Is Apple Seeking Swiss Watchmakers for the iWatch?

Source: iWatch Concept by Todd Hamilton

Source: iWatch Concept by Todd Hamilton

More evidence that suggests Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working on a so-called “iWatch” has been uncovered by the Financial Times. According to multiple horology industry workers and executives from various luxury watch brands in Europe contacted by the Financial Times, Apple has been attempting to poach Swiss watchmakers from various watch brands owned by multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

Jean-Claude Biver, president of LVMH’s watches and jewelry division, told a Swiss publication cited by the Financial Times that the Cupertino-based company had attempted to recruit workers from the company’s prestigious Hublot brand of luxury watches, as well as various Swiss parts manufacturers. “Apple has contacted some of my employees — I saw the emails personally,” said Biver. However, he noted that none of the employees who were contacted by Apple had accepted a position with the iPhone maker.

While it’s not clear how Apple would use a traditional watchmaker’s skills to create its rumored iWatch, one luxury watch industry executive speculated that Apple may be trying to mesh traditional watch movements with modern electronics technology. “[I]t is conceivable that they [Apple] would be interested in developing a type of hybrid with some type of mechanical aspects,” Patek Philippe U.S. president Larry Pettinelli told the Financial Times. “[T]he Swiss watch industry is very adept at metallurgy.”

According to the Financial Times’ horology industry contacts, Apple is not the only tech company that has been seeking out talent from Europe’s respected luxury watch brands. Samsung (SSNLF.PK), the Korea-based company that markets various types of smart watches under its Gear product line, has tried to recruit Swiss watchmakers. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which recently announced a partnership with Ray-Ban maker Luxottica to develop its Google Glass wearable tech eyewear product, has also been in contact with luxury watchmakers in Europe.

Nick Hayek, chief executive of watchmaker giant Swatch, says the established horology industry needs to guard its trade secrets from smart watch newcomers from the tech industry. “We have been in discussions — not ever initiated by us — with practically all players in smart wearables up until today,” Hayek told the Financial Times. “However, we see no reason why we should enter into any partnership agreement.”

Although unsubstantiated rumors of an Apple smart watch have been circulating since at least 2012, the rumors have recently been bolstered by several hires that Apple has made from the medical sensor device industry. Many industry watchers have speculated that Apple’s rumored iWatch will include some form of medical sensor technology that could work in tandem with a health and fitness-tracking app. According to insider sources cited by 9to5Mac, the iWatch may provide data for the so-called “Healthbook” app. Meanwhile, multiple analysts have pegged the iWatch release date in 2014. Well-connected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently reiterated his prediction that the iWatch would be launched before the end of this year, reports International Digital Times.

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