Victorinox, the fabled Swiss company that manufactures the original Swiss Army knife, is planning to become the maker of a smart watch. In an interview with Reuters, Victorinox CEO Carl Elsener revealed that the company will enter the wearable technology space at some point in 2016. Just what the new device will be, though, isn’t clear.
Instead of building something new, Elsener said the company is looking for an "opportunity to expand the functions" of his existing line of timepieces. One thing we can be fairly sure of is that the device’s battery will last a while. Elsener told Reuters that his hardware would "have a long lifespan compared to a mobile phone or a computer."
At this point, it's also unclear what operating system the upcoming device will use. One possible scenario would be for Victorinox to use Google's Android Wear, since it’s a freely available, ready-made smart watch platform. Less likely, though not out of the question, is that Victorinox might develop its own smart watch software.
No matter the OS that will run it, the Victorinox name will mean that people will pay attention to its smart watch. Other luxury watchmakers are already planning to introduce smart watches, including the Tag Heuer brand of France's Moët Hennessy/Louis Vuitton. While most luxury brands have marketed themselves primarily on luxury and complexity, Swiss Army has made its name via a reputation for durable parts within a luxurious but not excessively expensive exterior.
The biggest challenge for the Swiss Army watch will probably be the Apple Watch. Apple's design chief Jony Ive has indicated that he is a fan of Switzerland's minimalist design traditions. As such, the Apple Watch features a flattened icon set and a watch face borrowed from Swiss Railway, to the point that Apple has agreed to pay licensing fees on its design.
Depending on when its smart watch comes out, Victoronix might end up with a bit of an advantage in its own country. Apple is in the midst of a trademark conflict with an obscure watchmaker called Leonard Timepieces, whose logo contains a rendering of an Apple. That means that the Apple Watch will likely stay out of Switzerland until December, when the 30-year-old trademark that Leonard has in the watch business expires. By then there may be a Swiss Army smart watch on the market.
European watchmakers had hoped that Apple would partner with a veteran brand such as Swiss Army or Tag Heuer to help with its more expensive offerings. Instead Apple moved forward with its own brand, releasing a $10,000 gold-body luxury Apple Watch.
Victorinox has long produced various collections of standard mechanical and quartz watches under the Swiss Army brand, ranging from durable diving watches to luxury dress watches. The company also licenses the Swiss Army brand to makers of writing tools, luggage and clothing.