Much before connected watches were on anyone’s mind Tissot launched the world’s first multifunction tactile watch in history, the T-Touch in 1999. The new T-Touch Connect Solar is the latest iteration of the pioneering timepiece. MW spoke to the company CEO Sylvain Dolla about the new watch and doing business during the pandemic.
T-Touch has been around for a long time, much before the idea of the modern smart watch was born. What can you tell us about its evolution over the years?
The Tissot T-Touch, launched in 1999, was a real breakthrough as it was the first ever touch screen watch. It adapted a fledgling technology, touch control, to wristwatch format. It broke the ergonomic boundaries set by multifunction watches. Tissot has put its decades of experience to good use when it comes to the long-awaited T-Touch Connect Solar. Evolved from a long line of tactile watches, namely the successive generations of T-Touch since 1999, as a connected watch the Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar is ahead of its time, just like 2004’s High-T, created in association with Microsoft. Today, Tissot launched an evolution of its T-Touch Expert Solar by adding some connected functions to the ones already in the T-Touch Expert. As a Swiss‑Made timepiece, it is connected, securely private, interactive, autonomous, contemporary and long-lasting.
Tissot has created an operating system especially for the T-Touch Connect Solar: the SwALPS, Swiss Autonomous Low Power System. Thanks to the dial made of solar cells, the watch can be used on the “connected” mode up to 6 months as it works with the solar energy.
What makes the new T-Touch different from the many connected watches that have been launched by other high-end watch makers?
There are three major points regarding the T-Touch Connect Solar that differs it from other smartwatches : First, the T-Touch Connect Solar is first and foremost a watch. When you look at it, you see a watch with hands and behind you see a screen that shows notifications. What Tissot wanted with this watch was to give the customer the possibility to use the entire T-Touch Expert Solar functions even on the non-connected mode.
The second is the autonomy of the watch. As the dial is made of solar cells, the watch is autonomous up to six months, which is very interesting for anyone; you do not need to worry about charging your watch every day. The watch is light years ahead of existing smartwatches, which require long, frequent and stationary charging.
Finally, the SwALPS operating system developed by the brand in collaboration with other SwatchGroup entities allows the brand to be independent. Being independent also means having a control on the data and thus guarantee a privacy to the customers. This watch does not aim at collecting personal data to resale them. Our operating system is also compatible with the three main phones operating systems: iOS, Android and Harmony.
Besides the solar battery, what according to you are the stand-out features of this watch?
Other than solar battery feature and standard T-Touch Expert Solar mode functions such as a perpetual calendar, countdown, various timekeeping functions, alarms, meteo and altimeter functions there is an activity tracker that allows you to see the calories you burnt during the day and the steps you did. In the `connected’ mode, the T-Touch Connect Solar has even more functions associated with the smartphone’s built-in mobile app. For example, the T-Touch Connect Solar displays all desired notifications: calls, texts, e-mails and equivalents sent by other apps.
The world of connected watches has turned out to be an intense battle between traditional watch makers and tech companies that have taken to making watches in the last decades. How are the traditional watch makers coping?
Tissot has not been impacted by smartwatches and the brand always had the aim of doing traditional swiss watches. There is no battle of comparisons between traditional watchmakers and tech companies, products are not the same. On the contrary, people who buy smartwatches get familiar with wearing something on their wrist and then look at traditional watches in which Tissot is very well implemented since its beginning.
We think that people know the difference between having a traditional Swiss made watch instead of a smartwatch that take health measurements. For an emotional moment such as graduation or for a wedding, younger generation want beautiful and traditional watch. They will not buy or offer a commodity or a consumer electronic product. For key life moment they value longevity of a fine Swiss watch. We always see a pick in sales during graduation and wedding months (May-June)
This watch has been launched at a time when the watch industry has been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. How is Tissot working around it?
No doubt pandemic has stumped watch industry globally but that has not derailed Tissot. Tissot is going well today and the launch of the T-Touch Connect Solar allows the brand to prove its claim Innovators by Tradition.
How do you think the pandemic would change the watch industry in the long run?
I think that the pandemic will change the way of communication. Brands will reinforce their presence on digital platforms and e-commerce. At Tissot, we have been one of the first Brand in the industry to invest on our e-commerce platforms 5 years ago. This crisis is just boosting our e-commerce platforms and combines support to our retailer partners via for example the click and collect to drive qualitative traffic in their Brick and Mortar stores.