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Google watch a game changer?

With much of the tech world focused on rumours about an Apple iWatch, Google might have just announced the ultimate game changer, though not for the reasons that most people think.

The traditional watch brands, most notably the Swiss, have had to contend with high-profile international companies launching watches as brand extensions to their fashion clothing, cosmetic, perfume and even lingerie products for some time now. 

Add to that list ranges of watches by car and motorcycle companies, sporting brands and even celebrities – all looking to spin-off their name as a marketing strategy to promote the brand’s international reputation in a different product category – and one can see why the market is so competitive. 

This initial strategy from fashion brands is often less about sales and profitability, and more about increasing and leveraging brand equity with consumers. The ultimate success of a brand's "extendibility" depends on the strength of connection that consumers make with the brand's core values and goals.

Of course, fashion and sporting brands aren't the only ones extending into watches; there are also many examples of this taking place within the wider jewellery industry. Brands like Tiffany & Co, Pandora, Thomas Sabo and Swarovski are just a few examples that suggest almost anyone and everyone wants to be a watchmaker.



Indeed, it could be argued that the first serious threat to the traditional Swiss watch market came from the Japanese in the 1970s, well before the advent of what Swatch founder Nicholas Hayak labelled the "underwear watches", his term for clothing-company brand extensions.

Now, 40 years later, the once pesky Japanese intruders like Seiko and Citizen are part of the "establishment", each boasting their own unique watchmaking heritage, and the Casio-led digital watch revolution should not be forgotten either. Yet, while the traditional watchmakers have constantly defended against competitors external to the watch industry, this latest incarnation from Google could be a real game changer. 

And perhaps a game changer might not be a bad thing, given that fewer people today wear a wristwatch as a means of telling time. Just as the Japanese reinvigorated the watch industry in the 1970s, and the Swiss (via Swatch) reinvigorated it again in the 1980s, the time might be ripe for a third wave.  

Another challenger emerges
Jeweller recently reported comments from Swatch CEO Nick Hayek (junior) that indicate he has no concerns about the possible impact of smartwatches upon traditional watchmakers. Furthermore, he is treating smartwatches as an opportunity, rather than a threat.


Expressing optimism towards the wearable technology trend, Hayek said, “The smartwatch is an opportunity for us. If people who never used to wear anything on their wrist start wearing a so-called smartwatch, then we certainly can convince them quickly to try wearing a beautiful watch instead.”

In fact, few people realise that Swatch made one of the earliest attempts at a smartwatch in collaboration with Microsoft in 2005. The Paparazzi was a smartwatch based on Microsoft’s SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology) technology that was killed-off in April 2008 when Microsoft announced that it did “not have immediate plans to create a new version of the smartwatch, as we are focused on other areas of our business”.

If traditional watchmakers are now treating smartwatches seriously, and the progressive players see the trend as a way to revitalise the market, few may have realised the enormous potential for international lifestyle brands; however, while all eyes have been firmly focused on the rumoured iWatch, Sony, Samsung, Casio and various other smaller players have beaten Apple to market with their own smartwatches. Alas, none of the products can be described as 'game changing'. 

Just as smartphones evolved from personal computers, there is a belief that wearable computers represent the next big shift in technology yet efforts to date have yielded mixed results – there has been no rush to the cash registers as yet. 


Google's announcement that it is developing Android Wear, incorporating its  android operating system into wearable technology, may change all that, especially when its first Android Wear offering will be in the form of a watch – according to Google’s blog, watches are “the most familiar wearable”. 

Early evidence that the item will carry a fashion-forward design can be found in the news that Fossil Group is one of the first developers to sign on, along with Motorola and LG; however the market may want to re-assess any perceptions it has for smartwatches. 

Potential transcends watches
If promotional videos showing the Google watch in action are accurate, then not only could it be a game changer for watches but the technology could also be a boon for international brands. 


While the 'digerati' has been debating what smartwatches will look like, how they will function and whether they will be coupled to a phone, what has been less frequently discussed are the watch's brand-extension capabilities, specifically in relation to Generation C, the latest consumer demographic.

