Are You a 'Smart Watch Guy' or a 'Watch Guy?' Tag Heuer Thinks You're Both.
What does it mean when a Swiss watch company—a legendary maker of analog, nuts-and-bolts timepieces—decides to get into smart watches? From the first release of the groundbreaking Apple watch in 2015, the Swiss watch industry eyed slaveringly an entirely new breed of customer that materialized seemingly out of nowhere. For the first time the tech geeks embraced wearing something that looked (well, sorta) like a watch on their wrists. But few in Switzerland have ventured into this exploding market.
Tag Heuer was first out of the gate. Barely six months after Apple launched its first watch, Jean-Claude Biver, then President of LVMH’s watch division, announced the Tag Heuer Connected Watch, with the case design by Tag and all the inner workings the product of a collaboration with Google Wear and Intel.
Connected Watch - Titanium, tagheuer.com
Naturally, it caused consternation in the watch industry. In theory, the software, and even some of the hardware, in a smart watch is out of date almost before you put it on your wrist. Watchmaking, on the other hand (or wrist), is still using a technology that was largely perfected a century ago. Even Tag’s bold move into the new segment was seen by some as a gimmick, a toy, a flash in the pan.
Not so much, as it turns out. Smart watches have not gone away. Last year Apple sold an estimated 31 million watches, while the entire Swiss watchmaking industry sold just 21 million. Yet amongst Swiss brands, Tag Heuer now enjoys a preeminent position in the new and still-expanding market. And while the Connected watch still accounts for a relatively small percentage of the company’s revenue, for Tag Heuer that’s less important than getting smartwatch wearers to wear Tag Heuer smartwatches.
The caseback of the new-generation Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch.
Last week in New York, Tag Heuer announced the third generation in less than five years of its luxury smartwatch (priced from $1,800 to $2,350). Far from being just another software update however, under Frédéric Arnault, Tag Heuer’s Strategy and Digital Director, sweeping changes have been made both inside and out. Intel’s chip has been replaced for the first time with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 (said to be the most advanced OS chip for smartwatches around) while a new range of Heuer-developed sports functions play to the watch company’s long history of timing sports across multiple disciplines.
But in subtle ways it’s on the outside where the most interesting advances have happened. The slimmer 45mm case comes in steel or titanium versions, with optional quick-release straps in a range of colors. Where early Connected watches looked and felt like a halfway house between the funky functionality of a smart watch and the elegance of a mechanical one, the new generation Connected watch looks—and feels—closer than ever to the design pedigree of Tag Heuer.
Another dial display for the Connected watch.
Suddenly, that through-line imagined by Monsieur Biver from no watch to smart watch to mechanical watch doesn’t look so impossible. Meanwhile if any of those 31 million who bought an Apple watch last year feel they need to upgrade something a little more chic without sacrificing right-now functionality, Tag Heuer is waiting.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.