Swatch Group AG chief executive officer Nick Hayek said the watch industry can make more attractive timepieces than the Apple Watch as the Swiss company adds more intelligent functions that don't sap battery life.
Apple Inc.'s smartwatch looks better than products by Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Corp., Hayek said Thursday when asked about the device at an annual press conference on the Biel, Switzerland-based watch maker's strategy.
"They really did the nicest smartwatch," Hayek said, speaking in the town of Corgemont. "However, the design, from the point of view of the watch industry, is not a milestone. The watch industry has much nicer designs. But compared to smartwatches, it's great."
Swatch is returning to the wearable technology market after being an early innovator with products such as the Paparazzi watch. That device, introduced in an alliance with Microsoft Corp. in the mid-2000s, was later discontinued. Now, as Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple encroaches into its territory, Swatch is adding more digital functions, but the Swiss company is taking a step-by-step approach to see what consumers really want, Hayek said.
"People are trying to put too much in there that a phone can already do," Hayek said. "Why do I have to bring another display? I'd rather have my key in my watch."
The watch maker, whose brands range from Breguet to Tissot, will introduce timepieces with payment capabilities in coming months, and that could eventually be extended across the entire Swatch range, Hayek said. Omega would be an ideal brand for door-unlocking technology, Hayek added.
Switzerland's largest watch maker is focusing on features that consume little power to eliminate the hassle of recharging. The company said it's also been developing more efficient batteries, and its Belenos Clean Power unit has come up with a material that can deliver 50 per cent more energy storage capacity than the best rechargeable lithium batteries on the market.
The Apple Watch will go on sale April 24 in nine countries, though Switzerland isn't one of them. Its battery can last 18 hours with typical use, though the company has said that drops to 6-1/2 hours when playing music and to 3 hours when used for phone calls. It also features mobile-payment and door-opening functions. The watch takes about 2-1/2 hours to charge.
To be sure, Apple may soon sell as many timepieces as all of Switzerland, Elmar Mock, the co-inventor of the Swatch, who now works at a product consultancy, forecast earlier this week.
Swatch isn't the only Swiss watch maker preparing intelligent timepieces. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA's TAG Heuer is set to unveil a timepiece featuring GPS functions and health monitoring before the end of the year. Cie. Financiere Richemont SA's Montblanc plans to start selling an intelligent watch band called the e-Strap in June.
Swatch CEO Hayek also said the outlook for 2015 is "excellent."