Something that happened in the last week compelled me to write this...The topic was "Are Swiss watchmakers threatened by Smart watches"? The world apparently thinks so and here, I'm rationalising why it could be so.
Lets get a hang on what Swiss watches means to us... I think the word "Luxury" resonates with them. I think that the meaning of Luxury is changing with the advent of digital technologies and that's the reason why they may be threatened.
Traditionally, luxury manifests itself in the form of material and geometry... ornamentation is one of the characteristics of it, but that's not all. We may have to go deeper and understand the "fundamental values" that represent "luxury".
1. Luxury is felt in the sheer size:
Whether we talk about automobiles like Maybach or Palatial spaces, luxury essentially has a tangible feel of size, overpowering size that dwarfs everything else. Hence, a larger Diamond is exponentially more luxurious than a tiny one... its not a simple multiplication, but rather, it is something that is glaringly large (and larger than the ordinary rest).
2. Luxury is felt in longevity:
Material is another form of expressing longevity. When we talk about precious metals or stones or handmade fabric, there is an aspect of longevity there. Not that people need it, but it is a way of expressing our control over the world... What I got lives longest!
3. Luxury is felt in power:
Power manifests itself in the form of specs of certain automobiles on one hand and on the other, you will see its traces in the form of ornamentation... the amount of detail that is logically irrelevant, but it gives its buyer, a sense of power in owning it.
In all the three examples above, the material and geometry have been used as mere mediums to express luxury. What happens when the medium changes?
Enter Digital medium.
When we see luxury in the light of Digital medium, smart watches seem here to stay. I would interpret smart watches in the same three terms as above, using Apple watch as an example:
Size in this context assumes abstract nature and size here is felt in its influence. Tightly integrated with the Apple ecosystem, this watch does what no Swiss watch can do. Its size is infinite, as it talks to the cloud, your other devices and puts unlimited possibilities at your disposal
Longevity in this context is in the form of its accuracy (you know how accurate Swiss watches are? This one would possibly be more accurate than all of them), to start with. It comes through in the form of IOS as well, that provides its users with constant upgrades that keep them ahead. Longevity in this case is not the property of a material, but the property of its software
I don't think I need to elaborate on this, but I still will. For starters, Power is the freedom in your hands to use it as you want, keep track of your health and fitness, have unlimited information on your fingertips and access to a whole gamut of things that were never available to Swiss watch users. Yes, you don't need those features nor will you use all of them in your lifetime, but that's the meaning of Luxury... You don't need it!
Let me add a disclaimer at the end: I'm no fan of smart watch or Apple. The idea is to throw light on looking at things in a different perspective, as various influences shape up around us. As of today, consumption of smart watches is very poor and the return simply does not justify the investments being put. However, it is certainly a threat to those, who have been pursuing traditional way of shaping stuff with no sight on what the other side looks like... the idea is, "you either change or you perish".
Will I buy one? Looks like I will.
Founder and CEO of Think Design, a User Experience strategist, Designer, Speaker and Educator. Think Design is a Leading Design consultancy with offices in Denver, New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru; and collaborates with visionary organisations to identify, build and materialise innovative products and services.