What Watchmakers Think of Apple

The men behind the world’s great timepieces can’t agree on what the latest tech means for their industry.

You could almost hear Switzerland breathe a sigh of relief when the new Apple Watch wasn’t met with universally rave reviews. Here was the biggest company in tech staking a claim to a valuable piece of real estate, the human wrist, and here were a bunch of European specialists wincing. But the so-called Apple Watch has proved a slightly harder sell than the iPhone, partly because of tech fatigue and partly because people really like watches. From the looks of it, a compelling interface isn’t about to destroy a deeply entrenched luxury business. “A lot of people are creeped out when they see people wearing Google Glass,” points out Steve Block, CEO of the Detroit-based watchmaker Shinola. “And it seems like that’s something to think about.”

Here’s what watchmakers and collectors think about the next big thing in tech.

Richard Mille, Richard Mille

“This kind of watch is great. It’s fun and amusing to use. There is nothing bad to say about it. My feeling is this: you can run around town in your electric car and still keep your high performance car for Sunday afternoon rides in the country. There is no reason why the two can’t be compatible!”

Dan Mooncai, Watch Technician

“The Apple Watch has the potential to be quite compelling. Its design and customizability blows all other watches in its category out of the water. Competitors in its price range should be seriously concerned; perhaps a smart watch crisis is on the horizon. Though I expect the watchmaking industry to handle this crisis a little more maturely.”

Stephen Forsey, Greubel Forsey

“In terms of wearable technology, the Apple Watch is an interesting design, but in my opinion lacks some important points that are part of a mechanical watch. First, we don’t feel a similar emotion or the culture and character that is found within a fine, hand-finished mechanical watch. A fine high-end mechanical watch has the potential to last for hundreds of years and the ability to be passed down from generation to generation is something watch collectors and aficionados look forward to. On the other hand, the Apple Watch has a big challenge ahead depending on its durability over time—for example battery life and after sales service.

However, I do feel that both high-end timepieces and wearable technology are able to co-exist in the market. The high-end timepieces, on one hand, offer exceptional emotion, culture, desire and craftsmanship while, on the other, a piece of wearable technology such as the Apple Watch serves as an extension of their iPhone.”

Paul Boutros, Watch Collector and Thinker

“One of the best things about the announcement of the Apple Watch is that it has so many people talking about wristwatches. I love mechanical watches, but I also love technology, so I’m eager to try one out. I may purchase an Apple Watch, and if so, it will happily co-exist with my mechanical watches, to be worn on occasions where its features are useful. Two things I find limiting: the fact that it requires an iPhone to take advantage of all of its features, and that it will need to be recharged frequently – another “gadget” to have to remember to charge at night.

I don’t believe Switzerland, or any luxury mechanical watch producer, has anything to worry about with it. Mechanical watches endure for generations, whereas the Apple Watch, a computing device at heart, will be obsolete within a couple of years. If or when a technology company creates a smart watch for the wrist that replaces smart phones completely, then Switzerland might have to worry. Personally, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”

Guillermo Ceniceros, Watch Collector

“While I have been collecting watches for most of my life, I will not be buying the Apple Watch. Watches are extremely personal items that fall in a very select category of items one puts on you in contrast to more impersonal items that fall in the with you category like a phone. The Apple Watch was announced as a precise and versatile instrument that will sync with the iPhone and provide some light health information. All the watches I own are very precise and most are also very versatile, but one expects that! I am sorry, but the Apple Watch is just too redundant with my phone to even contemplate moving into the more desirable real estate that is the wrist.

I might consider one well into the future, but it will have to do much more than its inaugural offering. It will also have to look more like a watch—and a nice one at that.”

Cameron Weiss, Weiss Watch Co.

“The Apple Watch has a sleek design, and the potential to get those who may not have ever worn a watch excited about wearing one.”

Michael Kobold, Kobold Watch Co.

“The Apple Watch looks great and boasts some amazing features, but it’s not made of the stuff that raises eyebrows in the high end watch world. Yes, some youngsters will stop buying quartz watches in lieu of the Apple Watch. However, the mechanical watch world will not really be affected by this or any other smart watch. It’s a beautiful device, but nothing compares to a fine handmade timepiece—not even the Apple Watch.”

Photos by Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP