Sunday, December 2, 2018

Holiday Repeat: The Watch-o-Matic!

The Watch-o-Matic!

It slices, it dices, it's the last watch you'll ever buy!

The difference between Ron Popeil and some watch executives might be only a passport ; )

For those of you unfamiliar, Ron Popeil is the man behind Ronco -

Courtesy of the world-wide info-web

Now I want to start this out by saying that I actually have the highest respect for Mr. Popeil as both an inventor of stuff we really didn't want or need, and more importantly, convincing us that we couldn't possibly live without it.  The man could sell.

Steve Jobs had his Reality Distortion Field, per Wikipedia:

this was said to be Steve Jobs's ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravadohyperbolemarketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience's sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the RDF to appropriate other's ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea to its originator after dismissing it the week before.[3]

Does this sound like some people we know?

What sort of got me caught up in this theme yesterday and today was reflecting on the "miracle" of Tag Heuer's Connected watch and the Reality Distortion Field that was spun around it.  After first poo-pooing the Apple Watch, Mr. Popeil's possible "brother from another mother" announced that, in fact, smart or connected watches were, in fact, GOOD!  Not only that, his brand would be offering one!  

As I've said before, the idea of a connected watch is not in and of itself not so crazy.  But it is a question of how many features can you actually use (really use) in a smart watch?  

For better or worse, there are only so many features you can put into a wrist bound Tamagotchi -

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide info-net
How many features, realistically, are worth having in a connected watch?

The Apple watch has proven itself to be a bit of a unique outlier.  Yes, it offers a ton of different features that may, or may not work well in a wrist-bound environment.  But this is not what really drives the sales of the Apple watch.  What drives the sales of the Apple watch is Apple itself.  It is a strong aphrodisiac.  It is why many people, including me, will spend MORE for an iPhone, Mac or iPad than those in the Windows tribe.  I have tried an Apple watch, and it was not quite the revelatory experience for me that it clearly has been for others.  And I LOVE Apple stuff.  But for me it was just too much.

As an experiment I tried a Withings watch and found it to be too far in the other direction - it was supposed to give time, a wake up alarm and a step counter.  The alarm did not work as advertised, the step counter did not count correctly.  It was a disappointment. 

And then we have the watch world's two notable entries - Tag Heuer's connected watch, and the offering from Frederique Constant / Alpina / Mondaine.  While the Tag Heuer offering provides all of the promise of the Apple watch, it is significantly more expensive.  And apart from the big displays at BaselWorld, I have never seen a Tag Heuer connected watch "in the wild", despite the exclamations of large sales numbers.  And the same could be said for the FC/Alpina/Mondaine offerings in terms of actual visibility.  

More than anything, regardless of what technology firm they partner with, the watch brands are now competing in a different arena.  And it is one with a lot more price sensitivity, and a requirement to evolve and innovate at a much faster pace than they are used to.  So it becomes, and will continue to be, a never ending game of catch-up.

The brands that keep the functionality actually functional have the best opportunity to grab market share.  BUT, and it is a big but, they have to put the price of the watch at a level that the market will bear.  What the Fit Bit boom underscored is that there are functional aspects that people want and will pay for.  But when we delve into just how many features they want on their wrist and just how much they will pay for it?  Well that becomes a different matter.

This is another case of less having the potential for being more.  Find four or five functions, stick with them, and make them perform perfectly.  But in addition, produce and sell it at a price point that the market will bear.  This is the other thing that Apple figured out that everyone else is still struggling with.

So we shall wait, and we shall see.

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