Thursday, September 11, 2014

Apple Launches Apple Watch Is This The Rolex Killer?

4th Update Note: I will be working on updating this article until it is complete. There is obviously a lot to cover, so as I continue to update the story, I will update this header.

Apple Watch Launches!

Is This The Rolex Killer?
What An Apple Watch Could Mean For Rolex

"We have one more thing! We love to make great products that really enrich people lives.  We love to integrate hardware, software and services seamlessly. We love to make technology more personal, and allow our users to do things they never imagined. We have been working extremely hard, for a long time, on an entirely new product. We believe this product will redefine what people expect from its category. I am so excited and I am so proud to share it with you this morning! The Apple Watch is the next chapter in Apple's story." –Tim Cook [Apple CEO]

So it finally happened, after so much ado, Apple finally launched the Apple Watch, and now the game has completely changed. What does this mean for Rolex? Is it a real threat to Rolex's dominance of mindshare and fascination? Ironically, you will be able to purchase your next Rolex with an Apple Watch using its NFC Sensor!?! Pretty Crazy!!!

Below is the official Apple Watch Video introduction by Sir Jonathan Ive, who is Apple's lead designer. The New York Times recently cited Jony Ive as saying that with the introduction of the Apple watch that "Swiss Watchmakers are f**ked."

Below is the official Apple Watch Video for heath and fitness:

Over the course of the next couple of days, I will be covering all the details of Apple's launch of their Apple Watch, and I will continually update this story as news comes in. To best understand the significance of this story, I recommend reading my story which is titled "Apple v. Rolex", which you can find below this story.  

Today may very well be the most important day in Rolex history, as it is the day that the first serious shot got fired across Rolex's bow, in what is likely an opening salvo for dominance of wrist-time coolness mindshare. 

Let me be specific. For more than 50 years Rolex has been THE watch brand of brands. No other brand has anywhere close to the history of innovation and esteem with customers and within the horological industry. Rolex is and has always been the first name in watches. Many other companies have tried with little success to dethrone the undisputed King of watches (Rolex), and remove his crown. 

With the advent of the iWatch, the game just complete changed, and it is crystal-clear that Apple is gunning for the top position in the world, and the only entity in their way is Rolex. Sure, Rolex and Apple can coexist with Rolex being the King Of Analog mechanical watches, and with Apple being King of Digital watches, but I believe there is even more at stake than meets the eye. Apple even referred to their navigational crown on the side of their watch which serves as a home button (when depressed) as well as a zoom/selection/scroll wheel slider as "The Digital Crown."

The Apple Watch is extremely accurate. How accurate you ask? It keeps "Incredibly accurate" time within +/- 50 Milliseconds...Methinks COSC just got completely obscoleted...
Before I go on any further, I will answer the question as to wether or not I think the Apple Watch is a Rolex Killer. Yes. I do. Not in the short-term, but potentially in the long-term. I believe the introduction of the Apple Watch will force Rolex to revaluate everything, as they should. 

I believe Apple just lit a serious fire under the ass of not just the entire Swiss Watch industry, but the entire watch industry, including the Japanese horological establishment. I further believe such action will ultimately serve to be a blessing in disguise. In other words, Apple's actions with the introduction of the highly disruptive all-new Apple Watch have created a new paradigm that deeply conflicts with the traditional watchmaking paradigm. Apple wants to force users to rethink what a watch ultimately can and should be. They are seeking to obsolete old-fashioned mechanical watches, and replace them with powerful wrist-worn computers, much in the way the automobile overcame and replaced the horse and buggy in the 20th Century.

This is just my opinion, but I believe it is time for Rolex to reinvent itself, and rethink and recalibrate their approach to innovation. Let's face reality for a moment. Does anybody really need, or even know how to time a sailing regatta with a Yacht-Master II? No!!! That is not a real tool watch. A watch than can track wether you are getting enough daily exercise, or one that can remember where you parked your car and safely guide you back to it with turn-by-turn directions is a real 21st Century tool watch!!!

