Tag Heuer and Google Team Up to Take on the Apple Watch

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Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images

The watch crowd is not an audience easily impressed. To wit, one only need Google their reaction to the forthcoming Apple Watch — in particular the $10,000-plus gold edition. In a fit of irony, that same powerful search engine, together with Intel and TAG Heuer, has confirmed plans to create a Swiss-made smartwatch.

"Apple will get young people used to wearing a watch, and later maybe they will want to buy themselves a real watch," TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver said at the Baselworld watch expo on Thursday, clearly mincing no words. He added that this was his "biggest announcement ever" in his 40 years in the industry.

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The timepiece, whose design details and price were not disclosed — only a vague timeframe of "later this year" was given as a release date — will be powered by Intel system on chip (SoC) technology and Android Wear. TAG Heuer will oversee design and manufacture.

"We're thrilled to be working with TAG Heuer and Intel to bring a unique blend of emotion and innovation to the luxury market," David Singleton, director of engineering for Android Wear, said. "Together, and using the Android Wear platform, we can imagine a better, beautiful, smarter watch."

The brand's moment of bravado comes at a time when the watchmaker's sales, and reputation, have noticeably sagged. The bold move to partner with Google shows just how determined Biver is to penetrate the market and make a sure-footed impression with a younger generation that is expected to propel the global market for smartwatches to 28.1 million units in 2015. It also opens the door for TAG's parent company, LVMH, to apply similar technologies in their other watch brands, which include Hublot, Zenith, and Bulgari.

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Part of Biver's motivations may also be personal, driven by the recent — and headline-making — departure of seven-year TAG Heuer veteran executive Patrick Pruniaux, who was poached from his post as vice president of sales to join Apple.

This partnership signifies a further foray of collaboration between Swiss watchmakers and Silicon Valley, each hoping to benefit from a mutualistic relationship. It was, after all, less than a month ago when Frederique Constant, Alpina, and Modaine announced, simultaneously, their partnership with Silicon Valley-based Fullpower Technologies on a vast collection of smartwatches that preserve a classic watch aesthetic. Swatch, Breitling, and Montblanc have all recently entered the fray as well.

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