Apple Watch outsold the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019

Wealth

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about the Apple Watch during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mason Trinca

Mason Trinca | Reuters

The Apple Watch outsold the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019, according to a new report.

Market research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that Apple shipped 30.7 million units worldwide of its smartwatch last year, compared to 21.1 million for all Swiss watch brands combined.

“Analog wristwatches remain popular among older consumers, but younger buyers are tipping toward smartwatches and computerized wristwear,” Strategy Analytics said in its report.

“Traditional Swiss watch makers, like Swatch and Tissot, are losing the smartwatch wars.”

Apple’s wearable category which includes the Apple Watch and AirPods wireless headphones, has been growing strongly. In the December quarter, that division brought in over $10 billion in net sales, a near 27% year-on-year increase.

Swiss Watch exports meanwhile totaled 20.6 million for 2019, according to data from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. These do not include shipments inside Switzerland which is why Strategy Analytics’ numbers for the industry are higher. Swiss watch exports fell 13% year-on-year in 2019.

Apple unveiled its first smartwatch in 2014. Six years on it has become a major product for the company. Over the past few years, there have been warnings about the threat to the Swiss watch industry.

“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,” Strategy Analytics said.

Swatch, which is the owner of Tissot, declined to comment. LVMH, the owner of Tag Heuer, has yet to respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC.

To counter the onslaught from the technology players, traditional Swiss watchmakers launched their own smartwatches.

Tag Heuer has released a number of models including one that costs $180,000.

Of course, while Apple may have larger shipment volumes, their margin may not be as high as the premium Swiss watch brands, according to Neil Mawston of Strategy Analytics.

“We believe Apple Watch is profitable, but not as profitable as some of the super-premium Swiss watch makers,” Mawston told CNBC in an email.

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