Does this mean I think Rolex should discontinue the classic Rolex Submariner, and make a digital version with a color screen? Absolutely not! But, I do think it is long overdue for Rolex to offer a 44mm Submariner, GMT-Master, and Daytona. 

I also think Rolex should test the water with making Rolex SmartWatches, and should stop resting on their laurels, and take the car off cruise-control. The time has come for Rolex to once again pick-up where they left off when Hans Wilsdorf passed away in 1960! Instead of worrying about preserving continuity, they should solely focus on real and meaningful innovation, coupled with incorporating historical elements from there amazing DNA into their watches. 

Rolex needs to stop playing it so safe, and take more meaningful risks! When Hans Wildorf was alive Tudor was never cooler than Rolex. Today, Tudor should not be serving as the Rolex Skunk Works. Rolex should be driving all innovation. Rolex should be taking a pedal-to-the-metal approach–not safely riding the brakes.

In the days to come, I will continue expanding and updating this article as new information comes in, and once Apple makes their new watch available in 2015, we will be doing an in-depth design analysis.

I also want to make it clear I understand my tone with these Apple Watch articles may seem unusual, and I don't want readers to think I am dissing Rolex in any way. The truth is, I have always loved and respected Rolex and been deeply inspired by their DNA and timeless design language, and I think it is time for Rolex to once again metamorphosize and reinvent itself–the way it alway has many times throughout its 110 year history. Today Rolex is the absolute leader in Swiss Horology, and I think they should do everything they can to maintain their leadership position. If it was not crystal-clear to you a week ago that Apple is dead serious about stealing the mantle from Rolex, it should be now...Time is no longer on Rolex's side...

Rolex today is stronger than ever, and from every indicator, it appears they are continuing to expand, thus the threat from Apple is more of a long-term threat, but very real nonetheless. Many people have and will dismiss my perspective as being paranoid, but I genuinely believe if anybody can successfully disrupt the traditional watchmaking community and displace Rolex–in the long-term–it would be Apple. Ironically I am also a huge Apple fan, which makes things even more interesting and peculiar at the same time.

Think Really Different

Below is the entire video of the Apple of Apple Special event. I included the entire keynote video since the iPhone 6 announcement, as well as the introduction of the revolutionary all-new Apple Pay system is also amazingly fascinating, and I highly recommend you sit down with a cup of coffee and watch this Apple Keynote presentation to not only witness the unveiling of the Apple Watch but also to understand how very serious Apple is about building out this new wrist watch platform. 

Also, when you watch this Apple Keynote presentation, pay close attention to the all-new Apple Pay System. If you think about it, Apple in one fail swoop, single-handedly, and in one fail swoop just achieved what nobody has ever been able to achieve, and in doing so, with their highly disruptive technological prowess, just completely reinvented capitalism. If Apple can take such quick steps toward digitizing money, and doing is in such a united way, think about what they can do with watches.

Apple clearly intends to take advantage of their superior and dominant market position with the iPhone to leverage consumers into adopting Apple Watches. Some people may say this does not make sense, but the question I ask, is what percentage of people who wear Rolex have an affinity for Apple products and use and depend on iPhones daily? I would even go so far to ask the question of how many Rolex employees in Switzerland use and depend on iPhones? If Rolex is like any other world-class company, the answer would be more than 50%. This omnipresence Apple enjoys give them a unique value proposition opportunity to convert Rolex people in mass. 

Also, the Apple Watch is completely antithetical to Rolex in the sense that with Rolex, you can't customize or personalize models in any way. In other words, if you but a Submariner, that is all it will ever be. With the Apple Watch they emphasize how it is designed to suit your mood, with easily changeable modular straps and bracelets, as well as having a completely customizable User Interface. I believe as we head further into the 21st century customizability and individual expression will become even more important and appealing to customers. In many ways, the Apple Watch is the exact opposite of Rolex.

