Will watches become obsolete?
Smartwatches were meant to kill the analog watch market. They didn’t.
You could be forgiven for assuming that smartphones and smartwatches would have doomed sales for the analog watch market. But in fact, the opposite is true: Analog watch sales have been gradually rising since 2009. Of course, like with many industries, analog watch sales have taken a hit since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. However according to Euromonitor, positive sales trends since local markets have reopened since 2021 indicate that the market will likely recover to 2019-level value sales (current terms) as the pandemic resides/subsides.
It seems that even though the need for wristwatches has waned in recent years, the passion for them has not only remained, but grown. Granted, smartwatches have a plethora of features that traditional analog watches simply don’t, but it is precisely that fact which makes the analog so charming in the age of the digital.
With the launch of the Apple watch back in 2015, it was unclear whether smart watches would crush the analog watch market. They didn’t. Since then there has been serveral iterations of the Apple watch and a slew of other smartwatches which have failed to bury the analog market. The fact is that the wristwatch industry has been ticking along just fine for years.
You see, wristwatches are at least as much about fashion as about functionality, and always have been. On balance however, most smartwatches look very similar. And there is only so much “minimalism” one can take before the term becomes indistinguishable from boring. But with analog watches, there is a wealth of diversity, detail and character that can really speak to your own identity and show your personality in a way that smartwatches just don’t. It’s safe to say smartwatches are unlikely to be regarded as stylish or a fashion item in the same way analog watches are
What’s more is while some consumers are looking for accessories that keep them more plugged in, others are looking for relief from the constant barrage of technology. So, we come to the heart of the question of why young people are buying watches. Many young people are feeling that they’re not consuming technology anymore: technology is consuming them. No one really needs a computer on their wrist that will beam heart rate data to their friends with quirky animations, in the same way no one really needs an ipad. Yet tech companies are continuing to find ways to slap a screen on everything.
Given how utterly saturated we are with technology, a watch may not seem like a significant way to cut through the constant barrage of information. But while in previous eras a watch was the final accessory to a proper and correct outfit, in today’s world half-lived online, we appreciate that by glancing at a watch instead of a screen for the briefest of moments, we can be released, gently, from our phones and the endless stream of push notifications.
People are also seeing that when the next generation of smartwatches comes out, it renders the previous generation almost obsolete. That happens much less with an analog watch because it is not so much the features, but the character that endears it to its wearer. If you buy a good watch, made of excellent parts, you can wear it forever.
At Huguenot Watches we have taken this message to the heart of our brand. We focus on creating products using the best possible materials, at accessible prices.
Our brand was launched recently amidst abundant competition from other watch start-ups and the smartwatch industry. Yet we felt confident when in 2021, we launched our first watch series inspired by the 1950s / 60s golden era of watchmaking. By concentrating on sourcing high quality components and ensuring the design was distinctive and stylish, our watches honour the heritage of the industry while expressing their own individuality.
Even still, in this digital era we sometimes ask ourselves if wristwatches will ever become obsolete. Well, you can see a slight downward trend (based on search volume) over the past few years for traditional watches, and at the same time there is an increased demand for smartwatches. Yet watches have been remarkably resilient because watchmakers recognise that watches are often fashion statements which ebb and flow with trends. Now, the wristwatch market is branching in two different directions, getting hi-tech at the same time as it’s going lo-fi.
Ultimately, watch companies such as ourselves believe that the analog watch market will continue to grow, and that selling high-quality products and providing a great customer experience will prove resilient to changes in fashion trends or advancements in smartwatch technology.
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