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Apple reaching out to Swiss watchmakers for partnerships, tries to poach horology experts

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
Apple has reportedly been in contact with executives and craftsmen at Swiss watch brands as the company attempts to strike new partnerships and bring high-end watchmaking expertise in house for development of a so-called "iWatch."

Patek Philippe's 5104, an ultra-rare
Patek Philippe's 5104, an ultra-rare "grand complication" watch that has sold for as much as $800,000


Watchmakers have been reticent to throw in their lot with Apple, according to the Financial Times, because the companies have little faith in the potential of smart watches. Among the most vocal opponents is Swatch CEO Nick Hayek, who reiterated his belief that technical constraints will ultimately doom the category.

"We have been in discussions - not ever initiated by us - with practically all players in smart wearables up until today," Hayek said. "However, we see no reason why we should enter into any partnership agreement."

"Never forget, to make a smartwatch work you need two hands or voice recognition, which again needs a lot of power which is difficult in a very limited space," he added.

Apple, for its part, is said to have attempted an end-around by recruiting horologists directly. LVMH watch and jewellery chief Jean-Claude Biver said that Apple has attempted to lure employees from LVMH's Hublot brand and "several Swiss parts manufacturers." None of Hublot's employees chose to leave the company, according to Biver.

While it is unknown exactly how Apple would leverage that talent, at least one executive believes it is possible that the iPhone maker is considering a hybrid mechanical-electronic device. The company might also be looking to the industry for expertise in working with new types of strong, lightweight metals.

It is "conceivable that they [Apple] would be interested in developing a type of hybrid with some type of mechanical aspects...the Swiss watch industry is very adept at metallurgy," said Patek Philippe president Larry Pettinelli.
post #2 of 62
This is what disruption looks like to an incumbent. But if the option of buying a smart watch suddenly becomes more attractive to the majority of the incumbents' consumer base than buying the traditional non-smart watches, then people will say of their CEOs that they didn't grasp the sea change and were too slow to respond.

If (IF) smart watches catch on like iPad and post-2006 smartphones have then traditional watch makers will be the next MSFT/Nokia/BBRY.

I'll still always like the classic Mickey watch though. 1smile.gif

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post #3 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by jinglesthula View Post

This is what disruption looks like to an incumbent. But if the option of buying a smart watch suddenly becomes more attractive to the majority of the incumbents' consumer base than buying the traditional non-smart watches, then people will say of their CEOs that they didn't grasp the sea change and were too slow to respond.

If (IF) smart watches catch on like iPad and post-2006 smartphones have then traditional watch makers will be the next MSFT/Nokia/BBRY.

I'll still always like the classic Mickey watch though. 1smile.gif

It's not exactly an an identical comparison and I do believe the luxury watch market will be considerably more insulated do to it being more heavily focused on fashion and status than utility, but look at what happened to Vertu after the iPhone was launched.

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post #4 of 62
I don't see this ever happening. Jony. Ive wears watches that cost upwards of $10K. No way is Apple going to be able to mass produce something to that level of quality and keep it within a reasonable price range. And no way will Apple executives design something that they themselves wouldn't wear.
post #5 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

I don't see this ever happening. Jony. Ive wears watches that cost upwards of $10K. No way is Apple going to be able to mass produce something to that level of quality and keep it within a reasonable price range. And no way will Apple executivs design something that they themselves wouldn't wear.

I'd think Jony et al. at Apple wearing luxury watches is a good sign that any wearable by Apple will be something they would want to wear, unlike every other "smartwatch" that has entered the market to this point.

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post #6 of 62
I suggested this a few months back on this forum. Just seemed like an obvious move to me. I agree wth several of you: Apple will never make a Patek Philippe quality smart watch, but someone else will partner with Apple to do it. Swatch is not the name Apple would go after. I hear sour grapes in their CEOs musings.
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post #7 of 62
"I'll still always like the classic Mickey watch though."

Cool. And while wearing my smart watch (iPod nano 6th ten) I like to change the face occasionally. Included in optional faces is both a Mickey and a Minnie watch face, rights fully acquired from Disney (Gee I wonder how that happened..... LOL thanks Steve).

Apple, iPod nano 6 Gen, the worlds first smart watch, health watch, timer, mp3 player, and FM player.

