TAG Heuer is the first luxury watchmaker to launch a smartwatch

Watch out.
Watch out.
Image: Google
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Swiss precision now supports Bluetooth.

TAG Heuer and Google revealed at an event in New York today (Nov. 9) the first high-end smartwatch—the TAG Heuer Connected.

Unlike most smartwatches on the market, TAG’s watch looks pretty much like a regular watch, rather than a piece of technology that’s strapped to one’s wrist that happens to tell the time. There’s a choice of seven strap colors, and the Connected’s titanium dial looks like the dials the company has been installing on its mechanical watches for over a century. The difference with this watch, however, is that the face is the screen for an Android wearable.

At the event, TAG’s CEO Jean-Claude Biver told the crowd: “At TAG Heuer we say, ‘No innovation, no future.’ It’s not enough to have tradition, because tradition connects you to yesterday, and we need to be connected to tomorrow.”

Biver said that down in “watch valley” (presumably this is not usually how the Swiss refer to their country) they were not able to build a connected watch “that the young people want” to the same high standards that they can a mechanical watch, so they reached out to Silicon Valley.

The device has all the sensors and fitness-tracking functions you’d expect in a smartwatch, wrapped up in a high-end design that will set you back $1,500. The watch runs Android, and will work with any device running Android 4.3 or iOS 8.2 or later. And, although it’s designed by TAG, it was actually assembled by and built out of electronic parts from Intel, according to Bloomberg. At the launch event, TAG said future versions would be assembled in Switzerland. The digital watch faces are designed to mimic some of the company’s most iconic faces, but behind the screens is a fully-fledged smartwatch with a 40-hour battery life, which connects to smartphones via Bluetooth and has four GB of storage.

At its retail price, TAG Heuer’s only real smartwatch competition will be the Hermès edition of the Apple Watch, which starts at $1,100. It’s still early days for the smartwatch market overall, and there’s no sense of what the luxury market might look like. Apple hasn’t said how many watches it’s sold, but Quartz estimates the number to be around 5 million, and roughly 720,000 Android Wear watches were sold last year.

But as Quartz’ Dan Frommer reported in March, if the Apple Watch is a hit, it won’t be at the expense of Swiss watchmakers: “It’ll be because Apple will have convinced tens of millions of people to wear tiny computers on their wrists.”

TAG will try to differentiate itself from other smartwatches by injecting its distinctive looks into the devices, as well as apps targeted to the luxury set, including one to track your golf game, Bloomberg said.

Swiss watches are supposed to be treasured heirlooms that are passed down through generations. It remains to be seen whether one that needs to be charged every two days and is dependent on third-party firmware updates will have the same staying power. But if discerning consumers are loyal to a certain luxury watchmaker and are after a connected device, a Swiss smartwatch might be more desirable than Apple’s cuboid offering. Perhaps other luxury watch brands will follow suit: A James Bond-like version of the Omega Seamaster would likely be a pretty big hit, even if it couldn’t shoot lasers or explode.