Relentless Core Rejuvenation: Apple Watch

This week, I’ve had fun trying out my new Apple Watch Series 9, a birthday present from Mrs Taylor. It replaced the Series 1 watch bought at launch, back in 2015. In particular, I’ve been using the Watch at the gym to track workouts and control music on my iPhone. One cool new feature grabbed my attention. The background colour of the song playing changes to mirror the image of the record cover (see below). This is a minor feature and maybe one most non-Appleaholics won’t notice. But it got me thinking about the success of the Apple Watch.

Winding back (!) to the Apple Watch launch in 2015, many doomsayers offered negative predictions. Initial sales were below Wall Street’s expectations. “The Watch has failed to disrupt the larger wearable marketplace … and become the status quo object. And for Apple, that’s a flop,” wrote Mark Wilson in Fast Company (1). After buying an Apple Watch, my own initial reactions were mixed, as I posted on here. It took time to get used to the product and it was a bit fiddly at first. 

However, looking at sales in absolute not relative terms, I did believe the Watch would be a winner. I predicted year one sales of 5-7 million units, not far off actual sales of c.8.3million. By two years after launch Apple was selling more watches than the entire Swiss watch industry according to a Harvard analysis (2). In 2022 sales broke 50 million units (3) (see below), equating to c.$25billion (using an average $500 selling price). And Apple has a leading 36% share of the global smartwatch market (4). Value share is even bigger at 60% (5). So much for failing to disrupt the wearables marketplace!

So, how has Apple managed to drive such consistent growth of the Apple Watch? Below I share some ideas on how they have done this by relentlessly rejuvenated the core product.

1. Consistency in Design and Features

One key aspect of the Apple Watch’s success is its consistent design ethos. The brand is literally “baked in” to the product to drive distinctiveness. Apple has meticulously maintained certain core features, such as the watch’s distinctive shape, the customizable straps, and the variety of watch faces that cater to different tastes and needs. This consistency in design has established a strong visual identity for the product that helps it stand out from the crowd. The watch is now instantly recognisable on a wearer’s wrist.

2. Adding freshness

Despite building and amplifying the distinctive brand assets in the product design, Apple has relentlessly rejuvenated the Watch to create a stream of new news. The introduction of waterproof capabilities and a larger, more readable watch face significantly enhanced functionality and ease of use. New health and safety features such as heart rate monitoring and fall detection make the watch not just a tech gadget but a potentially life-saving device. The new Watch can be controlled by tapping your finger and thumb together.

Image from BobbyTS

3.Core range extension

Core range extension has been pivotal to drive penetration and reach a wider audience. The introduction of the more affordable SE Series made the technology accessible to a broader market. Collaboration with luxury brand Hermes catered to the high-end segment, with a watch retailing at over £1,200. The recent addition of the rugged, sports-oriented Ultra 2 Series has further expanded appeal by targeting new occasions, such as climbing and diving.

4. Integration within the Apple Ecosystem

A significant factor in the Apple Watch’s success is seamless integration with the broader Apple ecosystem of apps and products, as I first posted on back in 2016 here. Features like iTunes, Apple ID, and Apple Pay enhance the utility of the watch, making it a much more versatile accessory. The effortless connectivity with other Apple products, especially the iPhone, ensures a cohesive user experience, reinforcing loyalty and satisfaction.

In conclusion, the success of the Apple Watch shows how relentless rejuvenation of the core can drive sustained, profitable growth for your brand and business. And its not to late to add one to your Christmas wish list …!

1. Fortune doomsayer

2. Swiss watch market

3.Unit sales

4.Global smartwatch share

5.Value share