When Should Luxury Watch Brands get with the Times?
The recent popularity of smartwatches is undeniable. Initially seen as a cool piece of wearable tech, smartwatches have grown into a strong market in their own right – which is expected to rapidly increase in the next five years. Other than simply tell the time of course, the Apple Watch and its Android competitors, such as the Motorola Moto 360 and the Samsung Gear S2, now allow the user to access a staggering amount of functions simply on their wrist. Whether that be reading text messages, checking your heart rate, listening to music, as well as playing games and even paying for items with a virtual wallet at participating NFC (Near Field Communication) terminals.
With that in mind, where does this leave traditional luxury watch sellers such as Rolex and Omega? According to Stephen Urquhart, president of Omega, it’s about trying to stay relevant in such an electronic world. "We aren't trying to compete. It's a whole different ball game. We are trying to solve a problem that has been there for 150 years," said Urquhart. "I think if you go back to watchmaking since the changes in the 70s and 80s many people were quick to embrace electronic technology from the time, like Quartz, but it never took off. Maybe the consumer wasn't ready for it, maybe they didn't want it. Today we live in a different world."
A wide range of second-hand watches can be found on many online marketplaces, so the likelihood of prominent brands like Omega and Rolex disappearing from view entirely remains unlikely. However, despite the strong temptation to move with the trends, it seems Omega is doing their best to market themselves as pertinent and fashionable in 2015.
Helped largely by brand ambassadors such as Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, and familiar faces in George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, Omega’s biggest asset is perhaps none other than the coolest fictional character alive, Bond, James Bond. Not only is current Bond actor Daniel Craig also a brand ambassador for Omega, the watch manufacturer has provided the 007 films with stylish watches for 20 years, from 2015’s Spectre, all the way back to 1995’s GoldenEye.
In a separate interview with Urquhart, the Omega president discussed how his brand was coping with 16-34 year-olds whose idea of checking the time is shifting to smartphones and now smartwatches. "For me, that’s a bigger challenge than smartwatches: to make sure that we are reaching out to them for a product that has this image of being their parents’ sort of world," explained Urquhart. "The population is ageing, but that’s not the consumer we’re looking for, we’ve covered it."
Watch trends and brands seem to constantly evolve, so whether traditional watch makers can ride out the storm and stay significant in the next decade, only time will tell.
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