Swiss watch maker Tag Heuer will launch a smartwatch in partnership with Google (GOOG) sometime in 2015 in a bid to challenge Apple’s (AAPL) upcoming device, marking the arrival of the largest luxury player so far in the nascent market.
Tag Heuer, part of French conglomerate LVMH, said at the Baselworld watch conference in Switzerland on Thursday that the partnership, which also includes Intel, (INTC) to create timepieces with new electronic functions, offers three companies “enormous” potential.
“Swiss watchmaking and Silicon Valley is a marriage of technological innovation with watchmaking credibility,” said Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of TAG Heuer, in a statement.
While the announcement only involves Tag Heuer, similar deals could conceivably include Tag Heuer’s sister brands Hublot and Zenith, luxury watch names also owned by LVMH, as the high-end smartwatch sector gets ready for prime time. Other Swiss watch brands such as Swatch, Breitling, Montblanc, Frederique Constant, Mondaine and Festina have added some tech features to their watches.
The Tag Heuer-Google announcement comes 10 days after Apple announced the release of its long-awaited smartwatch, which will come to market next month and range in price from $349 for the most basic model, to $17,000 for the premium gold option, called the Apple Watch Edition.
The three companies didn’t reveal much about what the watches, which will use Android Wear technology, would like look or cost, although Tag Heuer watches are on the pricey side. But they are likely to be a serious challenger in a market set to be dominated by Apple, especially if they succeeded in making them fashionable and esthetically pleasing.
Research firm Strategy Analytics earlier this month forecast that Apple Watch will ship 15 million units globally in 2015, quickly making it a the top smart watch vendor with a 55% marketshare this year. The firm expects a total of 28.1 million smart watches to be sold this year.
Still, the market is no slam dunk. Wearable gadgets have generally not done well for tech companies: Samsung’s Gear watches, for example, have been underwhelming, and the jury is still out on whether the Apple Watch will win over fashion conscious non-geeks, leaving an opening for high end watch purveyors such as Tag Heuer.