Watchmakers show off wearable tech at Swiss show

BASEL, Switzerland - Long-established manufacturers of timepieces are looking to release smartwatches, a shift likely to stimulate a relatively new market that has been drawing attention due to Apple's entry.

Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer said Thursday it will partner with US information technology companies Intel and Google on new products. The announcement was made by Jean-Claude Biver, head of the watches division at Tag Heuer's French parent LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, on the opening day of the Baselworld watch and jewelry trade show. The design, functions and price of the new offerings will be released within the year.

Frederique Constant, a Swiss manufacturer of luxury watches, showed off a new product that connects with smartphones and tablets. While it looks like an ordinary watch, users can adjust the time with the push of a button or send such data as walking distance or calories burned from the watch to their mobile devices. The watch also features an alarm that rings during the light stages of sleep.

The Swatch Group is also preparing to enter the smartwatch market. The Swiss company recently unveiled the Smart Touch Zero One, a touch-screen watch capable of measuring how much the user has exercised and sending that data to smartphones. Ordinary Swatch models with contactless payment functions and other features are slated to be released as well.

The market for devices worn on the wrist will grow to US$10 billion (S$13.85 billion) by 2018, according to some forecasts. The expansion of this field, in which Sony and Samsung already have products out, could become a tailwind or a threat to watchmakers. Traditional manufacturers of timepieces find that they can no longer ignore the trend.

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