The Apple Watch is no more a watch than the iPhone is a phone

Dag Olav Norem
3 min readMar 22, 2015

Jean-Claude Biver, LVMH Watch Division President and head of the TAG Heuer brand, stated this week that “The difference between the TAG Heuer watch and the Apple watch is very important,” Biver said. “That one is called Apple and this one is called TAG Heuer.”

This misses the point in much the same way Steve Ballmer missed the point when he in 2007 said “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item.” Ballmer judged the iPhone as phone, Biver now judges the Apple Watch as a watch.

People don’t buy an iPhone because it is great at making phone calls. Yes, you can make phone calls with it, but it is no better at that particular task than the feature phones which preceded it. Making phone calls was simply a necessity for the iPhone to take over the limited space in your pocket or purse.

Likewise, the masses won’t buy the Apple Watch because it is great at keeping time.

They also won’t buy it solely as a fashion item. An unattractive or impractical device would deter people from putting it on their wrist, as has become the case with Google Glass and putting something on your face. But beauty alone does not guarantee mass market adoption. Arguably, phones were more about personal expression before the smartphone era than they are now. There were a vast range of form factors and colors to choose from. These days most phones look the same (and they all look like iPhones, but that’s a different story).

The Apple Watch is a computing device, which happens to fit on your wrist. Among many other things, it — like a Tag Heuer — can tell you the time. This is a prerequisite for taking over the space on your wrist, but not the reason why people will buy it. Mass market adoption will come down to the utility of that computing device. The iPhone completely changed the convenience of what you could get done on the go; the Apple Watch will become popular if it can do the same.

Smartwatches may or may not become a success. Personally I suspect it is inevitable. Computers in any form factor have proven hugely valuable for productivity as well as entertainment, and I see no reason why that shouldn’t be the case for a wrist mounted version as well. It may take a device generation or few, but it will happen.

As for Tag Heuer, maybe they can become one of the major players in this market. But I strongly doubt that will happen unless they realize that they are not coming at this from a position of strength, but one of weakness. The only area in which and Apple Watch and a Tag Heuer Carrera competes is for the space on your wrist. This is a battle not between watches, but between the computer and the watch. If the computer wins and Tag Heuer wants to compete with Apple, it will have to become a computer company, not a watch company that dabbles in computers.