Whilst no match for the indispensable smartphone, the wearables market is no doubt set to grow, with some industry forecasts predicting smart wearable sales across the globe to reach heights of $300 million by 2017. A key player is, of course, the watch, which is fast evolving from a purely aesthetic fashion accessory into a must-have gadget.
The rise of the smartwatch, in particular, has led to a noticeable shift within the wearables market, with fashion brands beginning to make their mark in what was once a solely tech-dominated arena. The original smartwatch concept is firmly rooted in technology, geared primarily towards gadget-lovers with the focus on functionality rather than appearance. However, the notion of a connected watch is making waves well beyond the tech industry; for many watch enthusiasts, a classically beautiful timepiece with limited performance is no longer enough. As a result, the distinction between a wearable gadget and a traditional watch isn’t so clear-cut, a shift that has seen fashion brands and luxury watchmakers seeking to make up for the aesthetic shortcomings of some of the original smartwatches.
Whilst companies like Apple tend to focus first and foremost on creating a cutting-edge gadget, with aesthetics playing a secondary role, the more fashionable approach to the smartwatch sees the process reversed. Brands such as Guess and Mont Blanc are instead integrating connective technology into their tried and tested designs, with the aim of creating a product that is as functional as it is fashionable. One of the latest models to enter the market is the Guess Connect, which offers a range of smartwatch features – including Bluetooth connectivity to both Android and iOS – under the guise of a relatively good-looking analog watch.
Luxury watchmakers are also entering the fray, with Swiss brand Tag Heuer offering their own high-end take on the wearables market. Due to be showcased at the Baselworld watch fair in March this year, the Tag Heuer Connected nestles a high-performance Intel chip inside the iconic Tag Heuer design. A summary of two of the world’s biggest watch fairs can be found here.
Despite the efforts of both the tech and fashion industries to create wearables that are beautiful and smart in equal measure, there is still something of a gap in the market. Luxury watchmakers have yet to create a product that rivals the likes of Apple in terms of functionality, whilst tech companies simply cannot compete with names like Tag Heuer when it comes to iconic design and decades of craftsmanship. As a growing number of consumers increasingly seek high-performance wearables that serve as gadgets and fashion jewelry simultaneously, an even closer collaboration between the fashion and tech industries may very well be inevitable.