Swatch thinks time is right to take on Apple and Google

The Swiss watch maker is developing its own operating system that it will use for its Tissot smartwatches to be launched next year, challenging iOS and Android.

A Tissot store in the Westfield World Trade Center in New York. Swatch, which owns Tissot, plans to take on Android and iOS with its own system for its planned Tissot smartwatches. Mark Lennihan / AP
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Swatch said it is developing an alternative to the iOS and Android operating systems for smartwatches as Switzerland’s largest maker of timepieces vies with Silicon Valley for control of consumers’ wrists.

The company’s Tissot brand will introduce a model around the end of 2018 that uses the Swiss-made system, which will also be able to connect small objects and wearables, the Swatch chief executive Nick Hayek said ion Thursday. The technology will need less battery power and it will protect data better, he said.

Switzerland’s four-century-old watch industry has been adjusting to new competition since Apple entered its territory with the Apple Watch in 2015. Mr Hayek faces the uphill challenge of trying to outsmart Google and Apple, which have fended off would-be rivals to their operation systems in smartphones and watches. His strategy contrasts with that of the LVMH watch chief Jean-Claude Biver, who this week unveiled an upgraded TAG Heuer smartwatch the brand developed with Google and Intel.

Competition from smartwatches has hurt low-end timepieces the most, and Mr Hayek has been adding electronic functions into Swatch’s own less expensive brands such as Tissot and its namesake timepieces. This month, Swatch said it developed the world’s smallest Bluetooth chip for use in watches and household objects.

Swatch’s approach will work better because it is trying to “think small” as one of the biggest problem for wearable devices is battery drainage, Mr Hayek said, speaking at the Biel, Switzerland headquarters of Omega, another of 18 brands that Swatch produces.

“There’s a possibility for wearables to develop as a consumer product, but you have to miniaturize and have an independent operating system,” he said.

“I’m not convinced,” said Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas who follows the luxury industry. “People use smartwatches expecting to use the same apps they have on their mobiles. A proprietary operating system defeats the object.”

Swatch’s operating system has been developed with the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, a university specialised in miniaturisation, Mr Hayek said. The company has received about 100 requests for more information, with half coming from smaller Silicon Valley companies that do not want to be dependent on Android and iOS, he added.

* Bloomberg

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