Apple Watch sales beat whole Swiss watch industry

The Swiss watch industry is running out of time to win the smartwatch war, warn analysts.

More consumers are now buying the Apple Watch than all Swiss watch brands combined, from Swatch to Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Tissot, and TAG Heuer. 

Analyst Strategy Analytics estimates that Apple shipped 30.7 million Apple Watch units worldwide in 2019, which was 10 million more than all Swiss watch brands shipped last year. 

Since Apple CEO Tim Cook launched the Apple Watch in 2014, 2019 marks the first full year where Apple's smartwatch has outsold the entire Swiss watch industry, which includes dozens of brands that survived the onslaught of early digital watches in the 1980s.  

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Strategy Analytics takes Apple Watch eclipsing the Swiss watch industry as a sign that Swiss companies, like Swatch, are "losing the smartwatch wars". 

Apple Watch shipments grew 36% from 22.5 million in 2018, a year in which the Swiss watch industry shipped 24.2 million units. However, over that period, Swiss watch sales declined by 13%. 

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry in December issued a grim report for the Swiss watch industry, acknowledging a 13% decline in export volumes in 2019 compared with 2018. 

It didn't explicitly identify smartwatches as a cause, instead pointing to a strong Swiss franc, changing online distribution models, depressed sales in Hong Kong, the US elections, restrictions in Russia and Turkey, consumption patterns of generations Y and Z, and a rise in the pre-owned market.

"Analog wristwatches remain popular among older consumers, but younger buyers are tipping toward smartwatches and computerized wristwear," said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics. 

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The Swiss watch industry has been on the alert ever since Cook announced the first Apple Watch. Cook in 2017 claimed it was the top-selling single watch globally, but the company has never revealed sales figures for the Apple Watch.

"Traditional Swiss watch makers, like Swatch and Tissot, are losing the smartwatch wars," said Steven Waltzer, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.  

"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."