Opinion

Samsung’s Gear S2 transcends the luxury watch; here’s why

The Gear S2 is a popular smartwatch, as Best Buy and Amazon sales show us for Q4 2015, and the Korean giant behind “the next big thing” in the smartwatch market is thrilled. At CES 2016, Samsung pushed forward with the smartwatch that’s got everyone talking about the future of smartwatches, with 18K Rose Gold and Platinum Gear S2 models on their way in February.

With all the “bling” of the new smartwatches, though, an old question rises to the surface: Is the Gear S2 a luxury watch? Some believe it to be a luxury watch, while some of my fellow tech enthusiasts think that the Gear S2, whatever great heights it reaches, will never be a luxury watch. The reason behind the critical mindset is simple: luxury watches have a brand name, like “Rolex” or “TAG Heuer” and last longer than smartwatches will last. This doesn’t even take into account the price of those watches, which range in the $5000-$10000 and up price point. These same individuals don’t see smartwatches ever coming close to what luxury watches are. Even if TAG Heuer does have a Connected Carrera Android Wear smartwatch, it will never reach the fame that TAG Heuer’s luxury watches have reached. Its $1500 price point, a bit budget-friendly for TAG Heuer, doesn’t help the matter, some say.

The traditional view (that luxury watches are better) is understandable, though controversial, and Samsung has its own answer. Many have, in the last four months since the Korean giant’s Gear S2 announcement, stated that the Gear S2 is aiming to be a luxury watch. Many watched Samsung’s recent CES 2016 announcement regarding the Rose Gold and Platinum Gear S2 models and assume that Samsung is aiming to create a luxury watch: “the new build materials and bling say it all,” according to some. And yet, Samsung never said its Gear S2 was a luxury smartwatch. Here’s Samsung’s statement from Younghee Lee on the luxury watch/smartwatch debate from the company’s September 2015 Gear S2 announcement:

The Samsung philosophy is to push forward, embracing new adventures and exploring the farthest frontiers of technology. Two years ago, we introduced the first Gear and we wanted to create a new wearable movement. We learned a lot along the way. From the start, we’ve known that our goal wasn’t to replicate a luxury watch. We wanted to transcend that idea and bring you an advanced, smart wearable device that becomes a meaningful part of your life. (Younghee Lee, Samsung Gear S2 Showcase: Keynote, 1:34-2:20)

In other words, Samsung’s take on the luxury watch vs. smartwatch debate is that the luxury watch isn’t as grand as some assert, that the Gear S2 (and the smartwatch in general) “transcends the idea” of the luxury watch and is better.

Some could say that Samsung is only saying this to sell the Gear S2, but I happen to agree with the Korean giant. When I go out and meet friends who have luxury, “dumb” watches with $5,000+ price tags and can only look at their watch and tell time, I don’t feel threatened by their luxury watches – but my Gear S2 should threaten their luxury watches. After all, I have notifications, emails, calls, texts, and an array of capabilities I have with my circular smartwatch that their “luxury” watch will never have. And the best part is that I didn’t spend $15,000 and $20,000 to get that state-of-the-art tech feel that will become the trending wave of the future. Nope; for a fraction of the price, I’m already miles ahead of the luxury watch crowd.

Somewhere along the way, someone decided that smartwatches such as the Gear S2 are the “new kid on the block” that can’t hang with the “Big Boy” luxury watches. The only problem with this claim is that luxury watch advocates have yet to prove to me or anyone else why their luxury watches are better. The Gear S2 is to the luxury watch what the smart car is to the BMW, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz brands: the smart car is so advanced it doesn’t even need a brand to outperform the luxury, normal vehicles – but the brand name only adds to its distinctiveness. Normal is just normal, no matter if it has “luxury” in front of it or not. Ultimately, good looks aren’t everything and if that’s what luxury watches excel at, I pity the future of luxury watches.

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