Just saying. LOL
post #8 of 62
My bet is they are more interested in the materials expertise. As to the device itself, I believe this concept has a tremendous potential being the desruptive, revolutionary and future-like product people would expect from Apple after iPhone. The flexible display's extra room allows for proper, context-intensive apps while at the same time enables endless skin customization for all sexes and ages.

post #9 of 62

Battery life is key and until someone solves that problem any solution is not going to be desirable. if you have to remember to charge your watch all the time and that changing period changes depending on how you use the device any given day then people will not use it.

 

It not like a laptop or cell phone which we all know need to be charged up or plugged in every day, watches do not have that end user experience and they will need to be a serious paradigm shift in how people use and perceive a watch.

post #10 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I'd think Jony et al. at Apple wearing luxury watches is a good sign that any wearable by Apple will be something they would want to wear, unlike every other "smartwatch" that has entered the market to this point.
And how do they build something at a price point people will be willing to pay?
post #11 of 62
To Maestro64

Yes battery life is key. I believe Apple has a patent on putting a solar cell beneath the watch face. Apple always thinking. Hey maybe the watch solar cell is on sapphire??/
post #12 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

And how do they build something at a price point people will be willing to pay?

That sounds like a loaded question but I refer you to the iPad and iPhone for the "how" in terms of price points people are willing to pay.

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post #13 of 62
Subtle point here, Swatch is NOT a luxury brand. Typically they retail for less than $200 and are considered more jewelry. When I lived in Europe, it seemed everyone had at least one, sometimes several that they interchangeably wore.
post #14 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I'd think Jony et al. at Apple wearing luxury watches is a good sign that any wearable by Apple will be something they would want to wear, unlike every other "smartwatch" that has entered the market to this point.
Btw, this is the watch Ive currently wears. I believe only 3 were produced (one for Ive, one for Marc Newson and one for Product (RED) auction). Not sure what it would retail for but the auction piece sold for something like $340K.

post #15 of 62
I think there is a lot of potential in making a good looking device. Two sizes: men and women/kids. Three colors each: space grey, silver, and gold. With the ability to change the watch face and that many options (none of which is a stretch to anything apple does) it would appeal to a lot of people
post #16 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwintheiser View Post

Subtle point here, Swatch is NOT a luxury brand. Typically they retail for less than $200 and are considered more jewelry. When I lived in Europe, it seemed everyone had at least one, sometimes several that they interchangeably wore.
Swatch is part of the Swatch Group which does have luxury brands like Omega and Rado.

http://www.swatchgroup.com/en/brands_and_companies/watches_and_jewelry
post #17 of 62
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"However, we see no reason why we should enter into any partnership agreement."

 

Ah yes.  The classic "What?  Me worry?" pre-disruption mentality.

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post #18 of 62
edit: Pipped by Rogifan.

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post #19 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



Gorgeous.
post #20 of 62
Yes, solar cells might be the key. If the rumors are to be true, Apple wants you to wear the Iwatch all the time, eg by day while excercising and also by night to measure your sleep.
post #21 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

That sounds like a loaded question but I refer you to the iPad and iPhone for the "how" in terms of price points people are willing to pay.
High end watches like the ones Ive wears retail for thousands of dollars, in some cases a lot more than that. I doubt Apple will get into the high end watch business, or that they'll be able to design a high end watch, for say $300 or less. I still think Apple's initial wearable play will go down the path of Nike Fuelband more than high end watch. All the rumors about stuff they've been working on point to health more than Google Now/notification type stuff.

EDIT: let me be clear, I'm not suggesting Apple couldn't design a beautiful high end watch, I just don't think they could do it in a competitive price range. I fully expect any wearable from Apple to be premium and command a premium price, but that doesn't mean it will be thousands of dollars.
post #22 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

because the companies have little faith in the potential of smart watches

Sounds like all the nonsense that was said before the iPod, iPhone and iPad came out.

post #23 of 62
They didn't need to build a car to get iOS into some high-end cars either. All you need is the right technology and the right partners and boom, high-end wearables. Let's see what Angela Ahrendts can do coming from Burberry.
post #24 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

Battery life is key and until someone solves that problem any solution is not going to be desirable. if you have to remember to charge your watch all the time and that changing period changes depending on how you use the device any given day then people will not use it.

