Will ‘smart watches’ and ‘wearables’ kill the Swiss watch industry?

9 09 2014

The last two years I have been asked many times if I believe that the so-called ‘smart watches‘ and ‘wearables‘ will conquer the valuable ‘wrist real estate‘ from the Swiss watch brands on all of our wrists.

My answer is always and unconditionally: NO!

Sony Smart Watch on Alon Ben Joseph's wrist.

Ace Jewelers was the first Dutch jeweller to sell smart watches. Here is the Sony Smart Watch on my wrist.

I hear you saying: “This Alon is not objective! Not only is he a jeweller and salesman of watches, but also an enormous WatchFreak!” I am indeed guilty of selling watches and privately a huge watch fanatic, but I do believe that I am objective and able to give an answer to this question as I have always ‘lived’ in this industry (the watch industry) and also grown up with electronics.

As a little kid I (born in 1979) I grew up with the resurrection of the Swiss watch industry after it was hit hard in the 1970s. So hard, that it almost whipped out the complete Swiss watch industry (due to the Quartz Crisis). Hence, my first watch at an age of four (in 1983) was a Swatch (couldn’t even read time yet) and have worn the first Casio G-shocks out there. The feeling is creeping up that the complete watch industry (not only the Swiss, but also the Japanese, Chinese and German for that matter) is on the brink of another ‘Quartz Crisis’! (Read more about this crisis: Wikipedia, Haute Horlogerie Assocation and Calibre 11 Blog.)

Swatch watch 30th anniversary Limited Edition.

I still collect Swatch watches today. This is 30th anniversary limited edtion launched in 2013.

Do I think that this is true? No, I do not think we will have a huge ‘live-threatening crisis’ for the (luxury) watch industry on our hands, but I do think that the luxury industry (watches, fashion, cars, etc) are lagging, frozen in their old ways and will get hit… Hit hard. So, it might be a bold statement, but I do dare to say that the luxury industry and the watch industry in particular are on the brink of a huge revolution, after having a great, smooth and exponential growing evolution (for at least three decades)… We all know that (smooth) evolutionary periods are abruptly interrupted by (unexpected and) game-changing revolutions.

Why do I still sound so positive, if that is my opinion/view? Well, I believe that as society, consumer behavior and norms & value change, and they are changing faster than ever before, we will see that we will utilize our ‘wrist real estate’ better… We have two wrists 🙂 So, it doesn’t mean that consumers will throw away their mechanical watches and automatically swap it to a digital smart watch/device. I also expect that eco-friendly smart watches will not only be powered by, for example solar power, but maybe also by (kinetic) mechanical automatic movements… Hybrid watches… Remember the Japanese Seiko Kinetic movements or  the Swiss AutoQuartz movements made by ETA (and used by Omega, Tissot and Swatch for example)?
But, on the other hand, I do believe that the marketing and communication needs to change by the premium brands that manufacture ‘old school’ mechanical watches. As the newest generation that know how to use smart phones and tablet computers before they even know how to crawl or feed themselves, will not even want to wear anything (besides some 3D printed jewelry maybe) on their wrists, arms or any body part for that matter… The sole reason that the Swiss (high-end) watch industry recovered after the Quartz Crisis, is because watches become an even bigger status symbol that it was before the Quartz Crisis in the 1970s and that it gave the owner a romantic sense of feeling and nostalgia. I do not think this will fade with the growing usage of smart devices markets.

I have been walking around with the idea to write an article about this subject for quite some while now. As the editor-in-chief of my favorite (and the best trade magazine in the watch industry) Europa Star, Mr. Pierre M. Maillard, always writes such cutting edge and precise views about the watch industry, he triggered me not only to write my own two cents, but also share his article: Mechanical Intelligence” by P.M. Maillard for September 2014 edition of the English Europa Star Magazine. Although Maillard hardly refers to other articles in his own, he starts of with another article in this one:

