If you’ve always dreamed of heading up your own watch company, there’s now a vacancy at the top of one legendary brand. It’s no major secret that Jean-Claude Biver has been making some big changes since taking over as CEO of the watch division for French luxury group LVMH back in March but now he’ll be doubling as CEO of TAG Heuer after the departure of the brand’s chief executive Stephane Linder.
The news was announced with the standard press statement: “Stephane Linder has decided today to resign from his role of President & CEO of TAG Heuer to pursue other professional endeavors.”
Linder had held the position since June 2013, a period of time during which TAG Heuer had been plagued by problems. TAG Heuer was forced to downsize in October, letting 46 Swiss employees go, placing 49 more on temporary unemployment and suspending the launch of a new watch called the CH 80. It hasn’t helped that the demand for luxury Swiss watches has weakened in the crucial Asian markets due to pro-democracy protests.
Linder took over the job of CEO at TAG Heuer after the departure of his predecessor Jean-Christophe Babin to another LVMH brand, Bulgari. Soon Linder inherited an already-planned project, TAG Heuer’s second caliber called the CH 80. This watch was to be part of the Carrera Collection and sell for 6,000 to 8,000 Swiss francs.
This product proved to be haunted by the troubles of the first watch that TAG Heuer produced in-house, the Caliber 1887. It seems that TAG Heuer failed to disclose that the design of the Caliber 1887 was based on the Seiko Caliber TC78, a property that it had purchased in 2006. TAG Heuer’s oversight caused the brand to get quite a bit of negative press, which certainly did not help the later launch of the Caliber CH 80.
No CEO enjoys being micromanaged by the guy above him and since his arrival at LVMH, Biver has been doing major restructuring of TAG Heuer. Biver made a decision to stop the production of the very expensive horlogerie pieces like the Mikrogirder. This leaves the creator of the timepiece Guy Semon still employed by TAG Heuer but with an uncertain future. Semon is expected to be next to join Linder in exiting the brand.
Another change instituted by Biver is the elimination of TAG Heuer’s production of lifestyle items like designer eyeglasses, leather goods and smartphones to concentrate solely on watches.
In a recent interview, Biver made his strategy pretty obvious. He intends to position the three top LVMH watch brands into tight niches with TAG Heuer occupying the lower price range of 1,500 to 3,000 Swiss francs. Higher up the scale will be Zenith with Biver’s personal favorite Hublot taking the top spot. Not expected to affected are the multi-product brands Louis Vuiton and Bulgari.
Until another CEO is named for TAG Heuer, Biver will be assuming the role. Given the unfortunately short and troubled reign of Linder, maybe the next person to take the job should be handpicked by Biver to follow his lead and carry out his strategies.