Baselworld 2016 and the Smartwatch
Baselworld is the biggest international trade show for jewellry, watches and gemstones, located in the Swiss city Basel. Between 17th - 24th March 2016, more than 100.000 visitors from all over the world are expected in the huge exhibition halls. From very expensive watches to watches for the average consumer tries every important brand to represent itself as the best. A ticket is available for 60 CHF, which are around 60 Euro. For people, who are only going to see the showpieces in famous hall 1 - like from Rolex or Patek Philippe - the entrance price must be peanuts.
While this year, the Swiss watch stays in the focus again, the Baselworld 2015 was overshadowed by smartwatch innovations from California. When in 2014, no one was convinced, that the "intelligent watch" is ever going to be successful, a lot of conversations on the last trade show have been about Apple's new Smartwatch invention. It got launched in April 2015 - and basically turned out to be a flop. Now, the Apple watch 2 is going to get launched in the next weeks. But this time, the watchmakers on Baselworld are more intelligent than they even were before. The conservative business of watchmakers was waiting, how things are going to turn out. Through fear, that the classical watch couldn't sustain the market, big brands like TAG Heuer already announced their plans for an "intelligent watch" in the course of Baselworld 2015. But other than Apple and Samsung, the Swiss definition of a smartwatch is not like a smartphone in form of a wristwatch. According to Jens Krauss (researcher at CSEM), Swiss intelligent watches should combine functionality and aesthetic. Since then, all the intelligent watches on the market - Apple watch included - looked more like childrens toys than luxury accessories. With the very beautiful HUAWEI Watch and the HUAWEI Watch for Women models, this assumption changes. Xavier Comtesse, founder of the Swiss House in Boston, public speaker on TedX Geneva and head of Geneva Office of Avenir Suisse (a "Think Tank in Switzerland in charge for the development of economic and social issues", had in 2015 the vision of a Swiss Smartwatch, which functions like a remote control and should have a special benefit in peoples everyday life. With Apple's Smartwatch for example, people can pay mobile.
On Baselworld 2016, everything is different. The most famous Swiss watch brand, Swatch, already launched its first smartwatch "Bellamy" in September 2015 in China. Swatch grouped together with the Chinese Bank of Communications to make it possible for people, to pay with "Bellamy" in retail stores. Why didn't a Swiss brand started its first smartwatch in his own country? Because according to Swatch CEO Hayek, it takes a lot of time to come to a deal with Swiss banks. Also luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer, whose CEO Jean-Claude Biver announced in March 2015 a cooperation with "Silicon Valley" (Google and Intel), already launched its first smartwatches in November 2015. The TAG Heuer Connected combines American technology with the Swiss watchmaking passion.
With around 56 brands is Switzerland also called swatch valley. Compared to the USA with only around 6, the difference is large. But the competition with smartwatches is not a competition between watchmakers, but between watchmarkers and huge technology companies like Samsung and HUAWEI (if we keep the example TAG Heuer Connected from above aside). The purpose differs, while still both products are showpieces. Just in different ways. The collection of smartwatches compared to traditional handwrists is still very small and most of the traditional or luxury brands like Rolex only have a few selected ones - maybe only to participate in the game and show. Until now, the traditional, expensive and luxurious wristwatch is an collector's item and timeless accessory for the rich, while the smartwatch like the one from Apple is more sort of a "cool" thing to play with for everybody. One famous proverb illustrates it very well: "If you don't have a Rolex by the time you reach 50, then you have clearly failed in your life". But until this time comes, internet users in the world can at least try hard to reach this point with an Apple MacBook Pro.