Montblanc takes on Apple and Google: People want smartwatch differentiation

The luxury German manufacturer is also keen on developing smartglasses
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People are looking for differentiation in smartwatches and wearables, away from the identical-looking watches worn by millions, made by the likes of Apple and Google.

That’s the opinion of Felix Obschonka, category director, New Technologies at Montblanc, who spoke to us ahead of the Wearables London event.

Obschonka believes that smartwatches will evolve to resemble the traditional watch industry – with far more fragmentation than we see today.

“In traditional watches, there isn't a one size fits all approach, where we see everyone wearing the same watch and there's one clear market leader. There's huge fragmentation. And when we think about wearables, our belief is that people are looking for differentiators, as well.”

Montblanc takes on Apple and Google: People want smartwatch differentiation

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Montblanc has just released its Summit 3 smartwatch, which was the first non-Samsung device to run Wear OS 3. The company has released four smartwatches since 2017.

“People are seeking to set a statement, be that via a regular watch or a smartwatch – as long as a certain core functionality is given,” he said.

“Our purpose in this industry is different to what Apple is doing, or Google is doing with the Pixel Watch, where it's about an extension of the phone, where it's about putting a lot of features into a small form factor. We want to bring something truly beautiful that people love to wear.”

Apple's move to add the Apple Watch Ultra to its range certainly speaks to this point – and while the Ultra is big and bulky, it's aimed at those looking for tough, oversized outdoors watches.

Montblanc takes on Apple and Google: People want smartwatch differentiation

The Montblanc Summit 3

Obschonka admits there’s little room in the smartwatch world to be bold with design when brands have to hit a minimum bar of features that users expect. That causes tension between designing beautiful hardware while providing the sensors and tech features that every user demands.

“It is two opposing forces, because, on the one hand, you have the design side where you basically want to be as clean as possible, don't show any kind of technology. And the other hand, you have budget restrictions and technology feature requirements.”

And Obschonka says it would be suicide to make a better-looking smartwatch that sacrificed GPS or health features.

“So when we do our research with our existing clients, they come up with a feature set that’s basically non-negotiable. That includes GPS and all the main sensors. They wouldn't sacrifice that for a nicer design, so leaving out major features is a no-go. It would be suicide,” he said.

But Montblanc is also looking beyond smartwatches – and waiting for the smartglasses market.

“We’re a luxury business lifestyle brand. That’s how we define ourselves and we develop different product categories,” Obschonka said.

“And for sure, we want to do smartglasses. In the future, if sensors become smaller, batteries become more powerful, chips become less power-hungry, and so on. This is something we will definitely have a look into it for us.”

“We would never be like we're the first one to do glasses. We see there’s mass-market evolving, and there is kind of like a general need for differentiation and for different form factors.”

Whether we’re talking about wearables on the wrist, in glasses, or anywhere else – it seems differentiation is key. And there’s still a long way to go.


James Stables

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James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.


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