Montblanc, Tag Heuer and Tissot to expand smartwatch offerings

Swiss watchmakers are diving further into the unproven smartwatch market with Montblanc, Tag Heuer and Tissot seeking to attract younger shoppers.

The brands bid to attract millennials with a technology the industry largely snubbed until consumers began turning away from traditional timepieces.

Tag Heuer this week unveiled the new generation of a $1,650 (€1,080) smartwatch it makes with partners Google and Intel. 

Richemont-owned Montblanc followed with the $890 Summit. 

Swatch Group chief executive Nick Hayek announced plans for a Tissot connected watch using a proprietary operating system.

With the flurry of new gadgets, watchmakers are trying to attract millennial shoppers in the middle of the longest downturn on record for the Swiss industry. 

Yet sales of smartwatches so far have underwhelmed, even for giant Apple, and the new tech-driven timepieces generally command lower prices than the Swiss industry’s traditional output, creating risks for brands that have jumped in.

“The smartwatch market hasn’t necessarily been as big an engagement as some thought it would be. Swiss watchmakers aren’t doing this to fend off the Apple Watch,” said John Guy, an analyst at MainFirst Bank.

Instead they’re dabbling in smartwatches as a way to lure younger shoppers — who often don’t wear any watches, smart or otherwise. 

Prices of Montblanc’s traditional watches run as high as $10,000, more than 10 times the price of its new gadget, while Tag Heuer’s most expensive models extend to about $15,000.

“It’s a way to be on top of people’s minds, and hopefully getting people in their stores,” said Alessandro Migliorini, an analyst at Mirabaud Securities.

So far, Swiss watch makers have insulated their high-end brands from the trend, seeking to preserve the exclusivity of more traditional timepieces. 

The top five brands by sales — Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Patek Philippe and Longines — have stayed out of the smartwatch market entirely.

The latest flurry of releases represents a change of heart for Richemont and Swatch. 

Richemont chairman Johann Rupert previously said his brands only planned to make “intelligent watchstraps”. 

Swatch CEO Nick Hayek has said he doesn’t expect smartwatches to be a “revolution.” 

Bloomberg

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