Technology

Michael Kors, Tissot and Nixon join the smartwatch market

Michael Kors smartwatches Image copyright Michael Kors
Image caption The Michael Kors watches are powered by Android Wear so can link to Android and iOS phones

Michael Kors has become the latest fashion brand to offer smartwatches.

The US firm has announced two timepieces - one targeted at each sex - powered by Google's Android Wear.

Samsung, Nixon and Fossil have also revealed new software-powered models at the Baselworld trade show. Swatch's Tissot brand unveiled its first "connected watch" too, which links up to smartphones but does not run apps.

The launches coincide with a decline in traditional watch sales.

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry recently reported a "steep decline" in revenues, with January's 1.5bn Swiss francs ($1.6bn; £1.1bn) representing an 8% drop on the same month's sales in 2015.

The business group has blamed a "troubled economic situation" for the fall.

However, research firm Futuresource Consulting has reported that global smartwatch shipments now outnumber those of traditional Swiss watches.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sales of traditional Swiss watches are declining

"Many consumers are still not sure how a smartwatch will benefit them in terms of lifestyle and practicality," said its report, timed to coincide with the event in Basel.

"[But] ongoing advancements by the integrated chip manufacturers means they can go smaller - which opens up the market for more petite, women's watches, effectively increasing their total available market."

Thinner smartwatches

Smartwatch manufacturers that use Google's Android Wear have limited ability to customise the operating system's features, so much of their efforts are focused instead on design.

Michael Kors - whose devices are manufactured by Fossil - focused on their exclusive digital watchfaces and "glamorous style" at its launch rather than on technical specifications.

Image copyright Fossil
Image caption Fossil says its Q Wander watches feature a more rugged design than its Q Marshal design

Fossil also unveiled two new smartwatches under its own brand - the Fossil Q Wander and Q Marshal - which it said were slimmer than its first-generation models.

California-based Nixon, however, had one trick up its sleeve for its first Android Wear watch - the Mission. It is water-resistant to 100m (328ft) - a record for the category - and still able to accept voice commands.

That allows Nixon to target the device at surfers, who need that level of protection because of the force with which they sometimes hit the waves.

Image copyright Nixon
Image caption Nixon says that its Mission watch is built for use in the sea

Swiss smartwatch

Tissot has taken a different approach with its Smart-Touch.

The watch links up to a smartphone via Bluetooth when commanded to do so and can then provide navigation directions by moving its hands.

In addition, it can use the phone to synchronise itself to the local time zone.

The watch can also trigger an alarm on a fob, with which it is sold, in order to find mislaid keys.

Image copyright Ben Wood
Image caption The Tissot Smart-Touch comes with a key ring alarm

Another unusual feature is a solar panel - used to recharge its battery, which is said to last up to a year before it needs to be swapped out.

"Swatch Group is the only Swiss watchmaker able to do a smartwatch on its own," boasted the firm's chief executive Francois Thiebaud.

But one attendee had doubts about its chances.

"It's difficult to see how Tissot can scale this to deliver the breadth of functionality that an open platform like Android or Tizen can offer," said Ben Wood from the CCS Insight consultancy.

"Swatch's only chance for success would be to bring this functionality to its wider range of watches."

Black-and-white diamonds

Elsewhere at the show, Samsung revealed a tie-up with the jeweller de Grisogono to release a "limited edition" version of its Gear 2 watch.

Image copyright Samsung
Image caption The diamond-encrusted Gear 2 is powered by Samsung's Tizen operating system

The Tizen-powered device distinguishes itself from the standard edition by featuring more than 100 black-and-white diamonds. Its price has yet to be announced.

LVMH's watch chief also provided an update on its Android-based Tag Heuer Connected watch, which was launched in November.

At a press conference, Jean-Claude Biver said that 20,000 units had been sold so far and that his firm planned to manufacture a further 60,000 before the year's end.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tag Heuer plans to make more smartwatches after strong sales of its Connected model

"We totally underestimated demand, we were too cautious," he said.

"Next year, we'll have a real collection, a new version with six to eight models."

More to come

US manufacturer Movado has also announced plans to make more devices as part of a partnership with HP, following 2015's launch of the Movado Bold Motion.

It said it now planned to release models under the Coach, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Juicy Couture, Tommy Hilfiger, and Scuderia Ferrari brands.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More brands are set to show off smartwatches at next year's event

Despite all the activity, one expert said it was important not to overstate the sector's impact.

"I don't believe smartwatches have affected the high-end watch market in any appreciable way," said Ariel Adams, editor of A Blog to Watch.

"Although, I have heard anecdotally from brands that lower-end watches - $1,000 (£691) and under - are becoming affected.

"This Baselworld is all about partnerships, fashion and what I call brand cross-pollination," he added.

"It's mostly a marketing play, and I cannot find any brands here that speak fluently as to what people actually do with smartwatches and why people would want one."

Apple - which is thought to be the world's bestselling smartwatch-maker - is not exhibiting at Baselworld.

However, the firm has a press event on Monday in California where it may make related announcements.

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