A look at TAG Heuer’s cur­rent strat­egy and of­fer­ings

WatchTime - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Roger Rueg­ger

| A look at TAG Heuer’s cur­rent strat­egy and of­fer­ings

— There aren’t many watch com­pa­nies around that have man­aged to of­fer both con­tem­po­rary me­chan­i­cal and quartz watches, en­ter the highly com­pet­i­tive smart­watch mar­ket, and dis­rupt the haute hor­logerie seg­ment with an af­ford­able, mass-pro­duced tourbillon at the same time. In a nut­shell, that’s ba­si­cally what Jean-claude Biver and his team have been do­ing for the past three years. Or in other words: TAG Heuer has been repo­si­tioned with a lower av­er­age price point while new mod­els (as well as new brand am­bas­sadors) have been in­tro­duced not only to at­tract a younger tar­get au­di­ence to the brand but to ap­peal to es­tab­lished col­lec­tors as well.

TAG Heuer started pro­duc­tion of the 01 chrono­graph cal­iber in 2010.

Mas­ter­ing large scale pro­duc­tion

If the def­i­ni­tion of a man­u­fac­ture is to have de­vel­oped your own cal­iber and to pro­duce most of its parts in-house, then TAG Heuer is, of course, a

man­u­fac­ture. If, how­ever, at­tain­ing man­u­fac­ture sta­tus would lit­er­ally re­quire that ev­ery­thing has to have been “made by hand,” then it cer­tainly wouldn’t qual­ify as one – just as pretty much ev­ery other watch com­pany in Switzer­land that pro­duces more than a cou­ple of watches per year would not qual­ify. Sim­ply stated: If a com­pany is in the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand watches a year, it will, es­pe­cially if it wants to bring down the av­er­age sales price, most likely need to out­source parts and rely on a cer­tain level of stream­lined, and some­times au­to­mated, pro­duc­tion. Oth­er­wise, the ma­jor­ity of La Chaux-de-fonds’ pop­u­la­tion of around 40,000 peo­ple would be work­ing for TAG Heuer right now.

While the idea of own­ing an ex­clu­sive, hand­made watch with a rare and com­pli­cated move­ment un­doubt­edly ap­peals to a watch col­lec­tor, high pro­duc­tion vol­umes of­fer ad­van­tages, too. With in­creased out­put, a man­u­fac­turer needs to de­pend even more on mak­ing ab­so­lutely sure that a prod­uct is as re­li­able as pos­si­ble. Oth­er­wise it would risk mul­ti­ply­ing po­ten­tial er­rors or short­com­ings and end­ing up with the op­po­site of “economies of scale.” With smaller num­bers, how­ever, a man­u­fac­turer is more likely to be able to ef­fi­ciently im­prove and work on prod­ucts al­ready sold or still in pro­duc­tion, if re­quired.

TAG Heuer runs a com­par­a­tively large in­ter­nal pro­to­typ­ing pro­ce­dure and, most of all, test lab­o­ra­tory (called the “Tor­ture Cham­ber”), which is one of many steps in mak­ing sure that ev­ery pro­to­type re­leased for se­rial pro­duc­tion is up to its task. But there are, of course, ex­ter­nal par­ties in­volved, too. In March 2017, for ex­am­ple, TAG Heuer an­nounced that 1,000 Heuer-02t Tourbillon move­ments were cer­ti­fied by the in­de­pen­dent test­ing body, Con­trôle Of­fi­ciel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC).

Be­com­ing an in­dus­try dis­rup­tor

While most en­gi­neers would agree that an in­te­grated chrono­graph move­ment is more dif­fi­cult to de­velop than a tourbillon, the lat­ter is still re­garded as one of watch­mak­ing’s most pres­ti­gious and ex­pen­sive com­pli­ca­tions. e Cal­i­bre Heuer-02t, a 32-mm au­to­matic move­ment, of­fers both – a chrono­graph and a fly­ing tourbillon. It is based on TAG Heuer’s CH80 move­ment and comes with a 65-hour power re­serve.