It not like a laptop or cell phone which we all know need to be charged up or plugged in every day, watches do not have that end user experience and they will need to be a serious paradigm shift in how people use and perceive a watch.

Easy solution; make it an automatic. lol.gif
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post #25 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwintheiser View Post

Subtle point here, Swatch is NOT a luxury brand. Typically they retail for less than $200 and are considered more jewelry. When I lived in Europe, it seemed everyone had at least one, sometimes several that they interchangeably wore.

Swatch itself is not a luxury brand. However, the Swatch Group owns multiple brands in all price categories including luxury brands Blancpain, Bregeut, Harry Winston, and Omega as well as mid-range brands like Longines and Tissot. The latter three all have some visibility in sports timing.

 

An Apple iWatch poses a serious threat to Swatch because Swatch is heavily involved in endorsing a lot of action sports like beach volleyball, snowboarding, BMX, surfing, mountain biking, etc.

post #26 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

High end watches like the ones Ive wears retail for thousands of dollars, in some cases a lot more than that. I doubt Apple will get into the high end watch business, or that they'll be able to design a high end watch, for say $300 or less. I still think Apple's initial wearable play will go down the path of Nike Fuelband more than high end watch. All the rumors about stuff they've been working on point to health more than Google Now/notification type stuff.

EDIT: let me be clear, I'm not suggesting Apple couldn't design a beautiful high end watch, I just don't think they could do it in a competitive price range. I fully expect any wearable from Apple to be premium and command a premium price, but that doesn't mean it will be thousands of dollars.

I'm not following your argument. I don't expect Apple to make a range of wrist-worn wireless iPhone peripheral devices that compete on price and luxury as the highest-end wristwatch market, but I do expect them to produce something that is attractive and fashionable for this nascent market segment that Ive and company would be proud to wear.

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post #27 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by eldernorm View Post

To Maestro64

Yes battery life is key. I believe Apple has a patent on putting a solar cell beneath the watch face. Apple always thinking. Hey maybe the watch solar cell is on sapphire??/


It must be some very specific patent because I have a Citizen eco-drive that has been running continuously since 1993 that has a the solar cell beneath the watch face.

post #28 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I'm not following your argument. I don't expect Apple to make a range of wrist-worn wireless iPhone peripheral devices that compete on price and luxury as the highest-end wristwatch market, but I do expect them to produce something that is attractive and fashionable for this nascent market segment that Ive and company would be proud to wear.
That's where I'm skeptical, or why I think what they're designing won't be a watch. But hey if they can design a device that has the look of a high-end timepiece but is priced competitively within the current wearables space, then more power too them.
post #29 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

That's where I'm skeptical, or why I think what they're designing won't be a watch. But hey if they can design a device that has the look of a high-end timepiece but is priced competitively within the current wearables space, then more power too them.

To be clear, I've been trying to terms like wrist-worn device for probably over a year now. I don't think smart or watch are good descriptors because they have connotations that are far too limited in scope, but most importantly seem to evoke a predetermined idea of either trying to be the watch and/or smartphone we desire.
Edited by SolipsismX - 3/28/14 at 11:23am

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post #30 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by eldernorm View Post

To Maestro64

Yes battery life is key. I believe Apple has a patent on putting a solar cell beneath the watch face. Apple always thinking. Hey maybe the watch solar cell is on sapphire??/

You are on the right track. Apple was granted a patent for a touch based solar panel last year. What is amazing is the patent was filed back in 2008! Here is a link to information about the patent... http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/02/apple-wins-a-shocker-with-2008-touch-based-solar-panel-patent.html#more.
post #31 of 62
My guess is that the so called iWatch is an add on consisting three main parts which can be applied to any (and certainly luxury) watch abiding by some standards set by Apple

Main parts would be a transparent glass pane capable of projecting the iWatch functions when relevant, an add-under electronics container dimesized and twice the thickness and a brace containing more electronics, battery and maybe touchscreen stuff.

