Swiss Horology vs The Apple Watch

Luxury vs Digital. Switzerland vs California.

When discussing The Apple Watch at Geneva Seal Fine Jewelry & Timepieces in Chicago, the conversation doesn't last long. After three centuries, the mechanics of Swiss watches are so advanced they don't need to bat an eye toward anyone. But here we are, discussing the so-called competition between the two watches because The Apple Watch just may change the watch game.. in a good way.

Robert Hackett, writer for Forbes, thinks The Apple Watch is a gateway drug for Swiss horology and we couldn't agree more. This isn't the first time the Swiss watch industry has been rivaled and it won't be the last. With cunning and a little bit of re-branding, they've survived upheaval before. And this time it will be even easier.

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A Swiss luxury timepiece won't tell you the weather, but they have something smart watches don't. Jean-Claude Biver, watch division president of LVMH and TAG Heuer CEO, says timelessness is essential to the appeal of timekeeping. A collector of watches himself, Biver recently bought his wife a century-old Patek Philippe that ticks like the day it was set, he says. Channeling his inner mystic, he tells Fortune: “A connected watch from Apple or any other brand will not compete with eternity.”

Might Apple erode Switzerland’s market share? Possibly—but smart money says the Apple Watch will actually grow the market. A trendy $17,000 Apple Edition may ultimately prove to be a gateway drug for, say, an elegant $170,000 Patek Philippe.

Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek says he welcomes Silicon Valley to the scene: “We see smart watches as a big chance for the watch industry, not a threat,” he says. “Everything that makes millions of people more open to put something on their wrist will boost the opportunities to sell more watches.”