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Apple Watch sparks traditional watch makers into life

It’s been six months since Apple officially announced its Apple Watch, which is currently one of the most anticipated releases of the year.

Apple will be joining tech giants Samsung and Microsoft in the smartwatch market, but those aren’t the only companies they will be competing with. Last week at the Baselworld 2015 jewellery trade show in Switzerland, several traditional watch companies revealed smartwatches of their own.

Traditional watch brands Tag Hauer, Swatch, and Breitling are leading the charge, with each working on designs to rival Apple. Their main competition is the Apple Edition, the first true luxury smartwatch on the market, which features gold casing, sapphire crystal displays, and a steep price tag.

But the Edition’s time alone in the luxury market will be short. By the end of the year, Tag Hauer will be adding a smart version of their already popular Carrera model, which will feature Android software, while other announcements at Baselworld included the Breitling B55 Connected, the Swatch Touch Zero One, the Vector Luna, the Mondaine Helvetica No1 Horological Smartwatch, and even Gucci has teamed with (opens in new tab) for a new smartband.

According to reports (opens in new tab), these watches will include many of the same features as the Apple Watch, such as fitness tracking, GPS, and NFC payments. In addition, several will be compatible with multiple phone platforms, or even be able to function without an accompanying app, giving them a wider potential market than Apple or Samsung, which only work with their own phones.

The traditional watch companies will also have an advantage in price against the Apple Edition. The Edition currently ranges between £8,000-13,500, depending on the model.

In comparison, the Breitling B55 Connected is expected to cost £3,000-6,000, which is a significant difference. While the price of the Tag Hauer Carrera smartwatch is still uncertain, the current non-smart versions range from £2,000-4,000. Even if the smart models are double that, they will still be a bargain compared to the Edition.

The advent of the smartwatch may be putting some companies on the defensive, but Apple’s foray has the potential to benefit the industry as a whole. Apple’s lower end models, the Apple Watch and Sport Watch, which cost a fraction of the price of the Edition, will likely be the more popular models, especially among the younger generation.

As Tag Hauer Chief Executive Jean-Claude Biver said in an interview with Reuters (opens in new tab), “Apple will get young people used to wearing a watch and later maybe they will want to buy themselves a real watch.”

Considering these are the same young people who gave up watches in favour of the clock on their phones, anything that gets them with straps on their wrists again is a good thing for the watch companies.

We’re still about a month away from the release of the Apple Watch, and it will be a few more months before we see anything from Tag Hauer, Breitling, and the rest.

With competition coming not only from trusted technology companies, but also trusted watch companies, it seems clear that everyone will need to work hard to make their smartwatches stand out from the crowd.