Swiss watchmakers, who once dismissed smartwatches as short-lived gadgets, are now racing to grab a share of a fast-growing market via technology partnerships and stepping up investments. Hayley Platt reports
They were once dismissed by the makers of luxury Swiss watches as a gadget that won't last. Now some of the biggest names in the sector are getting into the smartwatch market. Last year Tag Heuer teamed up with Google and Intel to produce its own 'connected' device. The first 15,000 sold out fast. This year it's increased the numbers to 50,000. SOUNDBITE (English) TAG HEUER, CEO, JEAN-CLAUDE BIVER, SAYING: "The connected watch is an incredible asset for TAG Heurer. It has regenerated the brand, it has given the brand a new dynamic. It has linked the brand to the future. It has linked the brand to the new generation." Shipments of smartwatches reportedly overtook traditional ones in the last quarter of 2015. Almost all the main export markets for trademark luxury timepieces fell. The U.S by just a little And Japan by almost 2 percent But it was China that suffered the most Only exports to Italy were higher than the previous year (SOUNDBITE) (English): COMMERZBANK, GLOBAL FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, PETER DIXON, SAYING "Obviously sanctions on places like Russia haven't helped. The Chinese slowdown and the backlash against corruption which appears to be going on domestically have also taken the edge off the market and of course the Swiss have been hampered by a very sharp rise in the franc." It was still mainly traditional watches on display at an industry fair in Basel this week. But no-one wants to be late to the smartphone party - and who can blame them. One research group estimates the market will be worth $117 billion by 2020.