In 2014, TAG Heuer man­u­fac­tured the first run and used 1,000 move­ments of this badge as the base for the Heuer-02t cal­iber. When of­fi­cially launched in Basel in 2016, TAG Heuer an­nounced a list price of less than 15,000 Swiss francs for the stan­dard pro­duc­tion model – clearly a “provo­ca­tion” as Jean-claude Biver ad­mit­ted, but at the same time, “per­fectly cor­rect since TAG Heuer did not build any clas­sic tour­bil­lons”

be­fore. Per­haps equally im­pres­sive, and also in­dus­try firsts, th­ese 1,000 move­ments were all COSC cer­ti­fied, which again shows that while se­rial pro­duc­tion may not in­crease ex­clu­siv­ity, it usu­ally helps to in­crease re­li­a­bil­ity.

Equally note­wor­thy: the 2016-in­tro­duced TAG Heuer Car­rera Heuer-01 Full Black Matte Ce­ramic with a mul­ti­part case (char­ac­ter­is­tic for Car­rera watches with in-house move­ments) mostly made of ce­ramic (lugs, case mid­dle, bracelet and bezel) and at a re­tail price of $6,300. It is pow­ered by the Heuer 01 cal­iber, a mod­i­fied ver­sion of Cal­i­bre 1887, the 3-reg­is­ter chrono­graph move­ment that TAG Heuer started to pro­duce in-house in 2010.

The in­tro­duc­tion of the mod­u­lar con­cept

Biver, who was named CEO of TAG Heuer in 2015, took TAG Heuer not only “closer to the mar­ket” in the last two years, he also started to ac­cess new ones. In 2015, TAG Heuer part­nered with Google and In­tel to launch its first smart­watch. e An­droid-based Con­nected was Biver’s at­tempt to get a (al­beit small) piece of the lu­cra­tive and Ap­ple-dom­i­nated smart­watch mar­ket, and also a new way to reach a gen­er­a­tion of “leapfrogs” – young peo­ple who will most likely not own a tra­di­tional wrist­watch first and then start to use a wear­able de­vice, but may very well start with a smart­phone and add a sec­ondary de­vice not pow­ered by its own move­ment later.

is is where the 2017-launched sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of the Con­nected, the Mod­u­lar 45, might prove in­dis­pens­able. While the “45” refers to the case size in mil­lime­ters, the re­ally smart part of the name is the de­vel­op­ment of the “mod­u­lar” con­cept of the mod­ern Car­reras. Lugs, buckles and straps can now be eas­ily changed by the owner, and those who would want a taste of the ana­log life can swap out the 50-me­ter-wa­ter­re­sis­tant and Swiss-made smart­watch mod­ule for an au­to­matic watch mod­ule. And, of course, also opt for the Heuer-02t tourbillon ver­sion.

ere were al­ready 56 dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions avail­able at the Con­nected’s launch in March 2017. More ver­sions and ac­ces­sories will be avail-

able to or­der and 30 dif­fer­ent (dig­i­tal) watch di­als are avail­able. Plus, the Mod­u­lar 45 also comes equipped with the TAG Heuer Stu­dio, which al­lows its users to cre­ate even more var­ied dial com­bi­na­tions. In short, most of the de­sign and ex­te­rior of the watch can now be cus­tom­ized, which means that even though the prod­uct per se may not be ex­clu­sive in num­bers, the fi­nal look will be highly in­di­vid­ual.

It may not be the first at­tempt by a watch brand to of­fer a mod­u­lar watch con­cept (just re­mem­ber the Pop Swatch, the Tis­sot Car­rousel or the Omega Dy­namic from 1984, for ex­am­ple), but it is one of the most promis­ing ex­e­cu­tions so far. And there is a high prob­a­bil­ity that other man­u­fac­tur­ers will fol­low with their own con­cepts soon in or­der to have a mass-pro­duced but highly cus­tom­iz­a­ble prod­uct as an al­ter­na­tive to lim­ited edi­tions.

