slice Intelligence – though it has been reported that Apple were expecting more sales.
There are three versions of the watch, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition and they all work in conjunction with an app on the iPhone.
The Apple Watch costs from £479-£949 and is made from stainless steel with a retina display face that’s protected by sapphire crystal. It’s available in different colours and bands and is suitable for both every day and evening wear.
The Apple Watch Sport will set customers back £299-£339 and is made from anodised aluminium which is lightweight and its face is protected by strengthened iron X glass. This model is up to 30 per cent lighter than the Apple Watch and is resistant to scratches – making it suitable for sport wear and every day wear.
The Apple Watch Edition costs £8,000 - £13,500 and is made from 18 carat gold which is twice as hard as standard gold (hence the cost). Its dial is protected by polished sapphire crystal and the case of the face is available in rose gold or yellow gold – this version is most suitable for evening and occasion wear, or not at all considering the cost.
What do the people think?
The battery life of the Apple Watch is a concern. It needs to be charged every day which is inconvenient for users, however it only takes 90 minutes to charge from 0-80 per cent. Moving forward, battery life could be a key factor for smartwatches.
It’s likely that another version of the Apple watch will be released within the next two years, making this one out of date. Other brands will want to avoid this.
On a positive note, Apple claims it is the most personal product that it has ever created. The watch is also useful for people who need to screens for work, they could be sending an email on the iPhone while making a call on the Apple Watch.
What can we expect from other brands?
When the Apple watch first launched, it was speculated that the Swiss watch industry would see it as a threat. However, it soon became clear that those looking for a detailed chronograph timepiece were unlikely to buy the Apple Watch, or watches similar and would look to traditional timepiece brands for a product. Some technology brands want to compete with Apple Watch, while Swiss watch makers see it as a chance to evolve and improve rather than actually compete – they want to learn from Apple in comparison to copying it.
At Baselworld 2015 (the world’s leading event on watches and jewellery) there were a number of brands who revealed exciting projects for 2015/2016 with Gucci, Breitling and TAG Heuer leading the way. Here’s what we can expect in the near future.
Breitling has no trouble being recognised in the timepiece industry. It is a supplier to world aviation and as a specialist of technical watches it’s inevitable that its new smart watch is going to be as accurate and technical as a watch can be – just not in the way brands such as Sony, LG and Apple are.
Breitling revealed its new B55 Connected smartwatch at Baselworld 2015 and like many other smartwatches it comes complete with an app which connects to the watch via Bluetooth. This watch has no intention of making phone calls or sending texts and replying to Facebook messages, instead it specialises in providing the user with impeccable timekeeping functions. So far it has been called a pilot’s ‘ultimate instrument’ as they can use the watch and the app to record flight time data.
As the creator of the first independent chronograph push piece, Breitling is passionate about creating a watch that serves a purpose to the user, not just a screen for the wrist. In terms of style it looks more like a technical chronograph watch, in comparison to a simple and technology based smartwatch which often has a large screen. With a blue and black theme and a wireless logo on the dial, the B55 Connected is very much marketed towards sport players and keen aviators. The watch costs around £5435.
Luxury fashion brand Gucci confirmed that it will be taking on the challenge of creating a smartwatch, and will be working with rapper and former The Black Eyed Peas member, will.i.am on the new project. Instead of creating a smartwatch, Gucci and will.i.am are planning to create a ‘smartband’, which is a fashionable smartwatch that people will want to wear.
After the departure of Gucci CEO, Patrizio Di marco and creative director of Gucci ready-to-wear, Frida Gianni, the high-end brand is reinventing itself with new creative director, Alessandro Michele. Alessandro Michele wants to bring Gucci back to life with youthful and chic designs that attract the younger generations and a Gucci smartwatch could be the way forward.
The new Gucci ‘smartband’ is said to be able to receive and make calls, text messages and emails, in addition to playing music, tracking fitness and having a calendar and maps. It also has a front screen camera. Shying away from a typical smartwatch trend, this ‘smartband’ will not need to be used with a smartphone. Although Gucci and will.i.am have not yet released details of a price and launch date, we have been given a sneak peak at the design. It’s not what you would expect from the new Gucci creative director as it’s sleek, simple and has a large watch face but more designs could be released when the watch launches – so watch this space.
Speaking of the new ‘smartband’ Gucci president and CEO, Marco Bizzarri said in a statement:
“Wearable technology and smart devices represent a new frontier for the fashion industry. It is very appropriate that Gucci is leading the way through this collaboration with will.i.am, as innovation has always been such an important part of our DNA.”
While President of Gucci Timepieces, Stephanie Linder told the audience at Baselworld 2015:
“Gucci timepieces is fully embracing the future of wearable technology that is now ahead.”
Will.i.am has said that he wants the watch to be ‘unique in the marketplace’ and is focused on the term ‘fashionology’ (a new word he created which is a combination of fashion and technology). As a fashion brand, Gucci could have an advantage when it comes to creating a smartwatch. If the design is right then customers will want to wear it, even if they aren’t interested in the concept of a smartwatch itself.
Perhaps one of the most surprising announcements to come from Baselworld 2015 was that TAG Heuer would be collaborating with Google and Intel – a strong collaboration if ever we’ve seen one. The three companies want to build an Android Wear watch that’s aimed at a younger audience. As a traditional timepiece brand, TAG Heuer wants to encourage the younger generation to wear more watches and feel that the way to do that is to produce a connected watch that’s also fashionable. TAG Heuer wants the new watch to be timeless and able to be passed down from generation to generation, like many timepieces are, and along with Google and Intel, TAG Heuer believes that focusing solely on technology and style will take the design of watches back in time.
Jean-Claude Biver, head of LVMH watch division told the Financial Times:
“We believe that TAG Heuer is an avant-garde brand and our customers belong to the younger generation. There is a demand for luxury connected watches and we want to satisfy that demand.”
The collaboration has no intention of creating a watch that looks like a miniature phone on the wrist, instead it will have classic TAG Heuer design and mechanics. The companies have chosen to create an Android Wear smartwatch because they believe it wouldn’t be logical to try to create a new system when there is already one that works so well – which could be a very clever move.
The TAG Heuer, Google and Intel smartwatch is expected to go on sale in November 2015.
So what’s next for smartwatches?
While the Apple Watch has clearly set the bar high among smartwatches, it seems that it’s not made a big impact on traditional timepiece brands like many assumed it would. Instead, brands like TAG Heuer and Breitling have decided to take on board what Apple is offering its customers, and instead of trying to replicate it they are tailoring their smartwatch to their own brands to improve their offering.
Since the Apple Watch launched quite early and has inevitably received the most press in the smartwatch stakes, it’s given other brands the chance to see what has and hasn’t worked well and they can then use this information to produce their own smartwatch.
However, one thing that is clear among the smartwatches set to be released this year, is that fashion and style is just as important as the technology of the watch. The Apple Watch has previously been criticised for being too big and not looking good on the wrist, and with fashion brands such as Gucci creating its own, it seems important to create a watch that people actually want to wear – one that looks like a watch and not a phone.
Moving forward, price, size and style are going to be among the main factors contributing to which watch customers will buy. We can definitely expect to see smartwatches taking a different route; it’s unlikely that they are going to be oversized miniature phones, they are going to look and work like a standard watch, but the movement and complications will be more technically advanced to provide users with a watch that’s timeless, stylish, user friendly and exquisitely accurate.
Here at Ernest Jones, we can’t wait to see what smartwatches are available in the upcoming year.