Death of a Watchman

The Future of Smartwatches

Tech titans like Apple, Google and Samsung have been making headlines this year as rumours of their ‘smartwatches’ have turned into advertisements. 2015 is expected to bring the Apple Watch to the public, while Google’s Android Wear has been available since this past fall. But as the new smartwatches open doors for incredible innovation in wearable technology, what will happen to timepiece companies such as Bulova, Movado and Skagen?

Smartwatches come in a range of styles – for the business-oriented, fitness-gurus and fashionistas alike– and boast features such as voice integration, internet search, alarm-setting and texting. The watches are even synched with your smartphone, so that updates on one happen on the other, including apps and notifications. Most of these watches offer the option to speak to the device so wearers don’t need to worry about tapping around on a small screen; some are even considering gesture controls.

Yet despite the innovation, reviews of these gadgets have not been stellar. Many critics claim these smartwatches are nothing more than a mobile phone on your wrist. Kevin Roose of New York Magazine wore two different models for a week to compare the styles and found “while it was convenient not to have to reach into my pocket every time I got a Facebook message, Twitter reply, or email, the constant buzzing raised my stress level considerably.” Vibrating notifications aren’t even the worst of it. Reviewers argue that the smartwatches are not practical for regular use, declaring they are a driving hazard, difficult to see in bright sunlight and unbearable in movie theatres.

Luxury wristwatch brands aren’t concerned. Most executives agree that the smartwatch designs currently on the market look cheap, geeky and too plastic. HP executive Ray Edwards points out that the successful businesses will be those who understand “fashion is something you wear, while technology is something you carry.” Design isn’t the only thing separating a watch by Apple and a watch by Rolex. As John Philips of TechHive points out, “each industry must respect completely different pricing rules: a smartwatch can’t reasonably cost more than a $300 smartphone, while a luxury wristwatch can cost a year’s salary. And each industry must respect completely different product cycles: the electronics industry embraces planned obsolescence, and that applies to everything from silicon chips to style trends. But a luxury watch must have timeless appeal.” Mat Honan from Wired Magazine says his Samsung Gear Live is “a wonderfully efficient way of managing digital clutter”, but fundamentally, “it is simply a way of shifting certain actions from one screen to another.”

Ultimately, the choice to own a smartwatch comes down to lifestyle. Those who love gadgets and innovation will enjoy playing with the features available on these devices and find ways to use the watches to improve their efficiency. Those who want a timepiece that will give years of quiet service will be happy with just using a smartphone.

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[1] [Smartwatches]. (n.d.). Retrieved from