TAG Heuer, Gucci Timepieces, Swatch and other watch makers set out smartwatch plans at BaselWorld 2015
A number of traditional watchmakers have announced plans to release smart devices as fears of the growing smartwatch market push manufacturers into new categories.
At the BaselWorld 2015 watch and jewellery expo this week, Swiss watch giant Tag Heuer announced plans to link up with Intel and Google to develop its first smartwatch.
Swiss watchmaker Swatch announced plans to develop smart versions of its popular Omega and Tissot brands that could compete with the likes of Apple, who’s first wearable device launched at the Spring Forward event on March 9.
At the show, which opened in Basel yesterday, Tissot president François Thiébaud said models of its timepieces that could be used for contactless payments and other smart functions will appear next year.
Swatch’s decision to enter the wearable technology space marks the entrance of one of the biggest watchmakers in the world, with figures from StatisticBrain showing that Swatch accounts for 18 per cent of all watch sale revenues.
Swatch’s chief executive Nick Hayek said his company was planning to introduce two types of wireless communication tech to its wristwear: an near field communications chip which can be used for contactless payments, due to be released within the next two months, and devices with Bluetooth, which will be released “during the summer”.
“Whatever usage you want, you ask some creative people to create some apps and then our chip has different layers that you can program yourself – we give it to you,” he said in a press conference. “You buy your Swatch, the one you like, and then you configure it.”
Gucci and will.i.am
Smartwatch sales are expected to boom following the release of the Apple Watch, which will hit stores on April 24. Forecasts from consultancy group the Smartwatch Group predict smartwatch sales to increase from less than seven million in 2014 to 30 million this year.
This is compared to traditional Swiss watches, which will see sales fall by 6.3 per cent to 30 million this year, according to the research.
The watchmaking arm of designers Gucci announced a partnership with Will.I.Am that will see Gucci Timepieces and the Black Eyed Peas singer, born William James Adams, Jr., work together to develop a smartband that will work as a standalone device (ie without a smartphone).
The luxury smartband will be able to make and receive calls, send and receive texts, hold music, maps and calendar information and also be used as a fitness tracker.
The Gucci and i.am+ smartband, will “set the pace” for wearable technology according to Will.I.Am (pictured with Guccie Timepieces head Stephane Linder), who has already unveiled one wearable, called the Puls (available on O2 in the UK), back in October.
“In developing together a device that is both fashionable and technologically advanced, we will create something that is unique in the marketplace,” the singer said. “From the very start, I coined the term ‘fashionology,’ a merging of the worlds of fashion and technology, which is exactly what this collaboration with Gucci represents.”
Details regarding pricing, distribution and launch timing have not yet been announced.