There's a new and seemingly unlikely player diving into the fitness tracker and smartwatch markets today. Michael Kors (CPRI 1.94%) -- the company behind the high-priced designer handbags -- introduced Michael Kors Access this morning. The new line of wearable technology is anchored by a $350 smartwatch, complete with its own cheery TV spot, and a $95 fitness tracker.
The products and, perhaps more importantly, the price points make it clear that Michael Kors is gunning for Apple (AAPL 1.41%) when it comes to the smartwatch, and Fitbit (FIT) in the realm of fitness-monitoring bands. If you're going to dream big, you may as well aim for the top dog in each respective category.
You have to admire Michael Kors for its moxie, but it doesn't seem as if Apple or Fitbit will be losing any sleep over the arrival of Michael Kors on their turf anytime soon. If consumer tech giants have stumbled in taking on Apple Watch and Fitbit's growing product line, why should a company best known for $300 satchels and leather feed bags make them jittery?
Timing is everything when it comes to watches
It's not a coincidence that Kors is launching an Apple-esque ad campaign for its $350 smartwatch today. Apple's iPhone 7 event is tomorrow, and there's a good chance that it updates its smartwatch line at that time. It would be hard for Michael Kors to stand out if it announced a few days later, and it's also quite possible that some of the new Apple Watch features may undercut the specs at Michael Kors.
Then again, it's not as if Michael Kors is trying to outrun Apple or Fitbit when it comes to specifications. The Michael Kors Access Crosby fitness tracker is unique in that it doesn't use chargers -- it runs on a coin cell battery that lasts as long as four months -- but it doesn't do anything that comparably priced Fitbit devices do. It actually does less. The same can be said about the new smartwatch.
However, if you see the minimalist nature of the Michael Kors fitness band or the stylish nature of the smartwatch and its digital faces, you realize that Michael Kors is aiming for design points here. The new products are no different than the fashion accessories that the company's been selling for years, only this time there's high-tech integration with your smartphone.
Michael Kors' Access smartwatch may not be as richly featured as the Apple Watch or perhaps even the Fitbit Blaze at a little more than half the price, but it's going to woo the same people that come to the fashion brand stores willing to pay a premium for handbags and accessories that look fashionable.
This is where Michael Kors will be dangerous. Someone who buys a $350 smartwatch from the handbag designer isn't going to buy an Apple Watch or even a Fitbit (the Michael Kors smartwatch offers built-in tracking). It won't make a dent in either Apple or Fitbit, but it will make a few smaller dings. That may not be something to worry about, but it's something that clearly bears watching.