(Apple is a holding in Jim Cramer's charitable trust, Action Alerts PLUS).
UBS said that its March 2016 survey to 6,336 smartphone users in the U.S., U.K., Germany, mainland China and Japan found that the proportion of users that said they are unlikely to buy an Apple Watch in the next 12 months had dropped to 57% from 62% six months earlier. The survey also showed that China is the region with the highest purchase intention for both the Apple Watch and smart watches in general.
The report by UBS also suggested that the Apple Watch poses the greatest threat to the quartz part of the Swiss watch industry, which represents the cheaper end of the market as opposed to the dearer mechanical watches. The bank estimates that in the year through September 2016, Apple will ship about 19 million units of Apple Watch, which accounts for about 25% of the global quartz watch market.
In 2015, quartz watches represented 72% of the Swiss watch market in terms of volume and nearly 20% of the market in terms of value, according to The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
The UBS survey "suggests 43% of consumers will use the Apple Watch to replace a traditional watch," adding that about 10% of the traditional global quartz watch market will be replaced by the Apple Watch.
The report comes as the Swiss luxury watch industry already faces weakening momentum caused both by internal and industry-wide factors. Earlier this month, Geneva-based Richemont (CFRUY) said it expects operating profit for the six months to September 30 to drop 45% year on year due to restructuring charges and buying back product inventories.
Meanwhile, the value of Swiss watch exports dropped 8.8% in August, according to The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. The industry group highlighted a steep decline for exports to Hong Kong and Germany, a poor performance for those to the U.S., and a sudden drop in demand from Japan.
The Apple Watch comes in three models and price ranges - the Apple Watch Sport, priced between $349 and $399, the Apple Watch priced between $549 and $1,049, and the more expensive Apple Watch Edition. It has also collaborated with Hermés (HESAY) on a watch worth ranging between $1,100 and $1,500.
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UBS said that the Apple Watch's threat will fall more on Biel-based Swatch than its domestic rival Richemont, as the prices of watches sold by the latter is Sfr3,000 ($3,098) or above. The low to mid-range brands made by Swatch, such as Tissot and some Longines lines will face competition, the bank analyzed.
The Geneva-based on Richemont makes Cartier, Baume & Mercier and Piaget watches, among others.
"We note that phones have in many cases already largely replaced the function of telling the time," said UBS. "Therefore in our view key for Apple - notably with the Chinese consumer - is if the watch can become a status symbol, particularly at the entry/mid-price point."
The Apple Watch was initially released in April 2015. The Apple Watch Series 2 was released earlier this month.
Apple does not break down the sales volume or value of the Apple Watch in its filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission.