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Apple Watch to rival Swiss market in 1st year?

Analyst raises Apple price target

Timepiece snobs, get ready to scoff.

A bullish report from JPMorgan projects that Apple will ship 26 million Apple Watches in 2015, just short of the 28.2 million watches exported from Switzerland globally last year.

The firm makes the comparison because it believes customers who bought Swiss watches priced below 500 francs ($538) are a good gauge of the demographics of the would-be Apple Watch user.

"We believe that sub-$500 watches are likely to be the main target category for Apple even though the company is likely to also offer luxury priced models in our opinion," wrote the analyst Rod Hall in a note Wednesday to clients. "Though we do not believe that Swiss makers represent all of the addressable market for Apple Watch we do believe they represent a significant proportion of the addressable market."

A window display of the Apple watch.
Loic Venance | AFP | Getty Images

Due in March, sales of the smartwatch will result in a 2.4 percent addition to the company's 2015 earnings per share, and as sales ramp up, an increase of 10 percent to 2016 earnings, according to Hall.

This forecast caused the analyst to raise his price target to $145 from $140, representing a 19 percent return from Tuesday's closing price.

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The Apple Watch will be compatible with any iPhone 5 or later device, which JPMorgan puts at 525 million units by December. Assuming 5 percent Watch penetration of that market alone gets the firm to that 26 million figure.

Meeting that sales goal will give Apple control of 2.2 percent of the global watch market and 23 percent of the industry's revenue pie in just nine months, according to the report. Swiss watches make up 3 percent of the global watch market, but take in 50 percent of the revenue because of higher-priced items.

The Sport model of the Apple Watch will have a base price of $349.

The analyst is not claiming that the Watch will convert most of those who love their fine Swiss timepieces, but some of these users will switch or maybe have two watches.

He is primarily using the Swiss comparison to establish numbers on a target market. Hall sees Watch sales primarily coming from iPhone users who don't own a smartwatch but want to try the new device.

"We again emphasize that Apple needs to blaze a new product category trail at a fairly good clip in order to hit our central case. We believe this is achievable but only with a product that impresses consumers out of the starting gates."

To be sure, not all analysts are as optimistic about the Apple Watch. Mizuho Securities downgraded Apple's stock last month, blaming what it sees as a poor debut.

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Mizuho claims to have data from Apple itself that show the company expects to ship less than the "15 to 25 million" units expected by Wall Street.

The smartwatch category itself is a bit shaky too. A study released this week from JAMA showed wearable devices did not do any better than smartphone apps in raising exercise activity and the overall health of the wearer, a key selling point for the watches.

Still, it's hard at this point to bet against Apple. The company became the first ever with a market value above $700 billion this week. The shares are up 61 percent over the last 12 months.