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Baselworld 2017 (Smartwatches): What You Should Go See

by Steven Waltzer | Mar 20, 2017

Baselworld, the world’s largest annual wristwatch/jewellery trade-show will kick off this week in Basel, Switzerland from March 23-30.  After a relatively muted showing at MWC this year, an increased focus on smartwatches is expected at Baselworld, as more traditional wristwatch makers and fashion brands further embrace wearable tech.  With numerous new models on display from the likes of Tag Heuer, Movado, Fossil, and Guess, we expect an inflow of new Android Wear models to come available in 2017, notably increasing the fast-growing operating system’s market share

Several of the expected announcements and products on display at Baselworld from major wristwatch players include:

  • Tag Heuer will be showcasing their recently announced, and premium priced Connected Modular 45.  It’s uniquely modular design allows for an easy swap between a mechanical movement and an Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch module.  It sports GPS, water resistance up to 50 meters, and a heart rate monitor, with improved battery life and newly added NFC (for mobile payment) versus the original Tag Heuer Connected.  The watch and strap components are extremely customizable through the “Watch Selector” tool, with which consumers can customize up to 56 different variants, choosing everything from strap material and casing material, all the way down to lugs and buckle choices (similar to Motorola’s Moto Maker tool).  With a base price over US $1,600 we expect the Connected 45 Modular to sell in niche volumes at the very high end, but definitely to draw attention from luxury watch wearers/collectors who are tech savvy, but would still value the ability to swap out for a mechanical movement, or even for newer technology when it comes available.

Exhibit 1: Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45

  • Guess, as a successor to their original Guess Connect hyrbrid, semi-smart watch, will likely be showcasing prototypes of their first Android Wear models under the same name, expected to launch in H2 2017.  While details of the models are currently in short supply, we do know it will come in two size variants, 41mm and 44mm, and will sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 processor.  While a tad on the bulkier side, the addition of Android Wear 2, and the ecosystem of 3rd part apps that comes with it, should fare well for the well-known fashion brand.
  • Swarovski, who has previously teamed up with Huawei, Samsung, Misfit, and Polar on ‘bling-ed out’ smartwatch variants, has recently cancelled their previously planned Baselworld announcement, stating they are not yet ready to reveal their anticipated smartwatch due to their strive for excellence in execution.  We do know that it was teased by Qualcomm at CES 2017 as a female-focused model and will sport a Snapdragon processor.  Their new product will likely come at premium price point and sell in niche volumes.
  • Movado has announced their first smartwatch play with 5 new models expected in Q3 2017 under the branding ‘Movado Connect’.  Also sporting Android Wear 2.0, NFC (for mobile payments), and a Qualcomm processor, these higher-tier, high fashion, devices will be available in the US, UK, Canada, and the Caribbean starting at US $ 495. Movado’s licensed fashion brands - Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss - are also expected to launch smartwatch models in Q3 2017, which are expected to be on display at the show. If the final battery life and feature sets/sensor packages are relatively on par with leading smartwatches from tech giants such as LG and Apple, then we would expect these to sell in decent volumes though the holiday season in Q4 and open up a whole new channel for smartwatch sales, fuelled by fashion rather than fitness.
  • Fossil, another fashion brand with big ambitions in the smartwatch space for 2017, plans to launch 300 wearables this year, and will likely showcase some new models through its wide array of fashion sub-brands, such as Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Armani, Diesel, Chaps, Skagen, Emporio, and AX.

Already established deep retail distribution networks will serve these traditional wristwatch and fashion brands well in 2017, especially through the Western Holiday Season, helping to catapult the smartwatch market into an accelerated growth phase for 2017, after a 2016 slowdown.

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