TAG Heuer Connected getting a production boost to help meet demand

6 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

TAG Heuer Connected demand forces production increase, new models coming in 2016/17.

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. Despite carrying a luxurious $1,500 price tag, making it the most expensive Android Wear based smartwatch, retailers and subsidiaries have collectively received requests for over 100,000 watches.

It was priced at $1,500 making it a bit out of reach for many customers who are used to smartwatches priced in the $250-$500 range, with $500 smartwatches from Apple still being considered to be pretty expensive as far as wearables are concerned. 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. Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of TAG Heuer, recently revealed that production of the TAG Heuer Connected will be increased from 1,200 per week to 2,000 every week. Retailers and various other resellers have requested a total of 100,000 units of the watch, which is way more than what the company expected upon announcement… Speaking to Bloomberg, the company’s CEO Jean-Claude Biver said they’re now aiming to make 2,000 pieces each week, that’s up from the current 1,200.

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. River says that retailers and other sellers have requested around 100,000 units, and so to help meet that demand, TAG Heuer is boosting production and suspending online sales until around May or June so that the retail stores can get enough stock. 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.

River also revealed that due to the Connected watch’s early success, TAG Heuer plans to create an entire collection made of different materials and executions. 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. While it won’t compete directly with Apple in terms of sales, it will fit the niche of customers who want something a little more classy than the nice-looking watches on offer from regular tech manufacturers. It’s interesting that despite the price there is still a lot of demand for the wearable which goes to show that maybe TAG Heuer could be onto something here.

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. TAG Heuer has to be encouraged by the positive response that the Connected is getting from retailers so far, though, especially since this is its first entry into the still-young luxury smartwatch market. That’s especially true when you remember TAG Heuer’s offer that’ll let Connected owners trade their smartwatch in after 2 years and pay another $1,500 to get an analog TAG Heuer Carrera watch. 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.

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. 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. That’s different from the Apple Watch, which looks like nothing else. “[With] the Apple Watch, it has a very distinctive shape and it’s a very heavily promoted product as well. 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.

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. You can issue voice commands to start timers, send messages, and perform Google searches, and of course get notifications and music controls on your wrist. 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). 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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