Other Examples Of Disruptive Technology Impacts Include Kodak And Swiss Watch Industry


The patterns signalling Kodak's downfall started several decades before its collapse. In 1976 Kodak captured 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in the USA (Stefan Hajkowicz, 2015). The company's revenue peaked at US$ 16 b (1996). However, as the digital era progressed, Kodak's revenues from print film plummeted. The introduction of digital cameras, mobile phones that could capture, store and send images, development of Facebook (whose revenue would come from advertising), etc, was the wave of digitalisation that wiped out Kodak, ie in 2012 Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It had no offloadable valuable assets or technology patents. While Fujifilm, which had witnessed its print film revenue drop by 60% of the total revenue, responded differently.

Swiss watch industry

In the 1500s, watches (neck, pocket, wrist, etc) became important as the Protestant reformers, like John Calvin, banned anything to do with luxury, like jewellery. By banning jewellery, tradesman turned their skills to the watch and its functions, ie telling time. It was deemed a practical necessity rather than a luxury. Since then the wristwatch has expanded its function beyond timing function (chronograph) to chiming function, perpetual calendar, alarm, etc, and more recently the smart watch (a mini-computer).

(source: Bani McSpedden, 2017a)

In the early 20th century Switzerland dominated the world watch industry with high standards of manufacturing quality, cutting-edge technology, unparalleled time accuracy and cost-efficient production processes. The industry was steeped in tradition and focused on mechanical watches. In the early 1960s, a new range of electronic, digital and quartz analogue watches changed the industry. These new watches gave improved time accuracy compared wit mechanical devices. In 1969 Seiko released the first quartz wristwatch (Astron) and it began to dominate the world's watch industry.

Another wave of disruption came with digital watches using LED/LCD technology. This improved the functionality of the digital watches. In 1980 Seiko introduced a digital watch with a tiny inbuilt TV screen which allowed users to watch live broadcasts.

As a result since the 1960s Switzerland has lost its dominance in watchmaking; USA Japan and Hong Kong became the major players in the global market with new devices that improved functionality and time accuracy and lowered the cost to the consumer.

On the other hand, the Swiss watchmakers have revived their industry by using watches as a status symbol to achieve market differentiation.

This is an example of a megatrend, ie advanced technology and mass production followed by a counter trend around timeless quality.

Since 2015 the Swiss wrist watch industry has experienced another disruptor, eg Apple Smart Watch. In around 2 years (by 2016) the Apple watch has become the second most sold watch after Rolex. Exports from Switzerland of mechanical watches have dropped every month since 2015. On the other hand, women wrist watches are becoming more popular (Bani McSpedden, 2017)


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