Hublot Chairman Accuses Apple of Stealing Watchmakers

Hublot Watchmakers


by John Sealander  

Will your next smartwatch say “Swiss made” on the dial?

When Jean-Claude Biver, the head of the Watches and Jewelry division of LVMH and the Chairman of luxury watch brand Hublot, accused Apple of trying to poach some of his best Hublot employees, it started a firestorm of speculation within the watch industry. What was Apple up to? It has long been anticipated that Apple will instantly become a major player in the burgeoning smartwatch category when it introduces its almost inevitable iWatch. Why was the company looking to Switzerland?

Although nobody knows when an iWatch will reach the market, almost everybody agrees that it is coming. With Apple’s design expertise and proven record at popularizing new technology, expectations for Apple’s upcoming smartwatch are high. The market clearly expects something spectacular from the Cupertino giant.

What the Swiss Have to Offer

While nobody expects Apple to include a tourbillon or a moon phase complication in its upcoming iWatch, there is still a lot that Swiss watch experts have to offer a potential smartwatch powerhouse. Watchmakers take metallurgy seriously. For hundreds of years, Swiss watchmakers have been experts at creating entirely new metals and alloys, just to solve a watchmaking problem.

Hublot Watch with Magic GoldOne of these high tech alloys is called Magic Gold, and it was developed by the very Hublot that Jean-Claude Biver says Apple was trying to raid. Magic Gold is a proprietary combination of ceramic and gold that Hublot has used to make watchcases virtually scratch proof. Is it just coincidence that Apple tried to license this special alloy for use in the iPhone 5 in 2013? Later that year, Apple released an all-new gold version of its popular phone and it is still looking for a way to make its cases scratchproof.

Some industry experts say that Apple may want their upcoming iWatch to say Swiss made on the dial. While this is a possibility, it is highly unlikely, since the company has always been extremely proud of its California roots. The term “Swiss made,” which has long been associated with high quality mechanical watches, would hold little value to a customer buying wearable technology. There are no springs and gears in a smartwatch and there never will be.

Swiss Expertise

What is more likely is that Apple is considering opening a new R&D facility in Switzerland. Steve Jobs was always fond of borrowing ideas from other disciplines and incorporating them in Apple designs. “Good artists copy. Great artists steal,” he said once, lending credence rumors that Apple actually is poaching talent from leading Swiss watchmakers.

It makes sense. The Swiss have been experts in manufacturing all sorts of things for hundreds of years. In Switzerland, Apple could recruit from an amazing pool of watchmaking talent. While Apple doesn’t need the Swiss to put a tourbillon in a smartwatch, they do need Swiss process engineering, ergonomics, metallurgy, and miniaturization expertise. Hiring the best talent they can find from well-respected companies like Hublot, might just give them the competitive edge they are looking for.

While it is fun to speculate whether your new iWatch will say “Swiss made” on the dial, the accusations of talent poaching do have serious implications. Watchmaking is a billion dollar industry and the market for wearable technology is potentially even larger. The Swiss should actually be happy that Apple is looking at them. If Apple hires a few watch experts from Hublot, it won’t hurt the industry. Instead, it will probably help. By acknowledging Swiss expertise, Apple is telling the world what watch aficionados have known all along: Swiss watchmakers are the best in the world at what they do.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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What’s Behind Retail Store Closings?

Retail Store Closing


by Bonnie McEwan  

Out of the Malls and Onto the Internet

Most of us who follow the retail industry are aware of the wave of store closings that has taken place over the last few years. Since closings occur intermittently, however, you may not realize that roughly 5,759 stores in the US have shuttered since 2012. These include apparel companies like Jones Group and The Gap, restaurants (Wendy’s, Qdoba, Applebee’s), home furnishing stores (Kirkland, Pier One) groceries (Food Lion, Kroger, Stop ‘n Shop), toy and entertainment outfits (Build-A Bear, Game Stop) and tech companies (Cellular One, Apple). You can find an alphabetical list of all US retail store closings through September 25, 2013 here.

Certainly the Great Recession has something to do with this, but that doesn’t account for the fact that many of the same companies closing brick-and-mortar stores are expanding their online operations. These moves to the Internet have dramatic consequences that reach well beyond employees and consumers to affect communities and related industries, and not in good ways.

Shopping Malls

The obvious example is shopping malls. Most real estate professionals acknowledge that vacancy rates are high in many malls across the country and rents are depressed. Green Street Advisors, an analysis firm that tracks commercial real estate funds, predicts that 10% of the 1,000 largest malls in the U.S. will fail within the next 10 years. Some mall CEOs think that’s a conservative figure.

