From the subdued, elegant Apple Hermès with a rectangular case to the glittery round-dial Michael Kors and the sporty, connected Tag Heuer worn by the tennis star Naomi Osaka, one would think that women have plenty of choices when it comes to digital watches. But Garmin, the technology behemoth, saw an opening.
In January, Garmin introduced Lily, a smart-looking smartwatch. It unites what Garmin is known for — performance-tracking devices — with something the company had never previously attempted: a traditional, minimalist jewelry timepiece.
In a video call, Kirsten Erikson, product marketing manager at Garmin, said: “We found a gap in the market, primarily among women, noticing that some could not yet settle on a smartwatch as they found them to be too large, too sporty or too techy-looking.” Alongside a team of women, Ms. Erikson orchestrated the production of a “fashionable-looking watch for small wrists” — a new smartwatch “for women by women,” as the company promotes it.
After assembling hundreds of images of classic jewelry watches, the team started with a round case measuring 34 millimeters in diameter — considerably smaller than current smart models with dials exceeding 40 millimeters in diameter. That choice presented challenges: making tracking features available on a small scale and fitting in a battery that lasts five days pushed the technical boundaries.
Unlike digital dials that turn black when not in use, Lily displays a selection of patterns that echo the monograms of fashion houses and the guilloche dials of analog timepieces.
A touch of the screen activates a step counter and calorie tracker, along with tracking applications for exercises like yoga, Pilates and mindful breathing. But what sets Lily apart are unexpected female-focused features such as the monitoring of menstrual cycles and pregnancy.
Some may raise an eyebrow at a watch that bucks the current trend toward gender-neutral design, but the commercial figures show that Garmin correctly identified this niche. Although the company does not release sales figures, it stated that well over 50 percent of Lily customers are new to Garmin. The marketing strategy to promote Lily has also helped to increase the company’s overall female client base: Women buy more than half of the generic wellness watches Garmin sells.
Sarah Willersdorf, Boston Consulting Group’s global head of luxury, is not surprised. In an email, she wrote that she believed the pandemic had accentuated a focus on health and wellness. According to Boston Group, women’s health is a large and growing market that is expected to accrue over $45 billion worldwide by 2026 — three times its size today.
“This growth is driven by many factors including much more openness in discussing female health — such as fertility, menstruation and menopause — and creativity in the area with a number of companies innovating with everything from tracking apps to supplements and wearables like the Garmin watch,” Ms. Willersdorf wrote.
Attracting women has recently been the focus of several established luxury houses in the analog arena, including Zenith and Breitling. Garmin’s move signals that the booming market for wearable devices, with approximately $73 billion by 2022, can find additional leverage among women.
The $199 Lily (Garmins can run to over $400) comes with silicone straps for a sportier look, in subdued neutrals and pastel colors. More traditional leather straps (for no additional fee) are available in gray, black and white.
On the Garmin Instagram account, a woman with the username @mum_on_the_run_3 commented, “It’s perfect for when you don’t want to give up your tracker but want something more elegant for a night out or special occasion.”
She might agree with Ms. Erikson’s sentiment: “With Lily, we have created the watch women did not know they needed.”