The re­turn of the clas­sics

While the skele­tonized dial and the mod­u­lar sand­wich con­struc­tion first launched with the 2015 Car­rera Heuer 01 rep­re­sents a new, mod­ern de­sign di­rec­tion for the brand, TAG Heuer’s her­itage-in­spired mod­els, like the Car­rera, Monza, Monaco and, since 2017, the Au­tavia, con­tinue to be an in­dis­pens­able prod­uct seg­ment for more tra­di­tional watch buy­ers and col­lec­tors, es­pe­cially since vin­tage TAG Heuers have started to ben­e­fit from the gen­eral trend to­ward vin­tage watches and have had an in­creas­ing num­ber of themed auc­tions.

Biver’s mes­sage to col­lec­tors in 2016 was clear: e brand would con­tinue to em­pha­size tra­di­tion, and the Au­tavia chrono­graph would be the first to re­turn af­ter he took over the role as CEO in 2015. (For more in­for­ma­tion about the TAG Heuer Au­tavia, see Watchtime’s Au­gust 2017 is­sue.)

Next in line is go­ing to be a new ver­sion of an even more iconic model, the square-shaped Monaco from 1969 – not only one of the first three au­to­matic chrono­graphs (and def­i­nitely the first square, wa­ter-re­sis­tant au­to­matic chrono­graph), but most of all a watch that was worn and made fa­mous by ac­tor Steve Mcqueen, thanks to his role in the 1971 auto racing film, Le Mans.

e lat­est ver­sion is bring­ing back the Gulf Oil com­pany color scheme (like Heuer, Gulf spon­sored a num­ber of ma­jor-team mo­tor racing pro­grams back then) in its most char­ac­ter­is­tic form. Gulf’s ini­tial logo con­sisted of a dark blue font and or­ange back­ground, which might have been too low-key for team car col­ors so “pow­der blue and or­ange” were cho­sen to rep­re­sent the brand af­ter 1964. e ini­tial dark blue used from 1920 to 1964 can now be found on the sun­ray dial.

e first Monaco Gulf lim­ited edi­tion was launched in 2007 with black dial; a gray ver­sion fol­lowed in 2009 – a pre­vi­ous 2005 ver­sion, cel­e­brat­ing what would have been the 75th birth­day of Steve Mcqueen, didn’t carry the Gulf logo. is year’s Monaco “Gulf” is be­ing pro­duced as a spe­cial edi­tion for the U.S. mar­ket and will be pow­ered by Cal­i­bre 11 – de­spite its name, not a di­rect de­scen­dant of the Cal­i­bre 11 move­ment from 1969, but by bring­ing to­gether a SW300 base cal­iber with a Dubois Dépraz chrono­graph mod­ule, TAG Heuer was able to pre­serve the typ­i­cal dual sub­dial lay­out of the Monaco’s dial and the char­ac­ter­is­tic crown po­si­tion at 9 o’clock. e 39-mm chrono­graph comes with a domed sap­phire crys­tal and a trans­par­ent case­back held by four screws. e blue leather strap has match­ing or­ange stitch­ing. Re­tail price is $5,900.

e lat­est Monaco is, once again, re­unit­ing watch­mak­ing his­tory, mo­tor sports and Hol­ly­wood – a com­bi­na­tion that has al­ways proven to be com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful. And thanks to its bright or­ange color scheme, chances are it will cre­ate, again, quite a bit of buzz for the brand.

Fifty-five years ago, Heuer first in­tro­duced its Au­tavia dash­board in­stru­ment as a chrono­graph for the wrist. In 2017, TAG Heuer rein­tro­duced the leg­endary model with in-house move­ment and slightly larger case.

The highly mod­u­lar Con­nected 45 is the first smart­watch to com­ply with the Swiss-made la­bel re­quire­ments af­ter TAG Heuer had grad­u­ally in­sourced the pro­duc­tion.

As­sem­bly in La-chaux-de-fonds

The light blue and or­ange col­ors on the dial of the lat­est Monaco lim­ited edi­tion are in­spired by the dif­fer­ent logo ver­sions of Gulf Oil – next to Heuer, one of the spon­sors of the Porsche 917 that was driven by Steve Mcqueen in Le Mans.

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