An interesting article that appeared recently in The Economist (“The high-tech world of old-world watches”) offered a different take on the implications of the approaching tidal wave of smart watches. The premise of the article is that there is a great deal more innovation in the art of mechanical watchmaking than in supposedly “smart” watches.
According to The Economist, smart watches are no more than a new way of presenting and adapting existing functions and applications in “a mash-up of phone, activity-tracker and music-player.”
And despite the fact that almost two million were sold last year, Endeavour Partners in the USA found that one-third of buyers tire of them rapidly, and simply stop wearing them within six months.
The Economist takes the contrary view that true innovation is to be found in good old-fashioned mechanical watchmaking, stimulated by the “vast profits still made in and around Switzerland’s ‘watch valley’,” and by the “unexpected uses of untraditional materials, that may in time transform the industry.” quoting Maillard in the latest edition in Europa Star Magazine. He indicated that he is skeptical if “the new Messiah Apple” will succeed to kill off the Swiss watch industry single-highhandedly, as he continues:

Although some watchmakers dismiss out of hand any risk of being swallowed up by the technology monster, and others already fear for their lives, the true outcome will probably lie somewhere between the two.

Maillard warns the Swiss watch industry that “it must avoid seeking refuge in denial, as it did during the famous quartz crisis, which came close to sinking the entire industry. Arrogance is a poor counsellor. Nevertheless, the idea that everyone and everything should be constantly connected (because in addition to smart watches we should expect to see smart refrigerators, smart cars, smart baby’s bottles, etc.) will eventually be undone by its own ubiquity.” And, he finishes his great article with a positive note: “Not everyone wants to be permanently plugged in, and the number who do is probably diminishing. One of the virtues of traditional watchmaking is the mechanical poetry that connects us not to the internet but to the cosmos, to the mysteries of time and beauty. And therein perhaps lies its greatest strength.
UP by Jawbone

UP by Jawbone bracelet.

You might wonder what I do with my two wrists. Well, I often (but not always) wear two wrist watches, one on each wrist. It has nothing to do with telling time or having access to two different time zones simultaneously, but do so exclusively due to my obsessive love for the art of watchmaking. Yes, I do own pocket watches and no, I never wear them. And, yes, I do love technology and innovation too. It took me a while to decide if I do want to be a (volunteer) victim of the all new all connected world and I decided that I do and I decided to test a UP by Jawbone bracelet. I just ordered my first one on Amazon yesterday. But, I am also one of these consumers that Maillard refers to: I do not always want to be online. I think we all have this contradiction in us: we often are ‘stuck in this rat race’ of being on top of things all the time (read: super connected and online), where-as (for example in the weekend or during holidays) we embrace and cherish our (complete) downtime (read: unconnected and offline).

To conclude this article/post/my ‘two cents’: I do not think that smart watches like the iWatch by Apple and/or wearables like the UP by Jawbone will kill the premium watch industry. But, I do think that if the watch industry does not at least acknowledge and even better, embrace the new technologies and listen very carefully to the wishes of the (new generation of) consumers, many brands in this industry will perish. And, the gaps in the market will be filled by the Apples, Samsungs and the ‘many Kickstarter projects that we can expect’ of this world. A new generation has already grown up with touch screens, uses smart phones and tablet computers, and these kids will not automatically surrender their wrist to a ‘weird thing on your wrist with a strap that can only tell time’  (that maybe is possible indicated the date and if you are lucky has a chronograph)… They need a totally different method and argument of convincing to buy a watch that needs to be wound by hand, wrist movement, or even worst, can’t be charged by themselves as it has an old school battery inside….

Potential design iWatch by Apple.

When I wrote this article the iWatch was not launched yet, and this picture shows an impression of how it could look like.

So, for now I am going to unpack my new Jawbone UP bracelet, that I am going to wear on ‘the other wrist’, as my left wrist will always be reserved for old school nostalgic mechanical wristwatches. 🙂

PLEASE DO SHARE YOUR TWO CENTS ON THIS SUBJECT HERE BELOW.

