It’s no secret that Apple has a cult-like following when it comes to its products. Knowing that, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Apple Watch outsold Swiss watches in 2019. What’s interesting about that is that it wasn’t just a single brand that Apple outsold; it was the entire Swish watch industry. In 2019, all the brands of the Swiss watch industry sold a combined 21.1 million watches. The Apple Watch sold—by itself—30,7 million units worldwide.
“Analog wristwatches remain popular among older consumers,” reports Strategy Analytics, “but younger buyers are tipping toward smartwatches and computerized wristwear.” The wearables category, which includes the Apple Watch and AirPods, brought in over $10 billion in net sales in just the December quarter, showing a 27 per cent year-on-year increase. Swiss Watches exports fell 13 per cent year-on-year in 2019.
“Traditional Swiss watchmakers, like Swatch and Tissot, are losing the smartwatch wars. Apple Watch is delivering a better product through deeper retail channels and appealing to younger consumers who increasingly want digital wristwear. The window for Swiss watch brands to make an impact in smartwatches is closing. Time may be running out for Swatch, Tissot, TAG Heuer, and others,” warned Strategy Analytics.
Some might still argue that a Swiss watch is a status symbol, and there’s a strong point to be made there given the price of some of those watches, with the majority being twice as expensive as an Apple Watch. But Apple is gaining ground there as well. “The Apple Watch has emerged as a status symbol of its own, and offers a competitive alternative to mid-range Swiss watches,” reports Steven Waltzer, a senior analyst for Strategy Analytics. “Apple’s massive customer base means that converting just a small percentage of iPhone users to Apple Watch users yields volume in the millions.”
It will still be an uphill climb for Apple, though. Ramon Llamas, research director at the market research firm IDC, says, that Swiss watches personify “luxury, position, and affluence.” Says Llamas, “Does this spell the end of Swiss watches? I doubt it. There will still be interest and demand and, in fact, a number of younger users still aspire to own one someday. Meanwhile, today’s smartwatches—and yes, even the Apple Watch—will look quaint in just a matter of years.”