It’s been barely a week since Jean-Claude Biver took over as CEO of TAG Heuer following the departure of Stephane Linder but the new chief exec already has big plans for shaking up the legendary Swiss brand. It was just a few months ago that Biver was dissing and dismissing Apple’s first smartwatch but now he’s changed his tune and admits that there will be a wearable device in TAG Heuer’s future.
Smartwatches have been around for the last couple of years but most of them are glorified fitness bands that just track the wearer’s efforts at exercise and diet. They are growing more sophisticated and maturing into something akin to wrist-sized smartphones but the real game changer was the introduction of the Apple Watch in the fall. This device still needs to interact with a smartphone but the expanded menu of features, as well as the $350 and up price tag, has influenced the makers of fine Swiss timepieces to sit up and take notice of the first real advance in the field since the introduction of quartz watches several decades back.
Biver has previously stated that he wanted TAG Heuer to fine tune its core business of making watches and discard other products like phones and accessories but it’s looking like a smartwatch just might be part of that core business.
The subject came up when Biver was talking to the press on Tuesday. He acknowledged that there were plans to develop a TAG Heuer wearable device but added this explanation: “We will only make smartwatches if we are the best, different and unique.” He refused to elaborate but did add that the brand would be dividing its research and development department so that one branch could concentrate on the technical innovation necessary to create such a product.
TAG Heuer VP Guy Semon, former head of research and development for the brand, refused to speculate on whether the company might partner up with a tech giant like Intel or Google to develop a smartwatch, saying only “We’re casting a wide net and looking at very big companies.”
There is one major dilemma that the makers of fine Swiss timepieces will face when trying to develop their own versions of the smartwatch: How much smart and how much watch? While a quality watch is timeless, technology moves so swiftly that the smartphone or tablet that’s the latest thing right now will be totally outdated in a couple of years.
The challenge will lie in creating a timepiece that does more than just tell time but retains the quality and workmanship of a TAG Heuer watch. As Biver commented a few months ago following the introduction of the Apple Watch, “Luxury is eternal, it is perennial. It is not something that becomes worthless after five years.”