There’s a website called Dead Malls that tracks those shopping centers that are already abandoned or well on their way. Of the 33 JC Penney stores slated for closing, three are on the Dead Malls site: Muscatine Mall in Muscatine, Iowa, Military Circle Mall in Norfolk, Virginia, and Singing River Mall in Gautier, Mississippi. Macy’s plans to close stores in two more: Fiesta Mall in Mesa, Arizona, and Medley Center in Irondequoit, New York. Abercrombie & Fitch is closing a store in yet another mall on the endangered list, Oaks Mall in Gainesville, Florida.

It appears that these particular malls, along with most of the others listed, while not going gentle into that good night, they are slouching toward oblivion, dragging community spirits down with them. Part of their woes are caused by the oversupply of mall real estate. The US has so many malls that when one closes shoppers can easily drive 10 or 20 miles to another. Add to this the ‘smart growth’ and walkable cities emphases in current urban planning theory and you easily see that the curtain is descending on the malls’ last act.

Malls Repurposed

So what happens to these dinosaurs littering the suburban landscape, becoming eyesores in the communities they once served? Sometimes mall owners just call in the demolition equipment. Occasionally, though, more creative solutions are devised. Although not located in a mall, an abandoned Wal-Mart in McAllen, Texas was turned into the largest, single-story library in the country by Minneapolis-based architects Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. The conversion plan included space to establish a community gathering place, which serves as an updated version of the town square.

Wal-Mart, once roundly criticized for letting its abandoned stores lie empty to prevent competitors from moving in, now has a subsidiary called Wal-Mart Realty. According to its website, “Walmart Realty’s mission is to find businesses to open in our former stores and clubs and to locate in available property around our stores. At Walmart Realty, we believe we have a responsibility to work with communities to find a use that generates economic growth and opportunity.”

Online Rising

While this is a positive development, it assumes that there are companies interested in opening brick-and-mortar stores, a debatable idea. “If I were thinking of starting a new retail brand right now, I would unquestionably start it online,” writes Jeff Jordan, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz and board member for several online retailers. He points out that online retail will continue to steal business from brick-and-mortar stores and that will place even greater pressure on shopping malls.

Even online retailers that do move offline to open physical stores are doing them as Internet showrooms, where customers view samples and then place orders. This is a stark departure from the traditional retailer that stocks inventory in its stores. Jordan cites two, Bonobos and Warby Parker, that began online and are now employing this showroom model.

There’s a joke going around that says Best Buy, which recently closed 10 stores, has become a showroom for amazon.com. Consumers visit Best Buy, check out the product they’re considering, then go home and order* their preferred model online. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of doing this exact thing when shopping for a high-definition television, not because Amazon had a cheaper price, but because the delivery is so much less hassle than dragging a TV home myself. It’s small conveniences like this — and probably others that are less apparent — that are driving consumers online.

All this does not mean that the retail industry is in trouble. Only that the mechanics of selling are changing. As Bette Davis said, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

*Or order then and there from their Smart phone.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Smart Sports Bands Projected to Grow by 350% in 2014

Girl Wearing a Fitbit Flex Smart Sports Band


by John Sealander  

Will the activity trackers of today set the stage for the smart watches of tomorrow, or will they preclude the need for smart watches?

Wearable smart bands, like the Nike Fuel, Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up, and others, have become incredibly popular during the past year. People from all walks of life wear these fitness trackers now and their popularity continues to grow at exponential rates. Much of this growth is very recent. In the first half of 2013 roughly 200,000 of these wearable smart bands were shipped. In the second half of 2013, that number skyrocketed to 1.6 million. Shipments could reach as high as 8 million bands in 2014 and over 23 million in 2015.

Although these numbers are still quite small compared to the total number of wristwatches shipped, the rate of growth is spectacular. Experts think that there’s a reason why wearable activity trackers have exploded in popularity, while smart watches continue to languish.

Smart Sports Bands Increasing Popularity

The current crop of wearable activity trackers meets a definite need. With today’s increased focus on health and fitness, people want to know how their daily activities impact their fitness goals. These inexpensive fitness trackers meet this need, by providing accurate and timely data about the distance we move, the calories we burn, and even our sleep patterns.

They are also very simple to use and tend to have great battery life compared to typical smart watches. High cost, limited battery life and the lack of useful software have been the primary concerns of early smart watch adopters. The fact that most of the currently available smart watches aren’t stand-alone devices and require a Bluetooth connected smartphone to take advantage of their “smart” features has hindered widespread adoption as well.

