The CEO of Tag Heuer has fired off a volley against Apple ahead of the launch of its own high-end smartwatch, claiming the luxury Apple Watch Edition has a “huge problem” — obsolescence.
Speaking to CNBC on Monday, Jean-Claude Biver claimed that “Above $US2,000 [£1,310], the connected watch has a huge problem. There is no eternity, it means it will become obsolete and who wants to buy a $US10,000 – $US20,000 [£6,660 – £13,130] watch, that becomes obsolete after five or 10 years?”
The vast majority of Apple’s smartwatch sales come from the Apple Watch Sport and the regular Apple Watch, which retail for between $US349 (£299 in the UK) and $US1,099 (£949). But the Californian company also offers the ultra-pricey Edition, which starts at $US10,000 (£8,000) and runs to an eye-watering $US17,000 (£13,500).
Tag Heuer’s forthcoming smartwatch, the Connected, is a relative steal in comparison, going for around $US1,800 (£1,180). The Swiss watchmaker teased the device in a tweet on Monday evening, and and also launched an online countdown to its official unveiling — November 9, 2015. It will run Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch operating system.
Tag Heuer is owned by LVMH, the French luxury goods conglomerate.
Sure, Biver conveniently places the point at which smartwatches encounter the obsolesence problem at ever so slightly more than the Tag Heuer Connected retails for. But he is on to something.
The best watches are timeless (no pun intended). They can easily last for decades, and a large part of the prestige of luxury watches is down to this; Patek Philippe, for example, uses the tag line that “You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.”
Meanwhile, Apple continues to ape the trappings of the finest watches — 18-karat gold, exclusive rare versions worn by celebrities, the new $US1,250 (£1,150) Hermès watch strap. But what good is all that if the battery dies in two or three years?
Biver has been a vocal critic of the Apple Watch before. In September of 2014, before the device launched, he claimed that it “has no sex appeal,” and is “too feminine.” He added that “to be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester.”
He subsequently rowed this comments back, saying that “it’s a fantastic product, an incredible achievement … I’m not just living in the tradition and culture and the past, I also want to be connected to the future. The Apple Watch connects me to the future. My watch connects me to history, to eternity.”
The CEO also praised Apple’s sales when talking to CNBC on Monday. “How successful has Apple been? We don’t know. In the beginning, they were speaking about 10 to 20 million pieces, then sometimes we say they only sold 5 million. Nevertheless, to sell 5 million watches when you have not been a watchmaker is genius. It’s phenomenal … Now how will it act on the Swiss traditional watch industry? Certainly a big competition, huge! It will be a tsunami, for me. In the price segment, between say $US200 [£130] and up to eventually $US2,000 [£1,310].”
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