TAG Heuer plans smartwatch as honcho Jean-Claude Biver changes mind as Apple Watch looms

“TAG Heuer is pushing ahead with plans for a smartwatch to more directly compete with the likes of the Apple Watch and may make acquisitions to help drive the strategy, its head said on Tuesday,” Silke Koltrowitz reports for Reuters. “Swiss watch makers like TAG Heuer, the biggest brand in luxury goods group LVMH’s watch portfolio, had until recently largely dismissed the threat of ‘smart’ gadgets, but LVMH watch chief Jean-Claude Biver says he had changed his mind on the subject.”

Koltrowitz reports, “‘We started on the project about four months ago. We have done several partnerships and might also do acquisitions,’ Biver, head of LVMH watches and TAG Heuer interim chief executive, told journalists at the brand’s headquarters at La Chaux-de-Fonds in western Switzerland.”

MacDailyNews Take: “About four months” or, since we’re talking timekeeping, to be precise: 3 months and 7 days ago.

“Biver said TAG Heuer, which promotes its upmarket sporty image with models such as the Carrera which it describes as inspired by motor racing, would make an announcement once it had a good product to present, or late 2015 at the earliest,” Koltrowitz reports. “‘We’ll only do it if we can be first, different and unique,’ he said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We love it when panic sets in.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Apple Watch starts countdown on face off with Swiss industry – October 31, 2014
The fashion elite crowd around Apple Watch at Colette in Paris – September 30, 2014
Jean-Claude Biver: ‘The Apple Watch cannot compete at all with European watches’ – September 15, 2014
Jean-Claude Biver: Apple Watch ‘too feminine; looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester’ – September 16, 2014
Barclays: Apple Watch could crush companies like Fossil – September 16, 2014
Jean-Claude Biver: ‘The Apple Watch cannot compete at all with European watches’ – September 15, 2014
Old school watch makers don’t get Apple Watch – September 12, 2014
Apple Watch, the world’s first real smartwatch, will be a massive hit – September 9, 2014
Apple iWatch designer Jony Ive: Switzerland is in deep shit – September 4, 2014

50 Comments

    1. ‘We’ll only do it if we can be first, different and unique,’

      Well, they can’t be first, as there are already a bunch of “smartwatches” available, and Apple’s will be released soon. And I’m sure a bunch of others will be released before TAG gets anywhere.

      So, at best, TAG can do “different and unique”.

  1. I’m sure most readers/visitors here have noticed the increased level of watch TV advertising we’ve been seeing lately. I know it’s Christmas and all that and that’s about the only time they really advertise, but this is way more than usual, so you know they’re all running scared.

    1. I don’t think there’s markedly more watch advertising than any other holiday season. Tis the season to advertise jewelry. The Kay Jewelry and other jewelry commercials are all over the place, too.

    1. I think anything TAG Heuer does will have to be completely different from the Watch. Even with TAG Heuer’s name and brand loyalty, they can’t possibly compete with Apple’s mobile device expertise, Watch’s integration with the iPhone, and Apple’s computer expertise. Anything TAG Heuer could possibly develop to try to compete with the Watch would pale by comparison.

    1. A solid brand will be irrelevant if the market shifts as dramatically as it likely will.

      I’m sure there were great buggy whip brands, but they simply had no place in the world of the automobile.

      This won’t be an immediate transition.

      There are youngsters (and baby boomers) who already have free wrist real estate. And there are people in the rapidly developing world deciding between form and function (and who will likely find that an Apple provides both — a genuine status symbol with valuable day-to-day functions). They’ll buy these by the tens of millions.

      Then there are folks like me with a handful of beautiful automatic watches. I’d like to think there will always be a place for them on my wrist, but the truth is that real estate will one day be too valuable to waste on mechanical art.

  2. First, well everyone and their dog will be or has been making smart watches or a wrist wearable device.

    Unique and different are synonyms, obviously something that is unique is going to be different.

