Not that long ago our syndicated research pointed to the tepid attitude towards the Apple Watch. Right before the release of the much-touted wearable in spring of 2015, our custom audiences in essence collectively shrugged cold shoulders (41% said they were not interested while 18% were not aware of its arrival). Later on and early that summer, in an article for Quirks, we further demonstrated that the iPhone accessory (which it basically is) wasn’t the next watershed tech moment.
Could qSample have been wrong about the Apple Watch, now that it’s early 2016? Could market forces be changing, once again revealing Apple as a slayer of conventional wisdom and even conventional market research?
There’s a case to be made for saying yes to the above questions, although it’s ultimately hard for a reason: Apple doesn’t release sales figures on the Apple Watch. During the last Holidays—with some fuzzy math and fuzzy analysis—the projected estimates of Apple Watch sales range from 3 million on the low-end to 10 million on the high-end. Nobody really knows the sales of the gadget, except for Tim Cook and his band of merry executives.
However, there are hints the Apple Watch might be finally breaking through, as provided by the insights of popular Linked Influencer, Anurag Harsh, in his post Is Apple Watch Killing the Mainstream Swiss Watch Industry?
Harsh makes an astute case by juxtaposing the rise in popularity of smartwatches with the slow collapse of traditional Swiss watches (based on data by Strategy Analytics). The data reveals that smartwatch shipments dramatically increased to 8.1 million units in the last quarter of 2015 compared to traditional Swiss watches that shipped 7.9 million units (down 5 percent from 2014).
Here is a graph from the article demonstrating the changes:
We did our own search through Quartz, and found corresponding data:
Harsh further offers this graph revealing how Apple’s stocks have risen while other watch companies continue to tumble, all around the release of the Apple Watch:
Lastly, Harsh has some harsh words for traditional watchmakers:
There will always be a market, albeit evidently a smaller one, for traditional regular watches for the more discerning customer, but the Swiss companies have criminally underestimated the rise of timepieces of the smart variety, and their original display of arrogance towards them could prove to be deadly. No matter what we believe, the numbers are starting to indicate that very fact.
In the end, we agree with Harsh that traditional watchmakers are making the same mistake as video stores, book publishers and PC makers: resting on their alleged omnipotence and disregarding consumer tech trends.
Regardless, it’s too soon to claim that consumers have fully embraced the Apple Watch. After all and somewhat tellingly, the release of the Apple Watch 2 has already been moved from March to September. It’s doubtfully the reasons are due to technical or distribution setbacks.
What can be inferred from all the mentioned data above, though, is that the watch market has become more competitive and more fragmented. Fitbit and other wearable-makers exploded into the watch market with their own products in the last five years. Even before, companies like Samsung and Microsoft already offered a variety of smartwatches and electronic wristbands.
There are indeed some tectonic shifts in the watch industry, and no one is sure who will remain on the surface or who will be cast down to the underworld of the forgotten with such, once-glorious companies such as MySpace, BlackBerry or Yahoo!
The Apple Watch may not be a tent pole item, but it certainly seems to be enjoying being part of a growing acceptance of wearable tech (and thus qSample stands by its research). Also, one shouldn’t forget that presently Apple inspires the most love out of consumers than any other tech company, according to the brand engagement indexes. All of this will at least grant the smartwatch some time to evolve and survive.
It’s the traditional watchmakers who ironically might have finally run out of time.