PARIS — The market for smartwatches could grow to $10 billion by 2018 from an estimated $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion in 2014, according to a new survey by Citi Research, which found that close to one in 10 respondents planned to buy a smartwatch in the next 12 months.
The report, published amid speculation that Apple could make an announcement this week regarding the launch of its eagerly awaited smartwatch, said the broader wearables market — which also includes sport fitness bands, smart accessories like jewelry and handbags and smart apparel — could be worth $30 billion by 2018.
Citi said that of the projected $10 billion smartwatch market, it expects $5 billion to come at the expense of traditional watch wearers and $5 billion from technology trendsetters who do not wear a timepiece — potentially worrying news for the Swiss watch industry, which views the spread of smartwatches with some trepidation.
Nonetheless, Citi’s European luxury analyst Thomas Chauvet and retailing/specialty and department stores analyst Oliver Chen forecast the introduction of smartwatches will not materially impact existing watch industry sales.
“Watch manufacturers with lower-priced watches could be most exposed but this risk can be offset by the implementation of technology in devices,” the report noted.
Swatch Group recently revealed plans to introduce electronic functions to measure personal fitness into its Swatch Touch line of plastic watches starting in 2015. Swatch Group chief executive officer Nick Hayek had previously dismissed the appeal of smartwatches.
Citi said its nationwide survey found 8.2 percent of participants intended to purchase a smartwatch in the next year, and it expects demand to grow with more product introductions.
“Based on price, 29 percent of respondents would spend $100 to $199 for a smartwatch in the next 12 months and 31 percent are unlikely to buy one regardless of price. Interestingly, 80 percent of respondents said they’d be more likely to buy a smartwatch if it looked like a traditional watch,” it said.
The most important features were price (40 percent of respondents), display visibility (36 percent), battery life (34 percent), touch screen (20 percent) and interaction with other devices (20 percent). A camera was considered the least important feature, with only 13 percent ranking it the top requirement.