TAG Heuer Teams Up with Google and Intel to Make Smartwatch
Baselworld 2015 is just getting started but already we’ve already heard what’s likely to be the biggest news of the week—TAG Heuer is partnering with Google and Intel to create the first smartwatch from a traditional watchmaker.
The collaboration between the Swiss maker of luxury watches and the two American tech giants was announced on Thursday at the annual watch expo with LVMH chief Jean-Claude Biver hailing the news as his “biggest announcement ever.” Given Biver’s four decades in the watch industry this could be passed of as hyperbole if there was not so much at stake.
Back in the 70s, the Swiss watch industry was caught off guard by the wave of quartz watches coming out of Japan and they don’t want to have something like that happen again. The smartwatch market is still in its early stages so savvy luxury watchmakers are getting in on the ground floor rather than being left behind again.
The roles of the partners are clearly defined with TAG Heuer set to cover design and manufacture, Intel providing an SoC platform and Google developing software as well as lending its Android Wear platform. The resulting product is scheduled to be in stores by the end of the year—just in time for holiday shopping, no doubt.
On hand to represent Google was head of Android Wear development David Singleton, who made it clear that the coming smartwatch would not be just another geeky fitness band. “When I think about the watch, it’s always been a marriage of beauty and utility,” he said. “We’re going to do that with our partnership.”
Unlike some of the more conservative Swiss brands, TAG Heuer has not been averse to hooking up with tech companies to produce new products. The brand has already produced a mobile phone called the Meridiist back in 2008 and provided the 2013 Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup with electronic watches that incorporated sailing-specific functions. There have been rumors for months that TAG Heuer would be introducing a smartwatch in the very near future.
While other traditional Swiss watchmakers like Breitling, Montblanc and Swatch have dabbled with adding smartwatch functions to their products, Biver hints that he has much bigger plans for TAG Heuer’s new wearable. As part of the announcement he boasted that the brand’s smartwatch would be the “greatest connected watch.”
This is obviously a dig at the Apple Watch that will go on sale in April and is projected to dominate the emerging smartwatch market for the next several years. In an interview with the BBC, Biver admitted that competition from tech companies like Apple could siphon off buyers from a segment of the Swiss watch industry.
“I think a watch that is between $300 up to $1,000—there the customer might hesitate,” he said. “[They’ll say] do I buy a $700 watch that gives me hours, minutes, seconds and date or do I buy a watch that also gives me all the rest?
“The younger generation might choose to have all the rest, so the normal watches in that price category might suffer.
“But as soon as you go above $5,000 they can’t be compared.”
What Biver did not mention is that with a TAG Heuer smartwatch, the buyer could have it all. Still to be revealed are pricing and when we can expect the new device to make its debut.