 



My Father, The Inspirator

17 12 2013

My father, David Ben Joseph, has always been (and still is every day) a true inspirator to me. He does not only inspires me, but also our family (members), our extended family (the team) at Ace Jewelers, our customers and his friends, but apparently also the international chief editor of 00/24 Watch World magazines. Apparently my dad inspired him so much during and even a while after an interview they did, the editor wrote a column about it:

David Ben Joseph

Kinderspel
by Lex Stolk

“Ik verlaat juwelier Ace & Spyer aan het Amsterdamse Koningsplein met knagende ambivalentie. Mijn gesprek met eigenaar David Ben Joseph was amicaal, enthousiasmerend en verhelderend. Tot zover niets tweeslachtigs. Toch kauwen mijn hersenen op een flard uit het gesprek dat hardnekkig op de voorgrond van mijn gedachten blijft. Wat mijn denken vasthoudt, is het verhaal van David dat hij als kleine jongen zijn horloge keer op keer uitelkaar haalde. Hij was zo gefascineerd
door het feit dat een verzameling radertjes, asjes en veertjes zo nauwkeurig de tijd kon weergeven, dat hij op onderzoek ging. Hij maakte de kast open, aanschouwde het ‘geheim’ en dook vervolgens nog verder in het avontuur door het tikkende mechaniek te demonteren om het maar beter te kunnen doorgronden. Keer op keer herhaalde hij die handeling totdat het in- en uit elkaar zetten van het uurwerkje uiteindelijk feilloos verliep.

Uiteindelijk onthulde hij het geheim van zijn horloge zonder de betovering te verbreken. Zijn kinderspel leidde ten slotte tot een eigen zaak met vele mechanische tophorloges. Tijdens het verhaal van David denk ik aan mijn eigen kind van twaalf en aan vele andere kinderen die niet zoveel anders zullen zijn als de jonge onderzoeker David Ben Joseph. Nieuwsgierige geesten die zichzelf en de wereld ontdekken en spelenderwijs hun talenten ontplooien. Maar deze gretige onderzoekers leven in een heel andere wereld, een elektronische wereld. De horlogemakers van morgen spelen met Nintendo’s in plaats van Pontiacs. Spelcomputers die uit brandende belangstelling worden geopend, bieden een teleurstellende aanblik van printplaatjes. Inspirerende fijnmechanica is ver te zoeken in het leven van alledag. Dat moet anders. Ouders aller landen geeft uw kinderen een mechanisch horloge! Onthoud uw kinderen de geneugten van technische verwondering niet. Ik heb mijn zoon inmiddels een horloge gegeven waarin een langzaam tikkend en robuust Unitas- handopwinduurwerk ligt verscholen. Kijken wat er gebeurt. Het is een experiment. Een klein offer misschien wel, want ruwe vingers en delicate mechanica zijn geen gelukkige combinatie.

Omdat ik niet kan verlangen dat andere ouders ook offers brengen, doe ik ook nog een oproep aan de uurwerkfabrikanten van deze wereld: ETA, Sellita, Seiko, Miyota en anderen, deel op lagere scholen uurwerken uit om te betoveren en te inspireren.”

For a (poor) English translation of the article by Google, please click here.

This article was published as the introduction of the Winter 2013/2014 Edition of the physical edition of 00/24 WatchWorld Magaine. Get your personal copy via: www.0024.nl. Also available in English via: www.0024watchworld.com.

 



An Interesting View on Extremists

21 09 2012

I received a ‘letter’ by email, titled “A Holocaust Survivor’s View on Islam” and found it very interesting. The email claims that the author  is Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a Holocaust survivor and respected psychiatrist. When one does an online search about this article it can be doubted that this is a recent article, that it is the original title or even that it has been written by Tanay. Nonetheless, I do think it is an interesting view and therefore share the message as I received it:

 

“A Holocaust Survivor’s View on Islam

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. ‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’

 

We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

 

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march… It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

 

The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent majority,’ is cowed and extraneous.

 

Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

 

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

 

And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?

 

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:

 

Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.

 

Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

 

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts — the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

 

Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world-wide, read this and think about it, and send it on – before it’s too late.

 

Emanuel Tanay, M.D. 2980 Provincial St. Ann Arbor , MI 48104

 

Dr. Emanuel Tanay MD; is a well-known forensic psychiatrist who has been an expert witness in many famous cases. He has served as an officer or committee member on the Michigan Psychiatric Society, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and others. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and of the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry and a distinguished fellow of the APA and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFC).

