ZURICH, Switzerland — TAG Heuer, a Swiss watch brand that has bucked the industry’s slump, expects to build on last year’s double-digit sales growth in 2017, supported by an upgraded smartwatch and healthier demand in China, the biggest market for luxury timepieces.
Chief executive officer Jean-Claude Biver said on Tuesday his “cautious” forecast is for TAG Heuer’s sales to rise 8 percent to 10 percent in 2017. He was speaking as the watchmaker introduced its $1,650-and-up “Connected Modular 45” timepiece, which carries the Swiss-made label.
TAG Heuer, owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, is one of the few Swiss watch brands that has introduced a high-end smartwatch to compete with the Apple Watch. The company started up an office in Silicon Valley last month, with about 8 employees so far, Biver said. The new model comes as the Swiss watch market has been showing tentative signs of a recovery from its longest slump on record.
“Mainland China is much better and Europe is recovering from last year,” Biver said in a phone interview.
In 2016, the 157-year-old watchmaker sold out all 60,000 of its first smartwatch, which cost $1,500 and was modeled after its classic Carrera model, though didn’t carry the Swiss-made label. The brand aims to sell some 150,000 units of the new version, Biver said.
The Modular 45 comes in 56 different versions, available in titanium, rose gold, ceramic and with diamonds. For an additional $1,650, TAG Heuer will sell a module that can replace the smartwatch face with a traditional one.
“You can change the watch,” Biver said. “The mechanical module you can acquire will never be obsolete.”
The new timepiece features a larger screen and is powered by an Intel processor and operates on an Android and iOS systems. In addition to memory of 4 gigabytes and a battery that lasts more than a full day, it comes with Wi-fi, GPS and can make mobile payments.
Biver also oversees LVMH’s other watch brands, Hublot and Zenith. He said Tuesday he aims to have a new CEO for Zenith by the end of June following the departure of Aldo Magada from that position in January.
By Corinne Gretler; editors: Eric Pfanner, Thomas Mulier and Paul Jarvis.