    A round smart watch might be different, or maybe say a circular one will be unique. A hexagon or octagon watch might be interesting as well.

    1. I agree. Apple should license and provide “Apple core,” which watch makers can design/package into their own case, display, and band.

      Apple has brand recognition, so they really do not need the watch makers, however Samsung and others do not. Why give them a chance. Lock up the luxury brands before they do.

      1. Unfortunately I think the identity of Swiss watches is wrapped up in the mechanical processes. So, with digital innards, they would sacrifce their identity to make watch bands.

        Not gonna happen… not on their watch. HAHA

        Another thought: self-charging watches (like self-winding)… probably more approprate for Apple to design and produce than a watch maker integrating an Apple watch core. If Apple doesn’t go there for some reason than maybe that’s the “in” for Swiss watchmakers and the rest of the industry.

        Also, Apple will NEVER make chocolate…

  3. It’s amusing they think they can compete in a tech space which is unknown to them in a short amount of time. This isn’t the case, in their case, of someone “just walking in and taking over” as the Palm CEO famously said just before their expiration doom. TAG-Heuer just hasn’t the entire working ecosystem and only one small component, even well executed, won’t do it for them. Some of you might be more generous and magnanimous about it but really, they haven’t a chance except to be to a rounding error niche. But hey give it a shot, at least the stockholders can’t say you didn’t try.

        1. I agree it seemed an obvious point to me, we are talking about tech devices here not pure watches otherwise Tag would be stating (as they did before) that they WONT be going into this space and sticking with their strength and the argument would be based around the logic of that particular decision not this one.

          1. Exactly. Certainly not an area of strength for them. I just don’t see how something like this could succeed all that well or optimally at anyplace other than Apple, let alone from a traditional watch manufacturer. But as Dennis Miller says “I could be wrong” (although doubtful).

      1. Watches are the *original* tech market. It’s just that the technology has plateaued, and they’ve become jewellery.

        It’s not that the Apple Watch is in the same market space, it’s just that they compete for the same real estate. And it looks like the Apple Watch will provide enough value to enough people, to displace the traditional watch. Not for everyone. Not right away. But enough to spark a wider trend from one product to the other as the value proposition of the Apple Watch grows. It might only take one “killer app” to kill off the traditional wristwatch.

  4. Or maybe TAG is just being smart and seeing that certain smart technologies are going to be expected in watches in the coming years and are thinking ahead. I seriously doubt they will be competing with Apple in terms of tech innovation. Apple and TAG are not competitors and never will be, unless Apple drastically changes its model.

    1. I agree this will be about them adding a few (deemed) crucial digital/connected functions that they hope will keep them in the game without truly offering the sort of device that Apple is offering and if they do it right it will possibly keep their fashion watch niche safe from competition from other watch makers while hoping to keep some old school or fashionista customers from defecting by offering just enough to keep them happy without looking totally stone age. A jump into the darkness they need to make but then they should have known that much longer than 4 months ago.

    2. Not a chance. Apple doesn’t yet know what the killer app is for their platform yet. Neither does Google. But whatever it is, the killer app will emerge from an active developer base and will be dependant on a wider an ecosystem around the product. Cloud services, development environments, payment platforms, operating systems, peripherals and retail networks will be needed to compete in this space.

  5. I can’t imagine a watch company like TAG wanting to compete with a tech company like Apple. I don’t see why they would be threatened. Even when I do buy an AppleWatch I won’t be junking my other watches. It’s possible I underestimate Apple’s ability to sell tens of millions of AppleWatches.

    I don’t think it’s unusual for a person to own more than one watch if they like watches. It would seem there would be plenty of consumer market share for both companies to make money. This idea of how only one company must have all market share at the expense of all others really makes no sense to me. I just don’t see AppleWatch cutting into TAG watch sales. Apple will probably get most consumers who’ve never thought about getting some TAG watch. TAG makes excellent timepieces and Apple surely can’t take away from that. TAG might be able to build some decent smartwatch but it won’t have an ecosystem or support that buying an Applewatch will provide.

