Last week, Apple finally introduced a smartwatch, the first from the tech giant, and the device is expected to give the makers of luxury timepieces some competition. One Swiss brand already has plans to launch their own smartwatch and hopes to beat Apple at its own game.
The Apple Watch was announced less than a week ago, but the head of TAG Heuer already has ideas about launching a rival timepiece. Jean-Claude Biver told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag that the “brand want[s] to launch a smartwatch … but it must not copy the Apple Watch.” Biver added, “We cannot afford to just follow in somebody else’s footsteps.”
Biver also criticized the design of the Apple Watch. “It looks a little cold, and lacks, for my taste, a bit of personality. It looks perfect, but perfection sometimes has a lack of sexiness.” The head of TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith had more critiques for the new device, saying “some fundamental mistakes” had been made in the design of the smartwatch. “This watch has no sex appeal. It’s too feminine and looks too much like the smartwatches already on the market.” In his most cutting remark, Biver said, “It looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester.”
When can consumers expect to see the TAG Heuer smartwatch? According to Biver, they should be ready for next spring’s Basel watch fair. The brand has a bit of experience with mobile devices since TAG Heuer also makes the Meridiist, a luxury smartphone, and last year produced a one-off smartwatch exclusively for members of the Oracle sailing team.
While a smartwatch with TAG Heuer Swiss styling and craftsmanship sounds like a sure winner, there are obvious questions about how such a timepiece would be designed. The current wearable devices work in conjunction with a smartphone. Would a TAG Heuer smartwatch be compatible with one type of phone, like the Meridiist, or more popular models like those from Samsung and LG? A luxury Swiss watch is an investment meant to last for years, a treasure that can be passed down from generation to generation, while most smartphone users upgrade every couple of years, if not sooner. Will buyers be willing to invest large sums in a device that’s likely to be obsolete very shortly? Many buyers of fine watches are world travelers. Will the TAG Heuer smartwatch operate all over the globe?
TAG Heuer is not the only watchmaker to make a move into the smartwatch field since a partnership between Intel and Fossil was announced last week. On the other hand, there has been criticism of the smartwatch genre in general and the Apple Watch in particular from some makers and sellers of luxury watches.
Franz Tuerler owns a luxury watch store on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse, so he’s quite the expert on fine Swiss watches. Tuerler isn’t worried about the effect of the new smartwatches on his business. “I think the Apple Watch will be successful. But it’s not competition for the classic Swiss watch industry.”
We will find out if he’s right when the Apple Watch hits stores in early 2015.