According to the latest estimates from Strategy Analytics, 2019 sales for the Apple Watch dwarfed shipments from the entirety of the Swiss watch world.
If true, this is the first time the Apple wrist gizmo beat out the aggregate of traditional brands, including their analogue or even techier timepieces — at least for sustained period of time. There was a 2017 spike in Apple Watch sales that briefly overtook Swiss watches.
Now Strategy Analytics’ numbers peg Apple’s dominance across a full year. The firm figures that the tech giant sold as many as 31 million Apple Watches in 2019, far outpacing Swiss watch brands’ 21.1 million units. The sales trajectory here matters, too: Apple Watch shipments jumped 36 percent year-over-year, while those of umbrella watch houses such as Tag Heuer and Swatch collectively dropped 13 percent.
It’s a remarkable scenario, considering the tech sector had declared smartwatches dead a few years ago.
Since then, the Apple Watch has emerged as the clear leader in the smartwatch market, and it’s remained so for years now. Granted, it’s been all too easy to chalk that up to a “big fish, small pond” situation. It will be harder to do that. And these estimates potentially recast tech wearables in general — and Apple’s wrist gadgets in particular — as mainstays that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
“Apple’s blend of cool design, user-friendly tech and slick marketing have proved a big hit with consumers around the globe,” Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston wrote. “Swiss watch players, like Swatch, have badly missed the transition from analog wristwatches to digital smartwatches.”
Strategy Analytics’ numbers, based on data from retail partners and vendors, add to Apple’s narrative over its booming watch business.
Although the tech-maker doesn’t break out Apple Watch sales specifically, it does report figures from its larger category of wearables, home and accessories. During the last earnings call covering the first fiscal quarter of 2020, the business unit reported $10 billion in revenue — a first for the company.
But Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook didn’t leave it there this time.
Wearables, like the Apple Watch and the AirPods Pro, grew 44 percent during the quarter, he said, making the segment “now the size of a Fortune 150 Company.” Apple Watch revenue alone broke records, he added.
Old-fashioned analogue watches aren’t completely obsolete, as they still enjoy some popularity among older customers, Mawston noted, but “younger buyers are tipping toward smartwatches and computerized wristwear.”
Added Steven Waltzer, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, “Traditional Swiss watchmakers, like Swatch and Tissot, are losing the smartwatch wars. Apple Watch is delivering a better product through deeper retail channels and appealing to younger consumers who increasingly want digital wristwear.
“The window for Swiss watch brands to make an impact in smartwatches is closing. Time may be running out for Swatch, Tissot, Tag Heuer and others,” he said.