Simple, inexpensive wearable activity trackers have none of these drawbacks. The internal batteries in these devices can remain charged for up to ten days. Since smart sports bands are designed for a specific purpose, they are very easy to use. Interestingly, fitness bands are not at all fashion accessories but are used as tools that helps the wearer stay fit and healthy.

Are Smart Sports Bands Here to Stay?

The market for wearable activity trackers is expected to continue its rapid growth in response to society’s increased focus on fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The real question is whether the next generation of smart watches, including the inevitable iWatch from Apple, will usurp the simple fitness tracker by incorporating a similar set of features.

The jury is still out on this. Clearly, smart watches of the future will be able to track the wearer’s activities just as well as or even better than current smart bands like the Nike Fuel, Fitbit Flex, or Jawbone Up. What’s unclear at this time is whether people will be willing to pay more for the more complex smart watch.

The runaway success of today’s activity trackers has already proved that wearable technology is here to stay. It is expected that there will be one day a strong market for smart watches as well.

How popular will powerful new smart watches from Pebble, Apple, Sony, and Samsung become? That depends on whether people perceive them as a tool like an activity tracker, or a fashion accessory like a traditional wristwatch. If the general public ever decides that wearing a smart watch is cool, the market for these advanced devices will be almost unlimited.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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The Smart Watch Cometh?

Pebble Smart Watch


by Adrian Herscovici  

Why smart watches are not the future (for now)

Who here remembers the cartoon character Dick Tracy? Back in the 1940s, Tracy wore a watch that featured a two-way radio – perhaps the earliest reference to a so-called “smart watch.”

Seiko Data 2000In real life Seiko released the Data 2000 watch in 1983 – a wrist-mounted data-storage device that connected to a special keypad. It was one of the first watches with computing ability and one of the earliest smart watches. Did the Data 2000 change the way people wore watches? No, not at all; nor did any of the smart watches that came later including the Microsoft-developed SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) smart watches of the mid-2000s.

Today, after 30 years of development, smart watches are making bigger waves with new models arriving to market at a record pace. They are increasingly useful, wearable computers that work in tandem with our other devices. Smart watches run apps and play media; some already function as phones – much like Dick Tracy.

21st century wrist race

Why the sudden deluge? Surprisingly, it has little to do with demand; rather, the proliferation is due to advancements in technology and access to cheaper components. Oh, that and the fact that tech companies want to cash in, naturally.

Smart Watch Tied to PhoneBut smart watches come with some serious limitations. The biggest is they do everything your smart phones do, and less. A smart watch may assist you in managing your mobile device but it will not replace that device. So why bother? For looks? Doubt it.

Men, for example, already face a limited choice of fashion accessories. Watches are one of them, and a fashion-conscious guy takes his timepiece seriously. Smart watches are too busy trying to become relevant and functional to look sharp (and geek chic will only carry them so far). Furthermore, they require a significant display area, which means they all look more or less similar, relying on a few obvious physical differentiators to set them apart.

Smart watches need to win us over with utilitarian value, with functionality that offers us something more or completely different than what we already have. For now, they are less stylish than a wristwatch and less technologically useful than a smart phone. They defy obvious trends in usage, too, like the proclivity towards larger screens – unlike a smart phone, which pushes the limits of our pockets, purses and attachés, a smart watch cannot grow the size of our wrists.

Impact on mechanical and quartz watches

Samsung Galaxy Gear and Classic WatchAmong watch insiders and enthusiasts, the talk is of course about the impact of a smart watch revolution on traditional wristwatches, and whether or not it will lead to their becoming obsolete. The fact is, mechanical watches enjoy immense popularity today because they are obsolete. People wear them because they love the artistry and lengthy history associated with mechanical watchmaking.

Quartz watches should also have diminished in popularity by now in our smart-device world: people could easily leave them at home, relying instead on their smart phone to tell time. But people like the way they look, and with annual global sales in the billions, quartz watches seem to have a rather strong following, too.

Smart devices are here to stay; smart watches, well, maybe. (Starfleet, after all, preferred the smart brooch.) In the next several years we will undoubtedly see advancements. If smart watches do become an accepted innovation, they will likely phase in to our lives over time – there will be early adopters; others will wade in when their professional life requires it; and still more when the applications become the norm.

But the time-honored mechanical wristwatch is no danger of disappearing, nor is the ever-practical quartz watch. We like what they represent and the way they look. Smart watches – well, for now, they’re just gadgets.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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