Just a few days after panning the Apple Watch, an executive with TAG Heuer admitted that the company is making a smartwatch of its own.
“We want to launch a smartwatch at TAG Heuer, but it must not copy the Apple Watch,” Jean-Claude Biver, head of watchmaking for TAG Heuer parent company LVMH, told the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag. His comments were subsequently relayed by Reuters.
Biver said TAG Heuer would show off smartwatches at the Baselworld expo in March, at the latest, but gave no other details. “We cannot afford to just follow in somebody else's footsteps,” he said.
Biver made headlines last week when he declared that the Apple Watch was “ too feminine,” and lacked the timeless appeal and prestige of traditional watches.
“This watch has no sex appeal. It's too feminine and looks too much like the smartwatches already on the market,” Biver told the German daily Die Welt. “To be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester.”
This isn't the first time that a Swiss watch executive has dismissed smartwatches before changing tunes.
“There's a lot of noise about smartwatches, but you don't see them on people's wrists,” Francois Thiebaud, head of Swatch's Tissot brand, told Reuters last March. At the time, Swatch was looking into Internet-connected features, but hadn't moved forward. Swatch finally said last month that it would launch a version of its Touch watches with fitness tracking features.
The challenges facing traditional watch makers are numerous as they eye the smartwatch business. They lack experience with software and consumer electronics and face stiff competition from tech vendors on the low end of the market. And for luxury models, buyers may not be interested in a watch whose technology is quickly outdated.
Biver himself admitted as much while speaking to Reuters last March. “I'd love to be in the right spot to do smartwatches, but I don't have access to the technology,” Biver said. “Also, a watch costing thousands of francs, like a Hublot, cannot afford to become obsolete after a year.”
Still, it's no secret that TAG Heuer has been looking for a solution. "This is something we brainstorm. And if we find something, we could try it," TAG Heuer CEO Stephane Linder told TechHive in July. "But I don’t see us taking a big risk, unless we find a way to make luxury watches looking like real luxury watches that provide very easy-to-use, smart information that isn’t complicated—and don’t just replicate the mobile phone."
It now sounds like the company has finally figured out a way forward. Just don't expect it to look anything like the Apple Watch.