When Apple speaks, the world listens. If it isn’t listening, a message will soon pop up on an iPhone or another smartphone’s Twitter feed.
The traditional watch industry has nobody and no voice like this. In last year’s Forbes list of the world’s most powerful brands, Apple came top, Microsoft second and Samsung eighth.
Cartier was the highest ranked watch brand at 63rd on the list. Rolex was number 72.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was named as the 25th most powerful person in the world in the latest report from Forbes. His lowly ranking was only because heads of state for the USA, China, Russia and the Pope snuck above him on the list.
There is no prospect of any single watch brand, or even groups like LVMH, Swatch Group or LVMH, having anything like this power to move consumer behaviour.
Even more troubling for the majority of WatchPro readers, Apple Watches and other smartwatches created by mobile phone companies will not be sold by traditional watch retailers like jewellers and specialist boutiques.
They might not be sold at all – I expect to see huge numbers of smartwatches given away as add-ons to mobile phone contracts.
WatchPro’s editor, James Buttery, has spoken intelligently on CNN and the BBC in recent weeks about this threat. His view is that smartwatches could be complementary to traditional watches – drawing in a new type of consumer who had previously shunned watches altogether.
This argument has some force when you consider how many teenagers know of no other way to tell the time than to look at their phones. Get them used to looking at a wristwatch, and you might create a habit for life that turns them into traditional watch buyers later in life.
(A sidebar to this train of thought: I recently succumbed to the need to wear reading glasses when I realised I was struggling to skim e-mails on my phone, but I can still tell the time on my 1969 Zenith)
My generation might – and I stress might – be more resistant to the charms of Apple and other smartphones, but that assumption would be a false friend to all but the strongest luxury watch brands.
Every other part of the watch industry is going to have to react to the most powerful brand in the world right now.
Apple’s power is not just greater than any other watch brand in the world. It is greater than ALL other watch brands put together.