More than a few eyebrows went up when Apple unveiled a version of the Apple Watch that started at US$10,000 (CA$13,000) last March. Did Apple really expect to compete against established luxury brands offering high-end watches? While Apple has yet to announce how many Apple Watches it has sold, analytics firm NetBase has found that it has surpassed Rolex on its list of global luxury watch brands. The report used social media mentions and consumer sentiment from more than 700 million posts between 2014 and 2015 do determine that the Apple Watch came in at #13, ahead of Rolex at #14.
While Apple itself came in fourth behind Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, the Apple Watch dominated the watch category. Not only did it beat out Rolex but it also came ahead of brands such as Tag Heuer and Patek Phillippe.
If nothing else, it does suggest that consumers strapping on an Apple Watch to their wrist are taking to social media far more than those doing the same with a traditional watch. But it could also be a sign that consumer sentiment is shifting away from the pure exclusivity determined by price to one that is technology-driven. While some predicted that smartwatches would trigger an “ice age” for traditional watch sales, this report suggests that the Apple Watch could also rewrite the entire luxury brand landscape.
At the same time, it’s not quite time to give up on the established luxury brands. The report found that they still commend far more loyalty than Apple. For example, Rolex outscored Apple 85 to 58 in net sentiment, a measure that tracks how consumers perceive the brand’s quality and how likely they are to remain loyal to it.
Apple recently partnered with Hermès on the Apple Watch Hermès to push further into the luxury space. It is expected to announce new partnerships at a press event in mid-March.