Swatch Group AG (UHR) Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said he’s skeptical that an interactive watch could replace an iPhone, talking down the prospects for a project that Apple Inc. (AAPL) has hinted it’s working on.
“Personally, I don’t believe it’s the next revolution,” the chief of the largest Swiss watchmaker said at a press conference on annual results in Grenchen, Switzerland. “Replacing an iPhone with an interactive terminal on your wrist is difficult. You can’t have an immense display.”
In addition to size limiting the amount of information that can be shown, consumers often buy watches as a jewelry item and like to change them, Hayek said. Apple has a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad, people familiar with the company’s plans said last month.
Swatch, which owns the Tissot and Omega brands, has explored ways of making watches with interactive functions for years, attempting to sell a watch that served as a mobile phone early last decade. It later formed a 2004 alliance with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) on Swatch Paparazzi watches, which allowed consumers to receive personalized information, including news, sports, weather, horoscopes and stock quotes.
Swatch has had contact with Apple over many years about materials for products and so-called energy harvesting technology that would generate energy from physical movement, Hayek said today. The Swiss company said in 2011 it obtained a license to use alloys made by Liquidmetal Technologies Inc. (LQMT) in watches, gaining access to metal that’s moldable like plastic. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, also made a patent- licensing agreement with Liquidmetal.
The Swatch and Tissot brands will keep developing timepieces with more interactive features, such as Bluetooth technology, Hayek said. The Swatch brand is planning a press conference on new products at the Baselworld watch fair that starts at the end of next month. Tissot’s T-Touch line of watches can serve as a compass and allows consumers to measure their altitude and time diving expeditions.
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