Dream Of The Ages

The world began dreaming about a wrist-watch multi-tasking as a communication device with the advent of the Dick Tracy Character, who on January 13, 1946, just after the end of World War II, showed up wearing a wrist-watch that featured a 2-way police radio that allowed him to communicate with Police headquarters. 

This simple Dick Tracy comic strip, largely awakened the public imagination as to what a wrist watch might be able to do beside tell the time. In other words, humans naturally and organically imagined that one day, watches could do much more than tell time. They would allow us to communicate over far distances with one another. Dick Tracy's radio watch was so compelling, it caused future generations to assume this science fiction would one day be inevitable and that day is now upon us. 

The world continued imagining a watch that could be used as a communicator, and one great example is from the 1967 James Bond spoof movie named Casino Royal, which stared Peter Sellers and Swiss Beauty, Ursula Andress. 

There is a scene in Casino Royal, that shows James Bond Character, played by Peter Sellers, wearing Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master, which had a built-in 2 way video communicator, as see below.

The photo below shows a Rolex wrist shot of a Pepsi GMT-Master with a video Screen on it, which shows Ursula Andress on its screen.

It's kind of ironic when you think about it that a 1967 spoof movie featured a Rolex with a feature that is light-years beyond anything that exists today. Yet if you think about the communicators that were featured on the original Star Trek, look like child's play compared to an iPhone 6.

It's About Time

Below is the official Apple Watch Video by head Apple Designer, Sir Jonathan Ive introducing the all-new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus...


I am not done with writing this article, but I want to offer a counterpoint section, which is as follows.

I realize people have differing opinions than mine, which I am always open to. I think it is important to have healthy discussions on these topics. To gain a different perspective, I recommend checking out my pal, Benjamin Clymer's perspective from Benjamin attended the Apple event and wrote a superb article, which I highly recommend reading.

A reader of Jake's Rolex World emailed me on September 10th, 2014 with the following message, which provides a fascinating counterpoint argument:

The Subject of Bill's email was "Very Funny." He wrote:

Jake. You wrote: "Today may very well be the most important day in Rolex history, as it is the day that the first serious shot got fired across Rolex's bow, in what is likely an opening salvo for dominance of wrist-time mindshare.”

You don’t really believe this, do you? The Apple Watch is basically useless unless paired to an iPhone, and that tiny screen is a joke compared to the iPhone in your pocket which also has a far more useful interface. Why do you think they just introduced two new iPhones w/ larger screens? Because so many claimed the iPhone screen was too small! If you travel you’ll have to carry yet another proprietary charger, and they won’t even talk about battery life to begin with. 

It can’t be too waterproof, because the touch screen would go nuts with the pressure at anything over about 5 feet deep. It is the most useless gadget Apple has ever made, which is really sad because until now Apple hasn’t made useless gadgets. And this is coming from a happy Apple user since the 80s. Geeks will buy anything that has a screen, but the general public will catch on quite quickly that this new device is a pain, not a blessing.  

I hope dearly Rolex ignores all this empty rhetoric and continues to, as the ad says, stay the course: "this is what we do, it’s all we do, and all we’ll ever do." They make fine, incredibly durable timepieces that you wear and never have to wind, charge or sit in the sun. The Apple watch will be a disposable piece of digital jetsam that people will have to bend over backwards to make “useful.” It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, like so much of the electronic interface crap that festoons the modern automobile (which I test for a living). You are one of the rare individuals that has seen the Rolex production facilities. Apparently, you didn’t learn much about the company or their products at all. A shot across their bow? Really? I think Apple shot themselves in the foot, amigo. 



Instead of responding to Bill's email directly, I will do it here. 

Bill, I understand and respect your constructively critical perspective, and recognize there is zero destructive criticism in your analysis. If I am not Rolex's biggest fan on planet earth, I don't know who is!?!? Don't forget I have written over 3000 posts on Jake's Rolex World, many of which are super-detailed like this one.

