Smartwatches vs. Traditional Watches: Do the Sales Trends Match Popular Opinion?

The 4th quarter of 2015 saw the number of shipments of smartwatches overpower the number of shipments of traditional watches for the first time, ever. It didn’t take long for this to happen either, as the Apple Watch, which dominates the market of wearable technology, was released just a little over 6 months prior to the start of that quarter.

From the 4th quarter of 2014 to the same quarter of 2015, the sales of smartwatches rose an incredible 316%, while the sales of traditional watches over the same time period declined 5%. It may not be much of decline, but when compared to the huge share of the market that smartwatches has taken over and created for itself, it is significant.

Comparing Smartwatches vs. Traditional Watches
The new wearable tech that is available in most smartwatches has allowed users to have the same technology that they can access from their cell phones, as well as from fitness watches, all from wearing just one device that is more easily carried and accessed. You can check your blood pressure, heart rate, and steps taken throughout the day, if not more, and usually track fitness trends over time. Plus, everything from your email to your stocks numbers are all right there on your wrist. It’s even easier than ever to take a look at your newest Facebook or Twitter notifications. And don’t forget, you can still make and receive calls with a smartwatch just like you can with a regular cell phone.

Traditional watches may not have all of this fancy technology but they do offer the air of luxury and timeless elegance that many people still enjoy, both for themselves, and to show off. It can be a status symbol to show up to the office with a classic, Swiss timepiece on your wrist whether you are making a statement or you want something simple and sleek.

Views from Industry Pros
In 2014, Apple’s chief designer, Jony Ive, was reported to have said that the luxury watch market would be “in trouble” once the then unannounced Apple Watch came out. Apple obviously knew they were on to something that would change the future of watches forever, and they were right.

SalonQP editor, Chris Hall, claims that a smartwatch will never offer the same luxury feeling as a carefully crafted traditional watch can. If you want to make a person who prefers a traditional watch wear a smartwatch, then you must “make the fact that it’s smart almost incidental.” Ariel Adams, founder , of aBlogtoWatch says that even though there are some negative sentiments from some watch “purists” about the popularity of the smartwatch industry,he sees it as a natural evolution of technology. When you think about it, technology is advancing all the time so why wouldn’t it eventually make its way to the watch?

The Traditional Watch Market is Not Dead
Even though sales are declining, there is still a market for the traditional watch, and the traditional watch brand. Most are convinced that sales will rebound once they re-establish their place in the market. In 2013, a new traditional watch brand, Shinola, opened out of Detroit, shattering the myth that a luxury watch brand had to be Swiss to guarantee quality craftsmanship and unique styles. Eight other new showers were at the luxury watch convention in Geneva in 2016.

Even the well-established brands, such as Rolex, Cartier, IWC Schaffhausen, and even Audemars Piguet are unveiling new, unique styles that are taking a few steps beyond the traditional boundaries set by luxury watch designers and manufacturers. This is all in an effort to entice a new market to the world of the traditional watch, and it may very well have been the reason why the 4th quarter of 2015 sales did not drop even more than 5%.
In his December 31, 2016 article on A Blog to Watch, Ariel Adams writes. “…. I think there are a lot of good arguments to suggest that smartwatches and traditional mechanical watches have not only different uses and appeal, but currently quite different target markets.”

There are benefits to wearing a traditional watch and there are benefits to wearing a smartwatch. Neither industry is dead; that of the traditional watch is just changing as that of the smartwatch is beginning to take shape and find its place.. You might just find yourself looking at purchasing both a smartwatch and a traditional watch to wear depending on what the occasion calls for.