Fads, trends and the Apple Watch

One of the biggest challenges in product design is identifying long term consumer trends rather than short lived fads. Apple are good at trend spotting and the new Apple Watch is considered a risk by many. What can sales of jeans and smart phones tells us about the success of the watch?

Trends are ongoing patterns of behaviour that will continue in a predictable manner. Fads are bubbles of behaviour that will disappear within time.

One of the biggest challenges in product design is differentiating a fad from a trend.

How spot the trend from the fads

The sale of jeans is rising and has been since the late 1980s. Here’s a very basic (and I’m mean basic) graph showing the increase.

jeans trends 2

This is a trend.

Currently skinny jeans are it. This is a fad. We fully expect sales of skinny jeans to go down.


If we add different fads of jeans it gives our jeans trend a bit more colour. Now it’s easy to see the fads from the trend. Jeans sales are on the up a constant rate and are the trend. Types of jean style are fads and appear and disappear over time. A smart business wouldn’t go all in on one type of jean, they’d read the fads and get business growth through the trend.

Let’s look at the same thing for smartphones, here’s an approximation of the global sales data for smartphones.


Smartphone purchase is a trend thats on the up. It will peak but not for a while yet.

fads of phones

Within that fad we have the early dominance and subsequent fall of Nokia, Microsoft and Blackberry, the rise of iOS and size of Android. They are all fads within a larger trend. Apple waited until there was a clear trend before entering the market. So to the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch.

I went looking for watch sales data and rather than focus on the trend of regular watch sales where numbers are hard to come by I focused on the luxury market. Think Rolex and Rotary rather than Casio and Seiko.

I found some great numbers from the Federation of the Swiss watch industry. Swiss watches are at the more expensive end of the market and the federation has some stats on the overall global sales of high end watches.

The market is worth $20+ Billion dollars.

Apple Watch sales

There is a trend albeit a small one that luxury watch sales are growing. Based on these numbers I’d say Apple are on to a winner. This is another billion dollar market.

My data is amalgamation of the various sources above.

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