Fossil Group’s announcement in 2018 that every new model in the Michael Kors men’s range would be connected and smart was a major statement of intent from the world’s largest manufacturer of licensed fashion brand watches.
Its partnership with Google was trumpeted as an alliance between giants of three worlds: fashion, tech and timepieces.
The Group’s portfolio of licensed watch brands, which includes Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, DKNY, Diesel, Kate Spade New York and Tory Burch, was losing share to Apple Watch, which itself had become a highly desirable fashion item.
At the time, the entire global watch industry was convulsing with fear that enormous tech companies like Apple and Samsung would carve up the world’s wrists between them.
Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Montblanc and TAG Heuer all started making smartwatches along with the volume players such as Fossil Group, Movado and Timex.
Fossil went furthest, at least in terms of its marketing message, and its fashionable smartwatch business has grown to lead the world in that space.
It therefore has most to lose from last Friday’s announcement that Fitbit had been acquired by Google for $2.1 billion because, at a stroke, the Alphabet Corporation-owned search giant owned a hardware company.
Hardware, software and the extraordinary reach to every consumer on the planet with a smartphone makes Google hugely powerful.
If, as expected, Fitbit’s future devices move over to Google’s Wear OS, they are likely to be an immediate hit.
Creating a rival to Apple with a focus on fitness and wellness for wearables will also further confirm that this is the dominant role for smartwatches.
That may leave Fossil facing in the wrong direction as it pushes crystal-encrusted connected watches in gold PVD as fashion items and may squeeze them out of the market altogether.