Partners are required to minimize the height of the clock mechanics and abide to fixed diameters. This way style remains free while adding smartwatch features. It's kind of the Apple in the car way I think.
post #32 of 62

This is where Apple's chip manufacturing is going to come in. They can make a very specialized, very low-power chip that uses very little power and offloads anything remotely intensive to the iphone. Couple that with an oled screen with interfaces designed to avoid lighting up the whole panel (likely a motivating factor in ios7's sparseness), plus solar trickle charging, plus kinetic charging, plus a flexible thin battery in the strap... you could end up with something pretty magical. 

post #33 of 62
The watch business may be the most highly niched market of all. Some customers will want a sport-styled watch, others a prestige fashion watch, some will want Mickey and Minnie watches, and many will want several styles to suit their different business and leisure activities. Plus, some customers will be looking for $200 watches, and others for $2,000 watches. Or $20,000 watches. If Apple gives all of us several choices, the potential sales are mind-boggling.
post #34 of 62

I've always maintained that wearables is as much fashion as it is high tech and that the right business model is Swatch brought a few notches upmarket.  No, Apple will not be selling any $10K watches any day soon but they will hire the world's foremost experts in precision micro-scale mechanical engineering and materials and the products that Apple will come up with will be beautiful in the Jobs-Ivian or jobsivian (claiming copyright right now) sense.

 

That Swatch guy sounds a lot like that Palm CEO remarking how computer guys can't just barge into the phone business and expect to succeed.

 

Apple's vision for wearables looks more and more like it's way beyond what Samsung and Google and the rest of the also rans could conceive of.  No wonder it's taking 'so long'.

post #35 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamieL View Post

They didn't need to build a car to get iOS into some high-end cars either. All you need is the right technology and the right partners and boom, high-end wearables. Let's see what Angela Ahrendts can do coming from Burberry.

this is slightly different, where the 'style' of the car's 'infotainment' interface is evolving from decades (maybe only years) of consumer experience. Mid and 'low-luxury' cars have a 3 year half life for most people (lease new, 24-36 months, or buy, and keep until 36,000 sort of the low end of warranties now), therefore like phones, consumers continually upgrading. 

 

Watches have been around for centuries, and high-end multi-function ('complicated')  chronometers for over a century.   They feel they 'grok' the consumer experience, quite well thank you.   And those $XX,000 watches ...  they last for years.   And stuffing an iOS interface into a lower end watch may be a non-starter in terms of price and margin on both ends.

 

The watch makers may say "danke nein'  and go their merry way.  Much like most of the wireless carriers did 7 years ago.  It will only take one.  

post #36 of 62
... horology?... is that the study of whores and they're working habits? haha. /groan

ho, ho, ho ... is it the study of santa clause?... bah-dum-bah /rim shot
post #37 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post
 

 

 

Apple's vision for wearables looks more and more like it's way beyond what Samsung and Google and the rest of the also rans could conceive of.  No wonder it's taking 'so long'.

And now the also rans are out trying to buy Swiss watch companies.

post #38 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by jakeb View Post
 

This is where Apple's chip manufacturing is going to come in. They can make a very specialized, very low-power chip that uses very little power and offloads anything remotely intensive to the iphone. Couple that with an oled screen with interfaces designed to avoid lighting up the whole panel (likely a motivating factor in ios7's sparseness), plus solar trickle charging, plus kinetic charging, plus a flexible thin battery in the strap... you could end up with something pretty magical. 

 

I agree. And how would this feel for magical?

 

 

post #39 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwintheiser View Post

Subtle point here, Swatch is NOT a luxury brand. Typically they retail for less than $200 and are considered more jewelry. When I lived in Europe, it seemed everyone had at least one, sometimes several that they interchangeably wore.

 

Perhaps you should take a look at the brands Swatch owns, they are also a major Swiss movement and component maker.

 

Hayek and Swatch pretty much saved the Swiss watch industry when the influx of cheap Japanese quartz watches began.

 

Hayek is the Jobs of Swiss watches.

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post #40 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by jakeb View Post

This is where Apple's chip manufacturing is going to come in. They can make a very specialized, very low-power chip that uses very little power and offloads anything remotely intensive to the iphone. Couple that with an oled screen with interfaces designed to avoid lighting up the whole panel (likely a motivating factor in ios7's sparseness), plus solar trickle charging, plus kinetic charging, plus a flexible thin battery in the strap... you could end up with something pretty magical. 

Solar + kinetic energies... http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/02/talk-about-timing-apples-wristwatch-patent-arrives.html.
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