Connected: Tag Heuer's Smartwatch
Legendary watch-man and now CEO of TAG Heuer, Jean-Claude Biver, has embarked on his greatest project yet – bridging the gap between the Swiss watch industry and Silicon Valley. As Connected - TAG's first smartwatch - becomes available in the Gulf. We spoke to the great man about his plans.
Why did Tag Heuer want to create the Connected smartwatch?
Our brand has stood since 1860 for avant-garde in Swiss watchmaking art and, as such, we cannot ignore the smartwatch. Especially as we have an entry price into our luxury brand of around $1,200, which, contrary to our higher price range of $6,000, might feel the competition of the smartwatch. Meanwhile our average price level cannot (and will not) face competition from the smart watch. This is because smartwatches become obsolete, contrary to the traditional watches of our ranges that are “eternal”. Yes, in one hundred or one thousand years, a mechanical watch will still be repairable and will still work!
Was it a difficult decision to make?
No, it was not difficult to make at all. Our message is to be avant-garde and it belongs to our DNA. What was more difficult a decision was how would
we produce this watch and who would be the best partners to help us make it a success.
How did your watchmakers tackle this modern project with their traditional know-how?
Our general manager and director of research and development, Mr Guy Semon, happens to be a professional navy pilot and professor of mathematics. As such he was immediately capable of seizing the importance and technology of the smart watch. He pushed us to enter this new technology, but through the giants of Silicon Valley. That’s how he came up with the idea to look for a double partnership: hardware with Intel and software with Google. We believe that it is the ultimate position for Tag Heuer to be the best in this new market.
Did your watchmakers enjoy this new partnership?
We enjoyed working with both Intel and Google. We learned from their culture as much as they learned from ours. They are more technology-oriented, while we are of course much more high-end, luxury-orientated. As such we believe we have a very fruitful and promising partnership.
Is this the start of a new trend for Tag Heuer?
We are primarily a luxury brand, we will always have a large majority of our production and watches in the upper-end segment, and will never give up our DNA and message. Nevertheless, we are willing to promote the smart watch as an exceptional luxury product.
Is the Tag Heuer Connected aimed at a new customer, or was it created with the brand’s existing fans in mind?
We believe that it will definitively be for a new customer, especially coming from the new generation. As such it is quite interesting for us strategically,
as we are going to conquer an additional market.
Has it been a difficult process to integrate the computational side of things with the Tag Heuer watch design and mechanism or was it easier than you thought?
No, it has not been difficult, because from the first minute we had no other choice than to integrate it into the Tag Heuer DNA. If we had not been able to achieve this, then the project would have ended. There is no other choice for Tag Heuer than to have all its DNA, all its watchmaking emotion and flair, incorporated into the Connected watch. One should not see from a certain distance the difference between a Carrera Heuer 01 and a Carrera Wearable 01.
Because Intel is building the engine and those parts are not binge assembled in Switzerland, the watch will not be able to carry the “Swiss made” trademark. Is that correct?
Yes, the micro-processor will be Intel and we will put on back of the watch: “Intel Inside” instead of “Swiss made”.
How important is the “Swiss made” badge to consumers?
For a traditional mechanical watch, “Swiss made” is a criteria of reliability and quality. For a connected watch, Android from Google and Intel Inside are the criteria of quality and reliability.
Is there a danger that without this mark, it could diminish the smartwatch product?
Yes without “Intel Inside”, it could diminish the smartwatch product.
Is the idea and heritage of being “Swiss made” compatible with the idea of the smart watch?
Yes, as long as all the traditional criteria of “Swiss-ness” are in the product, in its quality and in its service.
Do you think that having a connected product will change the Tag Heuer brand in any way?
Yes, in the sense that it will drive new customers to the brand. New customers coming to Tag Heuer could be the biggest asset of the Connected watch.
More generally, how are you using social media to build an audience and engage a new generation of fans?
Social media is the future. If we want to be part of this future, we must connect through all the possible communication tools so that the new generation can connect to us. That’s why we have to adapt our language, our product, our philosophy and our concept to this new generation.
You’ve had a rich history in the watch industry. What is one particular work philosophy you always carry with you?
I always try to be “first, different and unique”. Any project, product, concept or idea that comes to me must fit to those requests. And then, I would add, “all you need is love”. If you have passion for your job, then you don’t work anymore, you can achieve everything, and there is “nothing you can do, that can’t be done”. That’s what I would say and I would add: “Please don’t push away your doubts, start to love your doubts and start to believe in your gut feelings”. And last but not least, “Never hire someone that is inferior to you, only hire people that are better than you”.
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This article was originally published in Esquire Middle East’s Big Watch Book