Mar 28th 2017

A watch? Smart? Not quite yet.

I’ll start this by disclosing a key fact about myself, that has probably influenced the below: I am a snob.

Along with my penchant for wine, I also have an interest in watches. Not smartwatches, but old-school mechanical and quartz watches. I saw the Apple Watch and didn’t think much of it. Equally Samsung’s sGear or Huawei’s watch didn’t send my heart into a flutter. I believe that such offerings are introducing tech to a place where it has not been welcome for the past few years, and simply extending your phone to your wrist.

Why not just use some string and tie your phone to your wrist? You’d get the same effect, and not have to charge your swanky new smartwatch every day. Don’t get me wrong – I do like tech, and I know that it can do many things to make our lives easier; I’m just not convinced about the benefits smartwatches can bring to you.

Then I took a sneaky peak at what was offered at Baselworld this year.

To my surprise and slight distaste, there were many smartwatches – hybrid or pure software – that took my fancy. What has been the most refreshing and downright interesting take away from the show is how the old guard have taken notice, probably begrudgingly, of the smartwatch phenomenon and started to integrate tech into their offerings.

Let’s be honest here. Those that can afford to buy luxury smartwatches are more likely to take note of and care about the technology they have. Tag Heuer’s Connected Modular is one of these luxury offerings that I can see doing well, because it still looks like a watch, and allows the wearer to swap the interface for an analogue or digital one, whilst retaining its core smartwatch features. Yet it doesn’t shout “smartwatch” at you – and this is where its genius lies.

Although there has been an influx of offerings at Baselworld this year, smartwatches have had a bit of a chequered past. Pebble, which produced arguably the first smartwatch, ended up not doing so well. The company was eventually acquired by wearables firm Fitbit for $23 million and almost dropped off the map. Apple Watch sales were reported last year to have tanked by 55%. Generally this outlook could mean that the market isn’t doing well, which begs the question: is smartwatch tech really worth pursuing? Or is it one of these investments that companies are making for the sake of it?

There is no denying that smartwatches have made an impact and have ruffled some dusty feathers in the luxury watch manufacturer community. I wouldn’t be so foolhardy to dispute this, and I don’t think anyone who works in tech would either. But I’d question the motivation of most Apple Watch wearers: have they bought this because it’s Apple? Or because of the functionality it brings into their lives? I believe we have failed to see a smartwatch create as much of a dedicated fanbase as the fabled £10 Casio or an analogue Swatch for reasons other than fanboy-ing. For the price, if I had the choice between a Huawei or Apple Watch, and a Hamilton Khaki Field or Tissot Classic, I’d go for the latter. Tech companies are getting close, but I don’t feel they’re quite ‘there’ yet.

That being said, if anyone wants to send that Tag Heuer my way, let me know. I’m sure I can be convinced to swap it out with my watch a few days a week.