Replica Tag Heuer’s smartwatch goes back to the future

The Connected Modular 45 combines traditional craftsmanship with smart capabilities

smart-watch

The lull in wearable technology contains a contradiction. At the moment when the market’s pioneers in Silicon Valley — including Fitbit, Pebble and Jawbone — are struggling and tech groups such as Motorola are pressing pause on their wearables projects, the traditional replica watch industry is doubling down on the technology.

That was the clear message from Jean-Claude Biver, chief executive of replica Tag Heuer, this week as he unveiled the Swiss company’s second smartwatch, the Connected Modular 45.

He declared at the launch event that the watch would marry 19th and 21st-century technology. Tag’s choice of materials such as titanium and ceramic, and a familiar circular display, ensure it looks more like a watch than a phone.

Tag’s launch was the first of several announcements ahead of next week’s Baselworld watch fair. Another luxury watchmaker, Montblanc, unveiled its first smartwatch, the $890 Summit, while Swatch said that it was working on a smartwatch operating system of its own to rival Apple and Google.

Tag’s first smartwatch, released in 2015, has sold 56,000 units, according to Mr Biver — more than the company expected. In consumer electronics terms, it seems a small number, but at $1,500 apiece, $80m in revenues appears to be a good result for the LVMH-owned company.

If that momentum can be maintained, it stands to profit even more from the second version, which starts at $1,650 but its array of interchangeable bezels, lugs and bands can add up to several times that price.

This “modular” approach is another attempt at futureproofing the device and addressing the apparent contradiction between spending thousands of dollars on a luxury timepiece that could be obsolete in a few years.

The original Connected Tag came with a guarantee that it could be traded in after two years for a traditional mechanical model.

Its successor offers that option from the day of purchase. This modular system’s bands and lugs come with quick-release buttons that allow its components, including the main clock, to be snapped in and out in a few seconds. Unlike conventional replica watches, no special tools are required for this, allowing the owner to do it as often as they wish.

Changing a watch’s strap is nothing new, but the button-press system Tag introduced this week is faster and simpler than fiddling with spring bars.

Setting aside the smartwatch component, Tag proudly proclaims it is the “first modular watch bearing the Swiss Made label” of any kind — digital or analogue. There are 56 different designs available to buy upfront, and potentially hundreds of permutations when combining 18 different rubber, leather, titanium and ceramic bands with various lugs and buckles.

That is before counting the thousands of customisable fake watch faces available, both through Tag’s own “studio” app and on the Android Wear app store.

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Jean-Claude Biver, chief executive of Tag Heuer

While Tag may be claiming a first on behalf of the Swiss industry, other smartwatches already offer this kind of simple swap-ability. Personalisation has been a cornerstone of the Apple Watch since it was first unveiled in 2014, while Fitbit and Misfit have also teamed up with fashion brands on accessories.

Apple’s constantly changing bands are an under-appreciated part of Apple Watch’s appeal. The ease with which they slide into the Watch case is a big part of that.

A study just over a year ago by Wristly, which surveys Apple Watch owners, found that the average customer has at least two bands, with about a third buying three or more. I am among the extreme cases: I own six Apple Watch bands, including cheap rubber ones in bright colours bought for a few bucks from eBay to Apple’s own magnetic leather loop.

Consumers buy replica watches not only because they are practical but also because they are stylish, so smartwatches should be no different. Tag’s Connected Modular 45 has GPS for tracking runs and is waterproof for wearing in swimming pools — or (as its promotional video somewhat frighteningly suggests for something costing thousands of dollars) surfing in the ocean.

If we wear different clothing in water and at the dinner table, why shouldn’t our watch straps change as well?

Verdict

All this customising is irrelevant for those who believe that a smartphone does everything they need from a smartwatch, including telling the time. There is little new in the Connected Modular 45’s technological feature set that will win over smartwatch sceptics.

Its chunky casing oddly lacks a heart-rate monitor, which has become standard in most wearable devices (I will have more to say on Android Wear 2.0 software and other, more affordable Google-powered smartwatches soon).

For those who enjoy high-priced timepieces, though, Tag’s pitch of combining the best of traditional watchmaking craftsmanship with something that can tap Google’s Assistant, track a run or pay wirelessly at the coffee shop will hold appeal. The future may look rather more like the past than we had anticipated.

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Baselworld 2017 to tap horology and jewellery trends in the luxury market

Swiss watchmakers, jewellers, and their suppliers are fine-tuning their latest creations ahead of Baselworld, from March 23 to 30.

