The Swiss watch industry had a near-death experience when the Japanese started making electronic watches en masse. Now one of the saviors of the Swiss says that Apple, too, presents an existential threat.
Elmar Mock, one of the founders of Swatch, told Bloomberg that he thinks Apple will soon sell as many watches as all of Switzerland, and that “[a]nything in the price range of 500 francs to 1,000 francs is really in danger…” The Swiss Franc and the US Dollar are roughly in parity these days; the mass-market versions of the Apple Watch will run from $349 to about $1,100.
Jean-Claude Biver, who heads LVMH’s watch unit, told Bloomberg that the threat is not as bad as all that. He says that the luxury watch business will not be particularly affected, and that people who buy products like the Apple Watch may actually graduate to something even more expensive and distinctive.
The difference in perspective may lie in the changes in Swatch since it started. The company began making low-cost timepieces; it now makes movements for a wide range of manufacturers in many market segments. And the Swiss watch industry has begun to gear up, as even Swatch itself plans a smart watch this year.