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EPHJ - Traditional watches vs smartwatches

EPHJ Traditional watches vs smartwatches

Perhaps the younger generations are not as mad about smartwatches as everyone thought. A new Swiss study reveals young people’s tastes in timepieces.

The EPHJ-EPMT-SMT fair took place last week in Geneva, attracting more than 20,000 professionals. The fair is a showcase for high-precision industry, attracting Swiss and international companies working in microtechnology and nanotechnology, for an extensive range of applications including aerospace, the car industry, optical equipment, robotics, and even watchmaking. To open the event, organisers scheduled a conference on the appeal of watches to young Swiss people. 

The survey, conducted by research institute MIS Trend, was based on a sample of 1014 Swiss respondents between the ages of 16 and 25, 51% of whom were men and 49% women. Language regions were also taken into account: 475 were from the French-speaking and 539 from the German-speaking regions of Switzerland. 

Among the speakers were Xavier Comtesse, who was director of the “Avenir Suisse” think tank for French-speaking Switzerland, Joachim Ziegler, CEO of Les Ambassadeurs, Jean-Daniel Pasche, Chairman of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), Servan Peca, a writer for Le Temps, André Collard and Joël Laplace, Community Manager at Watchionista. 


While the young participants considered chocolate, mountains and the Swiss franc the three most representative symbols of Switzerland, watches were not far behind, ahead of Swiss precision and banking. But in terms of what people use to tell the time, the results were, unsurprisingly, rather discouraging! Mobile phones came first, with 98%, followed by clocks at 72%, and wristwatches trailing at 61%. Smartwatches and wristbands came in sixth and seventh place respectively, with less than 10%.

The verdict is sobering. Mobile phones are ahead of watches of all kinds, whether traditional wristwatches or wearable tech. Nevertheless, young Swiss are still interested in watches, and they continue to express a wish to own a traditional watch in the future. As Xavier Comtesse notes: “It’s natural to be interested in watches. Watches are not only a significant market for French-speakers, they are a feature of our region. Everyone knows someone in their family or among their acquaintance who works in the watch industry. Of course we’re interested in watches.” 

But are smartwatches the future? For the time being, neither the Apple Watch nor the Samsung Gear, or any of their rivals, has succeeded in capturing the hearts of young Swiss. 60% said they had very little or no interest in smartwatches – a rather harsh indictment, and somewhat surprising. Joël Laplace, who is just 25 years old himself, has his own explanation: “Clearly, young Swiss people are drawn to fine mechanical watchmaking, but worldwide there is great interest in smartwatches.” Joachim Ziegler takes a reassuring view on the issue: “The positive aspect of smartwatch wear among young people is that they are wearing something on their wrist that tells the time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fashion watch or a smartwatch. Later on, they’ll swap it for a ‘real’ watch.”

Montres connectées VS montres classiques

Just one in five young Swiss people claim to be interested in smartwatches, so it’s no surprise that fewer than one in five have any intention of buying one. What should also be taken into account is that, for those people interested in smartwatches, the attraction lies in their ability to connect to some other device, and it’s these other devices that exert the real pull. 

The conclusion is clear. Currently, young Swiss people are less interested in smartwatches than they are in traditional watches. For the same money, more than three-quarters would opt for a classic watch over a smartwatch. Traditional timepieces still have the upper hand.