Tech Transformers

LG unveils ‘luxury’ smartwatch in Apple challenge

South Korea's LG has unveiled an "all-metal luxury smartwatch" in an attempt to broaden the appeal of its wearable devices as a fashion item and steal a lead on the hotly-anticipated Apple Watch.

The LG Watch Urbane has a 1.3 inch plastic touchscreen display and runs on Google's Android Wear operating system. The stainless steel body comes in gold and silver with a leather strap.

The South Korean electronics giant has billed the device as a "luxury timepiece" and the "perfect fashion accessory" for men and women.


But with the price yet to be revealed, analysts have been cautious about branding this a luxury product.

"It is a more premium looking device but luxury is a word that should be used with care," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone.

"This is still playing to the mass market so I wouldn't call it luxury yet."

Fashion appeal

The Urbane is the successor to the LG G Watch R which was released last year and underlines the move by smartwatch makers to manufacture more fashionable wearable devices. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, Martian Watches partnered with fashion brand Guess to produce the Guess Connect smartwatch.

"LG is realizing that in order of for smartwatches to be attractive they have to move beyond niche geek wear to something that looks more like a normal watch," Wood added.

Companies are vying for leadership the smartwatch space, a market which is expected to be worth $32.9 billion by 2020, growing at an annual rate of 67.6 percent, according to Allied Market Research. Samsung's Europe president told CNBC in a recent interview that the company was ramping up investment in wearables, highlighting the fierce battle in the market.

The LG Watch Urbane also features a heart rate monitor, a key characteristic of many smartwatches.

Apple Watch challenge?

LG's release comes ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next month where it will show off the Urbane and a number of other devices, but also comes just months before Apple releases its smartwatch in April.

Analysts said the Urbane is LG's attempt to move from the mid-range market – where it is traditionally strong – to the more premium range in a bid to capture users who might by the Apple Watch or normal wrist watches.

"It looks like it will be targeting the Apple watch but also the traditional wrist watch makers like Swatch," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, told CNBC by phone.