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Handheld Devices

TAG Heuer's move into tech is no revolution

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer launched its Connected Android smartwatch this week, becoming the first traditional maker to fully embrace the wearable tech revolution.

“We are incredibly proud to be unveiling the first connected watch, which brings more than 150 years of history firmly into the future,” said TAG CEO Jean-Claude Biver in a press release. “The TAG Heuer Connected watch gives you the means not only to connect to the future, but also to connect to eternity.”

Revolution? Hardly

So is this a “turning point in smartwatches” as the Guardian suggests? Unlikely.

For TAG Heuer, the sheer number of headlines represents a nice coup. For everyone else, it’s business as usual. Most traditional watchmakers are highly dismissive of the whole concept; at this year’s BaselWorld the event’s MD Sylvie Ritter claimed: “They're two different worlds”, and that wearable tech would “have no effect” on traditional watchmaking. Almost all the traditional watchmakers we spoke to earlier in the year for our Horology vs Technology report were sceptical of moving into technology, but understood brands at the lower price-range might have to make slight pivots as watch sales gradually decline and wearable tech becomes a cheaper commodity over time.

Of the few watchmakers who have made some move into wearable tech – Mondaine, Frederique Constant, Alpina etc. – most have been toward creating hybrid devices; traditional mechanical/quartz movements with fitness-tracking modules a la Withings. Perhaps they’re waiting to see whether fully digital devices from traditional brands such as TAG Heuer or Fossil have a place in a segment ruled by technology giants. In an interview with Reuters, Biver said they hope getting people who have grown up in the era of mobile phones and never owned a watch might segue from smart to traditional (and more expensive) watches in the future, despite the fact some analysts throwing shade on the idea.

Much in the same way that custom-branded phones from the likes of CAT, Pepise Marshal and even Commodore offer little in the way of differentiation other than a logo, it’s hard to see the appeal. At $1,500 it might be one of the most expensive Android watches you can buy, but it is still small fry when it comes to the price tags that accompany some of the more obscene Apple counterparts.  Aside from Apple’s own gold-plated offerings, you can buy all kinds of highly expensive customised numbers if you want to be flash.

It’s difficult to imagine who will really want this. If people can or want to spend thousands on a smartwatch, they’re probably going to go for Apple since it’s the premier brand in the category. And if they want the TAG Heuer name, they probably play into the “watch as a piece of art/legacy item” idea – another common reason traditional watchmakers are so dismissive of wearable tech – and will want a genuine traditional timepiece.

 

Download the IDG Connect watch report now to see why the watch industry is showing no fear of Silicon Valley and how the companies trying to muscle in on their turf think they should change.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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