Smartwatch vs. Traditional Watch: Ulysse Nardin’s Take

Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin prays that traditional watches continue

Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin, fighting the smartwatch vs. traditional watch battle

Nothing is more contemporary than a high-end watch. That’s the headline at, a quote from an interview with Patrick Pruniaux. So the CEO of Ulysse Nardin favors high-end timepieces in the smartwatch vs. traditional watch death match. No surprise there. But hang on. What shade is he actually throwing?

Ye Olde Oxford Dictionary defines contemporary as “belonging to or occurring in the present.” Apple launched the Apple Watch Series 1 on April 24, 2015. That’s pretty damn contemporary.

Mechanical wristwatches were born in 1868, when the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary slapped a Patek Philippe on her royal wrist. Traditional watches went mainstream 100 years ago, after World War I. Not so contemporary.

Ulysse Nardin Freak X fights the smartwatch vs. Traditional Watch

I guess Mr. Pruniaux is trying to say nothing is more “in style” than a traditional watch. Amongst his well-heeled friends, colleagues and customers — people who can afford the $24k Ulysse Nardin Freak X above — no doubt.

Our here in the fields, Apple et. al. are winning the smartwatch vs. traditional watch battle. Big time. Smartwatch sales are growing by 20-plus percent per year. Traditional watch sales are up by nine percent. Do the math. And know this: total smartwatch sales now exceed total traditional watch sales.

Mr. Pruniaux reckons smartwatches are a passing fancy (even as the new Apple Watch 5 fuels their explosive growth).

“The smartwatch is bringing in millions of customers who were not wearing a watch. One day, they will discover a smartwatch is good but most of their functionality is already on the phone. Smartwatches are an opportunity. We compete for the piece of real estate that’s your wrist, but that’s it.”

Apple Watch 5 shows you the way. Ish.

Mr. Pruniaux is saying smartwatches are a gateway to traditional watches. The generation that grew up with a phone and didn’t wear a watch, who now wear a smartwatch, will go back to using their phone for apps and wear a traditional watch, because the smartwatch established the watch-wearing habit.

Fitness tracking, heart monitoring, music control? Has this guy ever worn a smartwatch?

The truth about traditional watches: they are now about style. That’s it. We’re at the point where you have to reject functionality and connectivity to wear a traditional watch. Which is kinda cool, but ultimately something most watch wearers won’t do, especially as smartwatches finally get hip to style.

The CEO of Ulysse Nardin knows this. The company’s move into the avant garde with their succesful Freak series proves it. Mr. Pruniaux should say it loud and say it proud: smartwatches are the sole preserve of the deeply unfashionable. It’s not true, but it might help sell a few more traditional watches.


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