In the stuffy watch industry Peter Stas could be seen as a visionary. The CEO of Frederique Constant decisively jumped on the wearable tech train at Baselworld year ago with its fitness tracking Horological Smartwatch, and it's a decision that's paid off handsomely.
"Last year we grew while the whole industry went down. And I must say it's because we had success with the Horological Smartwatch – without it we would have shrunk slightly too. But because of the new category we added we were able to grow," Stas told Wareable at Baselworld 2016.
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Swiss watches have had a rough year. The industry shrunk yet again against the backdrop of revelations that smartwatches outsold their Swiss-made counterparts for the first time in 2015. If the Swiss weren't listening before, they sure are now. Yet Frederique Constant's smartwatch – launched alongside a similar products from Mondaine should give any watchmaker pause for thought:
"Last year we had a first production of the Horological Smartwatch calibre and we sold 40,000 pieces – for the watch industry that's a lot," Stas continued.
The Horological Smartwatch's tech and app used Fullpower's MotionX tech
Stas confirmed to Wareable that Frederique Constant has plans to increase its line up of Horological Smartwatches to include a ladies movement.
"With the plans for the next year that could easily grow to 100,000 pieces. So we're extremely happy with the results," he continued.
Read this: The top smartwatches of Baselworld 2016
But just because the company has had success implementing tech into its timepieces this year, Stas isn't jumping on board the full smartwatch bandwagon just yet. In fact, he thinks Tag Heuer's smartwatch goes against the key strengths of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
"The Tag Heuer Connected is not nice. Frankly, I feel it's a big mistake. They are selling an Android graphics implementation at $1,400 – the same that you can get from LG for $300. That's not what makes the Swiss watch industry strong," Stas warned.
"We feel our implementation retains the DNA of what makes us strong: a beautiful dial and sculpted hands, and individuality. Here in Basel you might see 5,000 different watches, but Android is only Android and Apple Watch is only Apple Watch. There is only one. So that's where Swiss industry brings something," Stas continued.
Stas confirmed a female version of its smartwatch is landing this year
However, that doesn't mean that Stas and Frederique Constant is anti-screen altogether, and the company has ambitious plans.
"Later this year we will have another solution as well, but we're in the process of setting up a stronger software team in Geneva to develop new applications in Switzerland, which is important for the new regulations for Swiss Made which states that software will have to be made here too."
While Frederique Constant got ahead of the competition by acting promptly in 2015, this year's Baselworld saw a jump in the amount of brands experimenting with smart tech, including Movado, Fossil, Michael Kors, Nixon – as well as confirmation of plans from Hublot and Bvlgari.
"I think slowly some of our competition are catching up," Stas said.
"Fossil are jumping in the pool and Tissot is just scratching the surface. I saw the presentation. I worked for Philips and I know the electronics background. When I saw the Tissot implementation I thought 'this is interesting' but we can do something better than that.
"What Fossil is doing is big. With Tag Heuer and the Connected Smartwatch they are putting a lot of effort behind that and talking about hundreds of thousands of pieces. We are happy, and we have leaned a lot, and we will develop in the right direction. But it's still a new area we need to learn."
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