Luxury, Wearables & Time


Steven Fischer | May 28, 2015

Wearables are a buzz word in the industry right now - but will they ever truly be considered luxury?

Given the new-found fascination with wearables, now is a fitting time to assess the opportunity through the lens of time – and whether they will ever truly be considered luxury.

Last week, during an exclusive interview with Luxury Society, Chopard Co-President & Artistic Director, Caroline Scheufele alluded that wearables, while ‘trendy’, are “not something of true luxury”.

Citing Chopard’s prestigious legacy of producing fine mechanical watches which will stand the test of time and “outlast generations”, Scheufele added that it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see Chopard jumping on the wearables wagon.

However, that’s not to say that there’s not a white-hot opportunity there for other luxury brands.

“ TAG Heuer has now pounced and joined forces to compete with Apple ”

In March this year, a report by Luxury Society on the eve of Baselworld 2015 revealed “high interest” from consumers for Montblanc’s Estrap and also for smartwatches by TAG Heuer, Rolex, Omega and Breitling despite no official launch announcement for any of them at the time.

As we now know, LVMH-owned TAG Heuer has now pounced and joined forces with Google Inc and Intel Corporation to compete with Apple in the smartwatch market.

So, while it’s true that some luxury brands in the upper echelons may not yet see the smartwatch as something that fits their brand image and customer base, it is interesting to note that other luxury brands are preparing for battle.

Indeed, the key here – save price and craftsmanship – could be time.

A luxury item is timeless in nature. This is what helps distinguish it from fashion, which is about the current moment (temporal), another aspect of time. And, because of that timeless nature, a luxury item justifies a premium price. That is what I like about my American-made Hamilton watch from the 1950s – it is timeless and is designed and produced as such. It relies on the energy that my own body can produce.

Apple Watch

This is where technology and luxury collide – and long-term will struggle to play in the same sandbox. Why? Because technology by its very nature constantly evolves to offer enhancements to the user’s life. Palm Pilots were great when introduced, and enhanced lives. But who would be seen carrying one today?

Technology is about the latest – and communication technologies change in time, hence it falls into the temporal nature of time. In that respect fashion and technology have a lot in common – but not with luxury.
Because of that temporal nature of technology, the current offerings of wearables by the big brands run the risk of appearing rather comical in short order.

How many people want to still be walking around with a gold Motorola Razr by Dolce & Gabbana? Nine years ago it retailed for the then eye-popping $1,100 USD. The gold Apple Watch ($10,000 ~ $17,000 USD) certainly has gotten attention – just like the D&G; Razr – but will it remain distinct and continue to be cherished five years hence? Not likely. Technological innovations alone will render it obsolete. Again, this is where fashion and wearables come together to make sense.

“ About the best bet wearables hold is to enhance the time of the owner’s life ”

About the best bet wearables hold is to enhance the time of the owner’s life. This arena is the one where I foresee a good future for wearables. But, only if they truly enhance the quality of the owner’s life. If they are simply used for more frivolous exchanges while further isolating its wearer from the life teeming around oneself, then they will be of limited value.

Worse – they will be subject to the winds of changes in communication styles and technology. Will people still be using Twitter and Facebook at the same level in five years? Not likely. For, as the American comedian David Letterman sarcastically quipped prior to his retirement recently, he is off to spend more of his time on social media.

Wearables hold great interest to both tech and fashion companies, but assessing the opportunity against the nature of time can help identify the true value on offer.

There’s also plenty of food for thought in the musings of what might happen if Apple finds a way to make it’s smartwatch timeless. Surely, the implications would ripple through the market – perhaps even reaching as far as to disturb those luxury brands who once dismissed wearables as a non-competitor? Stay tuned.

To further investigate the wearables discussion on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- The Apple Watch Fails to Revolutionise the Swiss Watch Industry
- Consumers Are Looking For Smartwatches From Their Favorite Luxury Brands
- In Conversation With Aldo Magada, President & CEO, Zenith

Additional editing by Daniela Aroche, Editorial Director of Luxury Society

Technology | Watches