Luxury mobile phones – a threat to the watch industry?

As reported throught 2009, exports of Swiss luxury watches have continued to fall, the latest figures released by the Swiss Haute Horogerie foundation showing drops of more than 20%. Meanwhile, the luxury phone market continues to grow, with more and more luxury brands launching their own branded mobile phone. Nowadays, mobile phones offer much more than voice phone calls but alsomedia entertainment, internet, email and camera capabilities. Therefore, mobile phone are more oftenly used than any other accessories during our daily routines, whether we are at work or during our past times. Studies have revealed that the diary is one of the most used features of the mobile phone. It is then evident why many of us are checking the phone and not the watch for the exact time.

The current economic crisis is definitely encouraging wealthy consumers to turn to luxury mobile phones rather than luxury watches. These days consumers are looking for value and are also more and more demanding. While satisfying their social status differentiation need, mobile phones also offer wealthy consumers a wide range of facilities in comparison with a watch. Price is another important factor which favours luxury mobile phones when compared with watches. Even if they are made of gold or platinum, mobile phones are cheaper than watches made of the same materials.

However, we have to admit there is one important argument which is in favor of luxury watches when compared to mobile phones are that is the investment aspect. Most of the major luxury watch brands maintain and even increase their value in time, which is not the case for mobile phones.

An unprecedent which seemed unlikely happened earlier this year, when famous Swiss Watches brand TAG HEUER launched the Meridiist mobile phones. It has been a bold move by the Swiss watch maker, thus tapping into a larger market with a larger customer base and at the same time, reinforcing the strength of brand. The Meridiist phone has an exclusive design integrating watch inspired features performs several functions, such as reversible clock, 1/100 of a second chronograph and incoming call identification. A special OLED technology (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) protected by a sapphire crystal glass contributes to this innovating design. This dual display offers the user a new level of refinement in their manner of viewing the time and addressing incoming calls. Prices start at EUR 3.500 (with aligator skin on the back) up to EUR 8.500  with diamonds.

From the fashion spectrum, the CHRISTIAN DIOR mobile phone is not dually branded, without carrying the logo of the manufacturer Modelabs (a French manufacturer). This week Dior has launched a new series of mobile phones ahead of the Christmas season: gold plated and black PVC coated with sapphire crystals with a price tag of $6,500; two models that come encrusted with diamonds, the Zelie in red at $7,900 or the Zenaide in white at $13,400.Then there’s the Christian Dior Nacre that is housed in mother-of-pearl at $8,700.

At the end of this month, DOLCE GABBANA unveils its first mobile phone created by Sony Ericcson (previously Dolce Gabbana developed a mobile phone with Motorola). The new Dolce Gabbana Jalou mobile phone will offer music player, 3,5 MP camera, FM radio, bluetooth. The new DG Jalou also has a BMI and walk-step counter, to make sure your keeping your exercise and weight level exactly where you want them.

British luxury phone company AMOSU launched this summer an all diamond encrusted Blackberry phone. The diamond Blackberry is called Curva and sells for EUR 145.000. Amosu also launched earlier this year a diamond Iphone which sells at EUR 14.000.

The market leader VERTU, a division of NOKIA does not report on its sales yet market sources indicate that sales have remained stable, especially due to the less expensive lines that Vertu keeps developing. Earlier this month, Vertu launched a collection of accessories aimed at customers which cannot afford to buy a phone.

Oliver Petcu