 

A Holocaust survivor himself, Dr Tanay coauthored a book about the survivors of the Holocaust and was asked by the German governmen t to consult on just compensation for the Holocaust survivors. Dr. Tanay has served on several journal editorial boards, authored many publications, and presented countless times on forensic medicine. His efforts have also produced many awards and commendations from groups such as the Michigan State Medical Society, APA, the Detroit Institute of Technology, and AAFC, among others.

 

I hope this letter gets read by millions of people all across the USA, Canada and the rest of the civilised world.”

 

Do you also find this an interesting view?

 



Book Review: “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr

16 10 2011

Have you also noticed how your attention span has went down the last ten years? You can’t focus on reading a book or write an article? How your multitasking skills improved in the last decade?

Well, I certainly did and when I read a shot book review about Nicholas Carr‘s new book: “The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember”, I knew I had to read it.

Nicholas G. Carr

So I did and hereby I want to share a short summary with you.

The book is a great mirror to show us how the internet has been integrated in to our daily lives and is changing they way we use our brain and therefore think. Carr draws from historical and cutting edge scientific research to show us that Internet is rewiring our brains and actually creating more superficial understanding. The back cover summerizes is nicely:

“By moving from the depths of thought to the shallows of distraction, the web, it seems, is actually fostering ignorance.”

Personally I totally I can relay to this, as I noticed that my short-term memory is really suffering. Because I am using GPS tools to navigate roads, search engines to find things and my Blackberry for all my phone numbers & appointments. I love to write posts for the several blogs I manage, but I notice that I often can’t find my self in a concentrated mood to produce a quality post. I am trying to study new languages and find my settle shifting on my chair unable to concentrate. On top of that I noticed I love the days where I totally switch off: no usage of any electrical device whatsoever.

As I don’t want to spoil too much of The Shallows, I will just conclude this brief post with a 3 parts of texts:

From page 217 (of the red paperback edition): “Automating cognitive processes in this way has become the modern programmers’ stock-in-trade. And for good reason: people naturally seek out those software tools and Web sites that offer the most help and the most guidance – and shun those that are difficult to master. We want friendly, helpful software. Why wouldn’t we? Yet as we cede to software more of the toil of thinking, we are likely diminishing our own brain power in subtle but meaningful way. When a ditchdigger trades his shovel for a backhoe, his arm muscles weaken even as his efficiency increases. A similar trade-off may well take place as we automate the work of the mind.”

From page 219: “A series of psychological studies over the past twenty years has revealed that after spending time in a quiet rural setting, close to nature, people exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory, and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper. The reason, according to attention restoration theory, or ART, is that when people aren’t being bombarded by external stimuli, their brains can, in effect, relax.”

From pages 221-222 I want to conclude this post about a must-read book: “We may lose our capacity “to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end,” but in recompense we’ll gain new skills, such as the ability to “conduct 34 conversations simultaneously across six different media.” A prominent economist writes, cheerily, that “the web allows us to borrow cognitive strengths from autism and to be better infovores.” An Atlantic author suggests that our “technology-induced ADD” may be “a short-term problem,” stemming from our reliance on “cognitive habits evolved and perfected in an era of limited information flow.” Developing new cognitive habits is “the only viable approach to navigating the age of constant connectivity,” Carr concludes chapter ten.”

If you are interested in more articles by Nicholas Carr, check his blog: Rough Type.

 



What is luxury?

12 07 2009

The E.Factor team has asked me to become a part of the E.Factor Blog Team and blog mainly about luxury goods. Apparently they believe I have interesting views about luxury since I ‘breath and live’ luxury. I literally grew up in my family’s jewelry business. Currently I have the honor to represent our family company, Ace Jewelers Group (www.AceJewelers.com), as the CEO of our retail organization with three physical stores and an international eBoutique.

