«Switzerland is in trouble», they say that Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer, boasted, anticipating the success of the long-awaited smartwatch already popularly known as iWatch, although no one knows for sure when it will go on sale or what it will be called.
Although highly questionable, the idea that Swiss watchmakers, who enjoy an unparalleled worldwide reputation, may be trembling at the arrival of a newbie is so seductive that it captured the imagination of the tech industry.
So much so, that few care if I’ve actually made that comment, or if it’s another advertising magic coup from Apple.
On the eve of 9/9, the date that the industry eagerly awaits to learn about the new models from the tech giant, many wonder if it is true that Swiss watchmakers are not shaking their hands.
Switzerland exports 95% of the watches it produces and, according to data from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, the health of the business remains in good shape, growing modestly but steadily.
The volume of exports from January to July this year was 3% higher than the same period in 2013.
And exports of luxury watches that cost more than $ 3,200 continue to grow as well.
According to the valuations of several analysts, luxury brands such as Rolex, Cartier and Patek Philippe, will not face great challenges from the technology industry.
Smartwatches already on the market tend to cost less than traditional Swiss watches, so they don’t compete directly with each other.
«Those who buy wearable technologies look to smartwatches for specific digital and information services, while customers of classic luxury watches look for technical performance, design and craftsmanship,» said Aldo Magada, CEO of the Zenith brand. , which belongs to the LVMH luxury products group.
On the other hand, the fact that new technologies become obsolete in a relatively short time means that the prices of smart watches have to be kept down.
But not all Swiss watches are luxury.
Some analysts suggest that companies such as Swatch, the Swiss watchmaker group for a sector of the market with lower purchasing power, could see the effect of the potential arrival of a smartphone from Apple.
However, Nick Hayek, the CEO of the company, dismissed in a recent interview with L’Hebdo magazine that a product like the iWatch could become a threat.
Surprisingly, Hayek pointed out that Apple’s foray into the world of watches could indirectly become a great opportunity for his company, by seducing and attracting an audience of millions of young people who are not wearing a wristwatch.
The industry estimates that around 60% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 watch the time on their mobile phones.
A potential iWatch could put rival companies, such as LG, Samsung and Sony, on alert, which have already released smartwatches without much success.
In general these smart devices, still in childhood, tend to be clunky and with limited functions.
On the one hand, they are criticized that the technology is not mature enough to fulfill the ambitions of the users.
On the other, they lack to be «desirable», to be cool.
And many have hopes pinned on the contribution that Apple can make in this field.
Know how to do Swiss
Meanwhile, analysts point to an imminent trend toward cooperation between Silicon Valley «middle ground» tech firms and traditional Swiss watchmakers.
One possible avenue of exploration, they point out, is the introduction of smart Swiss watches, which could be used with an open software infrastructure.
That would make them less likely to quickly become obsolete.
The Swiss watch industry has a lot of experience in mechanical and electronic miniaturization, as well as in material innovation.
So you may have a lot to share with tech companies just now entering the world of bracelets.
Perhaps that is why Apple itself brought in Patrick Pruniaux, a senior sales executive at Swiss luxury brand Tag Heuer, into its ranks last July.
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