Why would anyone buy a smartwatch? What’s the point? 

What’s wrong with mechanical watches? Why even bother with a battery? What’s wrong with winding it every day? And if you listen closely enough to a mechanical watch, you can hear it tick.

Smartwatches don’t tick. And if they do, it’s an artificial audio gimmick, or it’s just gone on the blink in some way.

Is there even a market for smartwatches?

It seems there is: smartwatch sales are expected to exceed 40 million units this year, according to forecasts by CCS Insight, which says the global market for these newfangled digital timepieces will double in size over the next four years.

But why?

George Jijiashvili, wearables analyst at CCS Insight, says it’s because of enfeebled, over-indulgent parents allowing their children to decide the future of the world.

“We’ve witnessed explosive growth in the kids watch segment in China and estimate that 16 million units were sold in 2016 alone,” says Jijiashvili. “Companies such as BBK, Huawei, LeEco, ZTE and others have shipped significant numbers, and we expect growth to continue, with shipments rising to over 25 million by 2021.”

Of the companies mentioned by Jijiashvili, ZTE has just launched a new quartz smartwatch which integrates Google Assistant – the conversational application.

The ZTE watch is priced at under $200, which is about average for a smartwatch. But despite the relatively reasonable price, ZTE has previously struggled to establish itself as a leading player in a market full of smaller vendors.

The giants of the smartwatch sector are, of course, Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung. That’s according to research by Canalys, which estimates share of units as follows:

  • Apple – 49 per cent
  • Fitbit – 17 per cent
  • Samsung – 15
  • Others – 19

Apple is estimated to have sold almost 10 million smartwatches since launching the device in 2015.

Jijiashvili says: “The Apple Watch has been the trailblazer for this category. Its success prompted traditional watchmakers to enter the smartwatch market. Fossil, Guess Watches and TAG Heuer were among the first to embrace the opportunity.”

But although it clearly dominates the market, there are plenty of companies which are producing smartwatches, and may take some of Apple’s market share.

According to a report into the smartwatch market, the top 20 or so smartwatch companies are:

  1. Apple
  2. Samsung
  3. Sony
  4. Motorola/Lenovo
  5. LG
  6. Pebble
  7. Fitbit
  8. Garmin
  9. Withings
  10. Polar
  11. Asus
  12. Huawei
  13. ZTE
  14. inWatch
  15. Casio
  16. TAG Heuer
  17. TomTom
  18. Qualcomm
  19. Weloop
  20. Pulsense
  21. Geak
  22. SmartQ

And while it may seem slightly absurd in some ways to compare mechanical watches to smartwatches directly, apparently the growth of smartwatches is actually affecting the traditional watch market.

Canalys analyst Jason Low says: “Connected watches appeal to buyers who want a watch first and a basic band second. With fewer people wanting to buy traditional watches, connected watches with limited functionality risk ending up like basic bands: being taken over by smartwatches by 2018.”

Low suggests that the traditional watchmaking industry should adapt and partner with tech companies if need be. “Watchmakers yet to take action need to switch their focus to smartwatches for long-term growth,” he says.

Low adds: “Basic bands have been eroding the low-end watch market and, despite being a nascent market, smartwatches have negatively affected the high-end mechanical watch segment.

“Global watch conglomerates, such as Swatch Group and LVMH, echoed similar sentiments. But companies such as Swatch are still slow to react to the change, and have yet to take the next major step into smartwatch territory. Watchmakers’ survival will depend on creating competitive smartwatches.

“Forming partnerships with technology companies will be the first step. A well-formulated strategy to sell a watch will play a larger role as watchmakers have to appeal not only to watch fans, but consumers who are yet to buy a wearable.”


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