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

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited April 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 61
    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. :)
  • Reply 2 of 61
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    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. :)

    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.
  • Reply 3 of 61
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 61
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    rogifan wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 61
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 61
    "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
  • Reply 7 of 61
    boblehbobleh Posts: 34member
    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.

    [IMG ALT=""]http://forums.appleinsider.com/content/type/61/id/40492/width/350/height/700[/IMG]
  • Reply 8 of 61
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,414member

    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.

  • Reply 9 of 61
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    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?
  • Reply 10 of 61
    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??/
  • Reply 11 of 61
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    rogifan wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 61
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 61
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    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.

    40881
  • Reply 14 of 61
    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
  • Reply 15 of 61
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    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
  • Reply 16 of 61
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member

    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.

  • Reply 17 of 61
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    edit: Pipped by [B]Rogifan[/B].
  • Reply 18 of 61
    shogunshogun Posts: 360member
    rogifan wrote: »

    40881

    Gorgeous.
  • Reply 19 of 61
    boblehbobleh Posts: 34member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 61
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    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.
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