It is up to you to decide if I have interesting views, in general and especially about luxury. In my previous and first blog posting on E.Factor I tried to give an introduction about myself by posting the Q&A I had with E.Factor. In this post, my second on E.Factor, I want to start a discussion about the definition of ‘luxury’…

… What is luxury? This is a question that I always keep on asking myself and my surroundings, ever since I am a child!

Nowadays we do not use a paper dictionary to find definitions, we search on Wikipedia… Here goes:

“Luxury can refer to several things:

* Luxury good, an economic good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises; contrast with inferior good and normal good.
* Luxury tax, a tax on products not considered essential, such as expensive cars
* Luxury tax (sports), a surcharge put on the aggregate payroll of a sports team to the extent to which it exceeds a predetermined guideline level set by the league
* Luxury vehicle, a relatively expensive automobile
* Luxury yacht, a very expensive privately owned yacht which is professionally crewed
* Luxury real estate, a niche real estate market dealing with the highest economic group of property buyers
* Luxury resorts, which are very exclusive vacation facilities
* Luxury box, a term for a special seating section in arenas, stadiums and other sports venues
* Luxury magazine, a magazine devoted to fine craft and luxury goods.”

Mmmm… I am not satisfied. I can distill some keywords from the previous sum-up: high income, non-essential, expensive, niche, exclusive and fine craft.

If we jump to Wiktionary, we find:

“Etymology: Latin luxus “abundant”

luxury (plural luxuries):

1. very wealthy and comfortable surroundings.
2. something desirable but expensive.
3. something very pleasant but not really needed in life.

Antonyms: (dispensable thing): necessity”

Second thing almost everyone does, is Google what we are looking for. If I type ‘luxury’ in Google (with a Dutch IP), the first result is the definition of Wikipedia! Interestingly enough, the second hit is the vague website eLuxury.com, that is owned by LVMH. I write vague, since it was launched as the hallmark of eCommerce of Luxury, but failed heavily. Now it is a vague promotional site for a Twitter page and Facebook page associated to this site. I will come back on eLuxury.ccom, social media and eCommerce in relation to luxury in a following blog post!

Since my childhood I was captured by the question what luxury actually is. As life evolves, ones views and opinions change too… So did my personal view and perception of luxury!

As a child I thought that the most expensive car, home, watch, diamond, etc was ultimate luxury. Of course if you look back on it, growing up in a wealthy western country in a warm and loving home is luxury. As a teenager gaining your own ‘freedom’ and making individual consumption choices of exclusive/non-essential products is often considered luxury. As soon as you start working and make your ‘own’ money, you are confronted how difficult it is to buy ‘luxury’… As Wikipedia states: “Luxury good is an economic good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises; contrast with inferior good and normal good.” and this true for a student that starts a company…But when one hits maturity you notice that luxury doesn’t necessarily needs to be linked to money… At a certain moment it can hit you that luxury can be: (free) time, friendships, health, peace, family, etc. Today my short definition of luxury is: “Something that makes one feel ‘rich’ although it does not have to do anything with money.” For example, having a great conversation with a dear friend can be a great sensation of luxury. But, I can not neglect the fact that luxury goods are often synonymous to expensive. Personally I prefer to link luxury goods to fine crafts, art and niche. These terms go hand in hand with scarcity and therefore exclusivity. And, on therefore these two terms are correlated to high prices. As a sales person I always avoid the term ‘expensive’… Everything in life is relative, everything! So, perception of monetary values are and always have been, subjective and relative. And, that is the core of the luxury… Luxury is relative! What can give someone a ‘rich feeling’ can make someone else feel depressed!

My last sentence can be considered bold and I want to give an example: I met enough people who feel richer wearing a Swatch watch compared to people who own more than one Rolex watch! Some goes for women with an engagement ring, the size of the ‘rock’ doesn’t say anything about how much a gentleman loves his wife-to-be! It is all about the story behind the products, events and services. It is all relative! I see it everyday in our stores, therefore we (Team Ace) never judge a guest (we never use the term customers). We facilitate ‘story telling’… Hence our slogan: Add Some ACE To Your Life!

Please share your vision/opinion/views of luxury here as a comment…