Known as the undisputed leaders in watchmaking, Swiss watchmakers have, up until now, taken a ‘wait and see approach’ to the rise of the smartwatch. Although consumers have yet to take to smartwatches en masse, the advent of more luxury, design-focused smartwatches, such as the more high-end versions of Apple’s iWatch, HP and Gilt’s Michael Bastian designed smartwatch coming this fall, and Withing’s recently released Activité, will undoubtedly heighten consumers’ interest in this burgeoning space. Apple, for which design has always been at the core rather than an afterthought, is clearly serious about iWatch as luxury device, having poached Patrick Pruniaux, the former sales director of TAG Heuer, to join recent Apple recruits Angela Ahrendts (ex-Burberry) and Paul Deneve (ex-Yves Saint Laurent).
Apple’s iWatch clearly changed the game and Switzerlands’ watchmaking stalwarts are now springing to action, with Swatch announcing a couple of weeks ago that they’ll be bringing their smartwatches on the market next year and TAG Heuer announcing this weekend that they’ll soon be launching one as well. In an interview with Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, TAG Heuer’s head of watchmaking Jean-Claude Biver acknowledged that they can’t just ignore this important and growing part of the market and, “cannot afford to just follow in somebody else’s footsteps.” However, they know though that they must enter the market with something distinctive and unique that, above all, doesn’t mimic or in anyway copy the iWatch.
Incidentally they do have some experience in the space as they developed a one-off smartwatch for members of the Oracle sailing team last year. Learnings from this experience will, undoubtedly, prove useful as they look to develop a consumer-oriented smartwatch. TAG Heuer also makes a smartphone called Meridiist. No word from them as to whether their new smartwatch would draw inspiration from its design or integrate in any way with their smartphone.