    1. Yes and no. Depends on the timescale. In the short term Tag will be fine I think and yes people buying at that level can usually afford both or more. However if as expected Apple redefine what you wear on the wrist and other tech company follow over the years their increasing functionality and the attitudes of younger people growing up with such tech will potentially degrade Tag’s market position over a longer period or certainly make them an increasingly smaller niche player.

    2. I agree.

      I have many watches and wear (at least) one everyday.

      But here’s the catch with the Apple Watch, if it delivers on its promise.

      Once you get used to its functionality and find it very useful, (again, if it delivers on its promise) you won’t want to not have it on your wrist – other watches just won’t make the cut, no matter how expensive and beautiful they may be.

  6. We didn’t jump on the bandwagon 35 years ago when digital watches hit the scene. We didn’t do anything different since and we are still in business doing great. Apple didn’t teach us to change over to digital. It was our decision and ours alone. We will make hybrids that have smart functions like phases of the moon and dates that show up on the face that even keep track of long and short months and perhaps leap years.

    We even considered making a blinking light emitting diodes (I think they call those things LEDs or something) that will flash once a second. We will include a battery to run that flashing light and it will last up to a month. We know electronics too you know!

    1. If you are indeed from TAG (I doubt it) I am sporting a half dozen of your watches as they are great time pieces and a rugged for Deep dives when Im scuba diving. I will continue to buy them for that purpose. What will change is that I will no longer buy your watch for everyday wear. I will buy a sport watch and most likely a Gold iWatch for formal occasions. I also like Rolex watches because of the look and the design and how insanely tough they are. Having said all of that your comparing Apples to oranges. If you do this you will get your clock cleaned by Apple. There is room for both to exist but the everyman who has the cash will most likely splurge on an iWatch because its insanely cool. Its easy to throw some junk together and call it progress.. SamDung and others have shown how not to do it. As a TAG fan my advice is be original, be TAG and understand that the iWatch is part of an eco system that enables the user to interact with other devices and manage data from the wrist easily. You are competing with something that is more than just a watch that does more than just give you the date and supports multiple timezones, more than a watch that shows how deep underwater you are or what altitude you are at. Focus on what you do, do it well and be innovative compete with Apple in their area of expertise and be prepared to be run over. Compete in areas where you have strength. Is an iWatch going to be on my wrist at 230 feet under water.. no. Is an iWatch going to tell me my altitude on K2 no.
      All that has been done by Apple is move a few bits of a cell phone to the wrist and right away everyone loses it. Im a fan of both but understand both products need to exists and have different rolls. If TAG burns through their hard earned money chasing Apple and trying to compete it could spell the demise of TAG. People who spend serious money on a watch have more than one watch and they choose the watch that is needed for the task.
      In this case one watch won’t cut it. BTW most people are no longer wearing watches anymore as its not cool. They get the time on their cell phone these days and that makes the watch redundant. If anything Apple is making the watch cool again..

      You should thank them!

  7. J.-C. Biver never said a smartwatch was a dummy idea. Instead, he stated that clearly the Apple watch type of pure electronic concept would be a no-no for swiss watch companies.
    Yet, Biver never excluded that there could be electronics intgrated within a keyless watch.

  8. “TAG Heuer . . . had until recently largely dismissed the threat of ‘smart’ gadgets,”

    Now, where have we heard that before? Ah, yes, from those other behemoths of the smart watch—hello, Nokia! hello, Microsoft! Hello, Blackberry!

    1. Thats their problem, they denied that there was any threat or need to compete and now just months late they have turned 180 degrees. Its very difficult to have any real confidence in them in this new space especially as they are in a far weaker position than say Palm was and we know how that ended. However they do have their own space that Apple can’t directly compete in (or wants to) so it will be where the balance between digital wrist devices and old school traditional watches develops in the market place as time passes that will decide Tags continuing relavence even in the top end. However that line will inevitably, even if slowly, move increasingly towards the digital side over time.

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