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Low-Cost Brands Still Dominate Smartwatch Market

Benjamin Rains

Tag Heuer introduced on Tuesday its new Connected Modular 45 smartwatch. The $1,650 technology-packed watch is the second luxury wearable the Swiss watchmaker has developed. But does it live up to the lofty price tag? More importantly, does it signal a shift in the wearable and smartwatch market as a whole?

Tag Heuer introduced its first luxury Android-powered smartwatch with an Intel Corporation INTC designed processor in 2015. The $1,500 smartwatch featured an accelerometer, 4Gs of storage, WI-FI, and other features. CNET reviewed the watch in 2015 and claimed users were simply paying for the brand name. Still, the expensive wearable had a large enough market to warrant an upgrade two years later.

Apple Inc. AAPL introduced in 2015 its luxury-priced Apple Watch Edition that started at $10,000. The price tag for the 18-karat gold or rose gold smartwatch went up to $17,000 depending on the size.

Although luxury brands like Tag Heuer have entered into the smartwatch sector, they make up only a fraction of the market. Apple no longer sells its high priced gold Apple Watch.

Low-Cost Brands Still Dominate

As of the first quarter 2016, the largest publicly traded wearable makers by market share were: Fitbit, Inc. FIT at 24.5%, Apple at 7.5%, and Garmin Ltd. GRMN at 4.6%.

Fitbit, one of the first big wearable brands, acquired smartwatch maker Pebble in Nov. 2016. In Jan. 2017, Fitbit acquired “affordable luxury” smartwatch startup Vector. The acquisition did not signal Fitbit was set to journey into the luxury smartwatch sector. Fitbit bought Vector for its software platform and design team.

Fitbit’s fourth quarter 2016 revenue was down 20% year-over-year. The company nearly doubled its sales during the same period in 2015. Since going public in 2015, Fitbit’s stock has lost 75% of its value. Fitbit’s stock went down 1.77% Tuesday to $5.54 per share and is currently a Zacks Rank #5 (STRONG SELL).

Mid-level watchmaker Fossil Group, Inc. FOSL also introduced its first smartwatch in 2015. Today, its Gen 2 Smartwatch Q retails for $295. Fossil’s stock has plummeted from $110 per share in Dec. 2014 to its current price of $16.51 per share. Fossil is currently a Zacks Rank #5 (STRONG SELL).

According to the research firm Canalys, Apple sold 6 million Apple Watch units, which are priced from $269 to $1,049, during the fourth quarter of 2016. The strong quarter marked a 12% increase year-over-year.

In a press release, Fitbit announced it expects to report 6.5 million devices sold during the fourth quarter of 2016. Fitbit sells simple fitness wearables that start at $59.95. The company’s new smartwatches cost $249.95.

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