My point is that for a 1.0 version the Apple Watch deserves an absolute "A" for effort. I agree with you and am certain as a 1.0 version, it will have limitations, but you must give credit where credit is due. Apple is trying valiantly to push the innovation envelope is a way that reminds me of the way Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex did in the 1920s through the end of the 1950s.

As much as I love and adore Rolex, I genuinely believe there is still tremendous room for significant improvement and innovation. I would really like to see smart Rolex watches, even if they have a mechanical movement. Wouldn't it be cool if Rolex watches not only kept perfect time, all the time, but could also automatically update to local time as you flew through different time zones and dates? In the final analysis, Hans Wilsdof's goal was to create the most accurate and dependable, sturdy wristwatches, that offered genuinely useful features at reasonable prices for high quality watches.

Also, 20 years from now Rolex will exist, but the question is: will Rolex be a youthful brand by appealing to future generations that grow-up with iPhones and iPads? 20 years from now, will Rolex watches basically be the same as they are today, or will they evolve? You are correct that I was extremely fortunate to be one of the few horological journalists to have the opportunity to see the inside of Rolex, and to this day I am still stunned with what I witnessed

It is due to the fact I better understand Rolex's industrial capacity and technological prowess that I expect so much more from them. I sincerely hope Rolex's best days are ahead of them. That being said, I think that if Apple could wipe-out the entire cell-phone industry and smart-phone manufacturers in seven short years, with the exception of Samsung, they could wreak serious havoc on the Swiss Watch Industry, and in the long-term, they could do much damage to Rolex, if they can successfully reposition Rolex as being anachronistic. I think Apple's Watch strategy has Trojan Horse tactic written all over it.

It's easy for Apple to wipe-out many inexpensive watch brands, since the Apple Watch pricing begins at only $350. Notice Apple is also offering solid yellow and rose gold versions of their watches. Their modular straps appear to be extremely innovative and well built, particularly for such a low price point. For the past half-century Rolex has enjoyed its status as the International Mark Of Success. The challenge is that moving full speed ahead into the digital  information age, status is quickly turning from material wealth to intellectual wealth. 

This is likely witnessed by the fact that probably more than 50% of Rolex employees depend on iPhones everyday in Switzerland, but do you think 50% of Apple Employees wear Rolex watches? iPhones are the new cool, since they are such powerful tools. Especially with the advent of the iPhone 6 Plus model. The first generation Apple Watch might be beautifully half-baked, but give them a decade to iterate and figure out how to get to the higher hanging fruit, and I would say that is where the danger is. Also, you probably realize better than anybody else Bill, that apple is genuinely innovating at such a breakneck speed, that they have people going crazy waiting in lines for weeks to be one of the first to get the new generation iPhone or iPad. In other words, Apple is successfully training consumer to expect and want more in much shorter periods of time, and the payoff is real. If they can get customers used to these super exciting growth cycles, by constantly delivering innovation, it could really change the watch game.

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more!?

Another Perspective

Dylan wrote in from the UK, on September 11, 2014 and said:


I admire your website immensely.

I do however disagree with your slightly pessimistic view of the above in relation to the long term future of Rolex.
History has taught us that two things NEVER go out of fashion.

They are :

1.       Style.
2.       Romance.

Namely everything that true Rolex fans value so dearly and what a fancy gadgety i watch could never achieve.

The geeks are welcome to them.

I’ll stick to my English gentleman’s brogues (which go with anything ) and my beloved collection of Rolex watches (which also go with anything).

Keep up the good work.


Dylan B.


Franklin said...

It's great, but it's a different thing from a Rolex. I'll probably get an Apple Watch, but I won't be selling my Rolexes.

My Rolex watches are pretty much the only jewelry I own, besides cufflinks. I'd wear the Apple Watch a lot, but a Rolex is just a different thing. Bananas are good, and so are oranges... but neither has to replace the other.

Echoes said...

Hi Jake,

You are correct. If people start adopting this highly functional and admittedly beautifully designed watch, there will literally be no space left for conventional timepieces. it is a threat!