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The Future of the Dumbwatch

A common theory among existing watch manufacturers and watch owners, exemplified by TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver, is that the Apple Watch not only won’t hurt the existing high-end watch market, but will probably even help it:

“Apple will get young people used to wearing a watch and later maybe they will want to buy themselves a real watch.” …

Biver added that the Apple Watch will ignite a mass interest in the watch market when it is released in 24 April, benefiting traditional watch brands in addition to those with smart devices.

It’s a pretty optimistic take. That’s via John Gruber, who added:

This is how watch collecting works. You get hooked, and start buying more watches. And then you choose between them based on your mood or the occasion.

That’s how watches have worked to date, but I think that time is over for a big chunk of the market.

People will keep buying dumbwatches, and people who don’t buy dumbwatches will buy the Apple Watch. The big question is whether the people who buy dumbwatches and the Apple Watch will continue wearing and buying dumbwatches for very long.

Apple Watch Buyers ? Other Watch Buyers

The Apple Watch isn’t just a watch, interchangeable like any other. It’s an entire mobile computing and communication platform, and a significant enhancement to the smartphone, which is probably the most successful, ubiquitous, and disruptive electronic device in history.

Once you’re accustomed to wearing one, going out for a night without your Apple Watch is going to feel like going out without your phone.

I suspect smartwatches will be a one-way move for most of their owners, and most people won’t wear two watches at once. The iPod didn’t make people appreciate portable music enough to buy a Discman for the weekends, and the iPhone didn’t ignite interest in flip-phones or PDAs.

Some people will always want to own and wear traditional watches, but they’ll only become more of a niche, not a growing market. People will buy whichever kind of smartwatch works with their phone platform — iPhone owners will get Apple Watches, and Android owners will get Pebbles or Android Wear watches — and then, most of them will be effectively removed from the traditional watch world from that point forward.

The dumbwatch industry’s best hopes are either their own successful lines of Android Wear watches, or praying that the overlap between their customers and smartwatch buyers doesn’t get very big.