Forget Generation X and Y – or even the Baby Boomers and their grandchildren the Millennials – the latest demographic is Gen C, the connected consumer. It's here that the lifestyle brands play best. 

As would be expected, smartwatches powered by Android Wear will provide information and notifications from a wide variety of android applications, allowing the wearer to use voice commands for activities such as sending text messages, hailing taxis or making restaurant reservations, and offering remote access and control of other devices, such as phones or televisions.

“Knowing your needs better than you do is something Google has been working on for a long time," Chris Mims wrote recently in Quartz. "The umbrella term for it is predictive search. Here's an example: most of us probably pop open a weather app at some point in our morning routine. Given how predictable this is, why should our devices wait for us to signal to them that we want to know the weather? Why not just tell us?”

According to Mims, this is the key philosophy behind Google Now: “Instead of giving you information through apps or a web browser, Google Now shows you a bunch of virtual cards that already have the information you (probably) need at that moment. Just swipe a card away to get to the next one.”

This is only part of Google’s vision; there is much more. What will be interesting is to monitor how other companies put Android Wear to use and extend its capabilities. 


Google’s announcement says several companies have already committed to developing the project, including consumer electronics suppliers Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung, as well as processing chip manufacturers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; however, these are all technology companies. 

What can the future hold for international brands with immense brand loyalty and consumers who really want to live a brand’s lifestyle? 

Consider motorcycle behemoth Harley Davidson, which recently collaborated with Bulova to launch a range of Harley Davidson (traditional) watches in what is a clever brand extension for Harley Davison and a smart partnership for Bulova – they are both iconic US brands so what Harley rider wouldn’t want to wear the ultimate biker’s watch? 
 
Now think of a Harley Davidson smartwatch aimed directly at Gen C. Such a wrist device would not only feature all the standard smartwatch features as well as a bunch of motorcycle-specific features, but potentially also automatically push Harley Davidson news and messages to the brand's own army of loyal consumers. 

A Harley Davidson smartwatch might have in-built technology of general interest to bikers, like recreational ride maps and trip planners, but a rider could also be connected to the brand’s latest new products, model launches, club events and other messages, receiving offers highly relevant to the wearer. 

New communication channels
The same could be said for other brands in equally-loyal lifestyle markets, like surfing and car racing brands, or even football clubs. Prestigious credit card companies will surely have uses for a branded smartwatch and the mind boggles when it comes to what innovation fashion houses might dream up for their fanatical female consumers.


The device might be provided free of charge as a gift-with-purchase promotion, because consumers who "live" a brand’s lifestyle would not object to automated, highly-relevant push messaging from that brand, especially when the core values of the consumer and the brand are aligned.

After all, the best brands are built on great stories; if you have a great story, your customers will want to listen, right? 

Not only will smartwatches allow consumers to stay connected but the devices will also surely open new communication channels for brands.

Even though it is in its infancy, the term smartwatch is probably already redundant also – we might be welcoming in the era of wristmedia, all of which is geo-located. 

Just like all seismic shifts, some businesses will take advantage of the change while others will be left wondering or, dare I say it, watching what happened.

Google Android Wear





Smartwatch and Smart jewellery on the market

Burg smartwatch, now available in Australia and distributed by West End Collection
Burg smartwatch, now available in Australia and distributed by West End Collection

Pebble Steel
Pebble Steel

Wellograph
Wellograph

Qualcomm Toq
Qualcomm Toq

Sonostar Smartwatch
Sonostar Smartwatch

PHTL HOT (Hands On Talk)
PHTL HOT (Hands On Talk)

Cogito Smartwatch
Cogito Smartwatch

Netatmo June Bracelet
Netatmo June Bracelet

Designed by Gusztav Szikszai
Designed by Gusztav Szikszai


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Coleby Nicholson • Managing Editor

Managing Editor • Jeweller Magazine


Coleby Nicholson is publisher and managing editor of Jeweller magazine. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than a decade and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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Tuesday, 15 October, 2019 06:36pm
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