Baselworld has given watch fans and connoisseurs remarkable insights into the world of horology since 1917. It is one of the most important shows in the watch and jewellery industry, as it is the only one that attracts all the key players from watchmakers to jewellers and from diamond, pearl and gemstone dealers through to machines and the supply industry.

Last year was a difficult for Swiss watchmaking, especially in the luxury sector. Swiss replica watches exports dropped 9.9 per cent in 2016 from the previous year as robust markets, such as China, underperformed because of an economic slowdown and an anticorruption drive.

Baselworld is an annual watch and jewellery show that is open to the public with admission fee

Exports picked up slightly in January, showing the industry’s ability to innovate and tailor product offerings to consumers’ requirements. Swiss watchmakers expect slight growth in 2017.

New technology bolsters the durability of “Swiss-made” replica watches, by enhancing performance and precision.

Trends are leaning towards streamlined designs that ensure watches can be worn in different situations. After years of “full black” models, PVD treatments on steel cases are being adapted to more classic colours, especially pink and yellow gold shades, offering elegant and more affordable alternatives to 18ct gold.

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TAG Heuer’s Carrera HEUER-01 is a signature chronograph from the manufacture

“Blinging” up a ladies’ watch by presenting a sprinkling of diamonds or other gemstones will no longer be sufficient as beautiful mechanics claim pride of place.

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Breguet’s Tradition Dame 7038

Quartz watches for men and women are showing ultrasleek designs this year, while “vintage” re-editions of legendary 1950s and 60s pieces remain sought-after, a sign that Swiss replica watches convey emotions and are capable of telling a story.

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Fendi’s Selleria Strap You watch brings a fanciful touch to feminine wrists

While the trend is for simpler, more accessible models, the need for quality has grown.

The reinforcement of the “Swiss-made” standard from the start of this year confirms this determination to offer consumers greater guarantees on quality, craftsmanship and origins.

A watch must offer at least 60 per cent of Swiss value to be marked Swiss-made, up from 50 per cent. Some brands argue that manufacturers who deal in volume, especially at lower prices – where more components are typically sourced from non-Swiss factories – will suffer.

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Swiss replica watches, an industry under threat

Apple-Watch-Hermes

The Swiss watchmaker industry is facing an existential crisis from the advent of smartwatches according to a new report from RE Analytics.

The industry enjoyed an air of exclusivity in absence of substantial competition, gaining a position of monopoly until the 1970s. The late 1960s mark the beginning of a change. This is when Japanese watchmaker Seiko introduced new technology in the market with its Seiko Quartz-Astron 35Q, the world’s first wristwatch based on a quartz crystal oscillator.

The Astron was unveiled in Tokyo on December 25, 1969, after ten years of research and development. Within one week 100 gold watches had been sold, at a retail price of $1,250 each.

This ushered in an era of cheaper, more accurate alternatives to Swiss replica watches. At the time, the industry nearly collapsed under siege from new upstarts. The number of Swiss watchmakers feel from 1,500 in 1970s, to 600 at the height of the “crisis” in 1983. Ultimately Swiss watch companies managed to ride out the storm, and found their niche in the luxury high end of the market.

Hermes-watch

The industry is now facing another crisis. Technology is once again drawing a battlefield for Swiss watchmakers. The RE Analytics report, Rolex: An industry under threat, goes in detail in analyzing the Rolex business model, and how it is being affected by the challenging market conditions.

The report identifies two main business segments for Rolex: the entry-level luxury replica watches and the high-end luxury watch. Together these two clusters represent more than 80% of the business at Rolex.

According to the report, Rolex’s entry-level luxury replica watches are seeing a threat from high-end wearables. For example, with a price tag ranging from $1,150 to $1,500 (depending on model), the Apple Watch Hermés is at the door of the entry-level luxury watch segment. Apple’s device was announced in late 2015, some six months after the original collections first shipped. Now in its second iteration, the watch brought together Apple’s tech smarts with Hermès’ classic leatherwork.

Some traditional watchmakers are making tentative steps in the fast-growing wearables market via technology partnerships and investments. TAG Heuer has, for example, recently partnered with Google and Intel for its TAG Heuer Connected watch. And Frederique Constant, a manufacture of luxury wrist watches, is working on nine new designs of its Horological Smartwatch.

Squatrito adds that Swiss watchmakers may also be forced to look for other opportunities. They could, for example, follow fashion companies and expand into non-core products.

The industry’s unique positioning in the luxury segment, the strong brand image, the appeal of the Swiss Made label, and new markets could all offer opportunities to Swiss replica watch makers. If it is to survive, the industry cannot afford to ignore the potential opportunities and threats posed by this new market segment.

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