Surprise: This weird smartwatch is threatening Apple

7 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Surprise: This weird smartwatch is threatening Apple.

Tag Heuer’s chairman Jean-Claude Biver announced that the company is ramping up weekly production of their Carrera Connected Smart Watch from 1,200 to 2,000 pieces. ZURICH — Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer will increase production of its smartwatch in coming months after receiving requests from retailers, agents and subsidiaries for some 100,000 timepieces, according to LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE’s watch chief.The smartwatch market has gotten off to a rough start ever since the Apple Watch was unveiled — but Tag Heuer may have just cracked the code on what the consumer wants. For more than 150 years, Tag Heuer itself has been inventing and manufacturing some of the most accurate chronographs produced by the Swiss watch industry.

Biver is also trying to move sales away from the web to brick and mortar stores, an effort that attests to the true market for the watch: folks who still buy watches at retailers. This is the unique savoir-faire and heritage we’re bringing to a new generation of wrist-wear.” The result is a large watch that at first glance looks like a regular Tag Carrera but is operated via either a touch screen, wrist movement or voice activation. The watchmaker unveiled the US$1,500 (S$2,096) smartwatch, modelled after the classic Carrera model, last month, in a partnership with Google and Intel. “Considering the success of this single and unique watch, we will develop a collection made out of different varieties, executions and materials at the end of next year or beginning of 2017,” Mr Biver said.

For the launch, Tag has developed three dial options: a chronograph, a three-hand and a GMT dial, all of which show the date and are available in a choice of three colours – black, deep blue or pearl white. Tudor, for example.) Watch manufacturers would crow about the low number number of “doors” they had – a sign of exclusivity – and they were quite stingy when working with retailers, allowing only certain shops to carry certain items.

It also boasts a circular touchscreen and voice controls, allowing you to get notifications and information — pretty similar to any other Android Wear watch. For a while they were railing against “grey market” sales – namely watches sold by jewelers who took advantage of the massive disparity between wholesale price and MSRP – and now they are realizing that the high touch watch experience still moves merchandise even if the web is the real money-maker. Other dial options will follow – Tag plans to release some designs in collaboration with its brand ambassadors – and you can customise your own via a Tag Heuer app that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Selling watches at retail stores is wildly expensive but it’s clear that demand for the watch – at least for rich watch lovers who might want to try the Connect on a whim – is focused on stores.

The case, back and lugs of the watch are made from grade 5 titanium, meaning lighter weight with greater resistance to dings, handy given that the case spans a not inconsiderable 46 millimetres. It’s mounted on a textured rubber strap with a deployant buckle, available in six hues: stealth black, Arctic white, racing red, bright yellow, neon green, electric blue and volcanic orange. The watch has a small microphone so you can communicate with it, while its sapphire crystal touch screen works with the crown at 3 o’clock to deliver on your commands. And there’s one more “traditional Tag watch” thing you need to know: the Connected is $1,500 and can only be purchased from Tag direct or in a handful of boutiques around the world. Second, there is a dedicated group of collectors who will buy anything Tag offers and see this as an opportunity to buy a limited edition mechanical while messing around with an Android Wear.

Further, Tag is offering a trade-in program for buyers of the Connected, where they can trade the watch in after a couple years (plus put down another $1,500) for a mechanical version of it. Collectors are obviously a subset of the world at large, but we can assume that Biver will manufacture about 20,000 of these or so in the next few months in order to raise perceived scarcity and reduce their chances of having to scrap these things when the hardware becomes obsolete.

If that’s the impression in terms of its initial appearance, the watch manages to maintain the look even when bringing up its connected functions, thanks to the way in which apps are displayed. Its goal is to entice the watch connoisseur who might have a curiosity about smartwatches but will only consider wearing a piece from a trusted brand. And when their curiosity is sated, Tag will let them trade it in toward a “real” watch, which Tag bets is probably what they wanted all along to begin with. Apps already available on an exclusive basis are My Insiders (lifestyle), Golfshot Pro (golf) and RaceChrono Pro (motor racing), which will be offered with free subscriptions. Android Wear gives the watch access to more than 4000 native applications available for downloading, with Google Fit, Google Translate and OK Google voice activation already on the watch.

I feel like that you can spot it across the room, you know someone’s wearing an Apple Watch,” he says. “Whereas this one, I can’t imagine anybody would identify it as a smartwatch right off the bat.” So if you do find yourself in Tag’s target market and are considering the Connected, what exactly do you get for your $1,500? It boasts 4GB of memory, equivalent to 20 hours of music and more than 25 hours of “autonomy”, thanks to its power source, the latest-generation lithium battery. In a couple weeks of wearing it, I found that — at least from a tech and feature perspective — you don’t get much more than what a $300 Motorola offers. It’s designed to remain in contact with a remote server and the Cloud, while on-board applications (music, chronograph, alarm etc) stay active even when no connection is available.

It lacks a heart rate sensor, but will still count your steps, and Tag designed a few watchfaces specific for the Connected that mimic its line of mechanical watches (including an interactive chronograph). While the premium price gets you a sapphire crystal and titanium case, both of which are nice to have, what you’re really paying for is the Tag Heuer brand name. And if smartwatches are going to succeed their traditional forebears, they are going to need to be available to anyone considering a watch, no matter what cost they are prepared to pay.

After playing with the Connected for 20 minutes or so, I asked John which Tag Heuer he would buy if he walked into a boutique today, mechanical or smartwatch?

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