Hot off the heels of Apple’s availability announcement comes news from TAG Heuer that they’re teaming up with Intel and Google’s Android Wear platform for their own line of smart watches. Pricing and availability were not provided, but given that “dumb” TAGs start at around $1,000, we doubt we’ll see technology-enabled offerings coming at a lower entry price point. The natural discussion is how it will go head-to-head with the Apple Watch. Given that Apple’s offerings requires an iPhone and currently Android Wear is not iOS compatible, it really looks less of a head-to-head matchup rather than Android users finally getting a luxury watch worth owning from a brand that has heritage and equity.
TAG Heuer is poised to leverage their extensive retail channels including prized locations in department stores, watch stores and, of course, duty free, where Apple has yet to have any serious penetration. Recent checks appear to confirm that Apple Watch will not be at some big-name watch retailers, opening a door for TAG and others to fill the void. The question remains if these stores which have entrenched product displays and sales training can provide the additional technical expertise and product support that may be needed for this new category. While we contend that this category is more of an accessory with technology than a stand-alone tech device, those able to offer both sales and technical support will be better poised to win.
Looking forward, we expect similar announcements from other watch brands—partnerships with established technology and software giants—to quickly enter the market. The dismal reception of the Samsung smart watches and Google’s own Google Glass demonstrate tech companies’ need for expertise in watch (and product) design in a manner that is differentiating from Apple’s design philosophy. Intel has been aggressive about lining up brands on the hardware side and Android Wear is the natural platform to target an existing population of (non-Apple) smartphone users. We also note the rumors about Android Wear gaining iOS support, which would mean wider brand choices for Apple iPhone owners and access to higher spenders for the Android-enabled watch brands.
We see this holiday season shaping up to (finally) be the year of the wearables. We’re keeping tabs as smart watches and smart jewelry products finally hit the market.
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