155-year-old Swiss watch maker Tag Heuer today unveiled the Tag Heuer Connected, a $1,500 smartwatch built in partnership with Google and Intel. It’s made of titanium, runs Android Wear, and features custom watch faces.
The watch ships with an interesting promise: After two years, when the smartwatch becomes obsolete, you can trade it in for a $1,500 mechanical watch. That mechanical watch will look “just like” the Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch, the company said during its launch event in New York.
“We are the only brand where you can buy a connected watch and transform it into eternal,” said Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver.
In an emotional speech, Biver praised the device as a “wedding” between Silicon Valley and Switzerland:
We want to be connected to tomorrow. How could we get connected to tomorrow in our Watch Valley? In the Watch Valley, as the name says, we are producing watches. But we are producing mechanical watches. But we are producing traditional watches … watches that people love.
But can we do in Watch Valley a connected watch that people want? No. So what did we do? We tried to do it, and we went to Silicon Valley. So today if there is something to be said, today is the marriage of Watch Valley and Silicon Valley. It’s a marriage between America and Switzerland…
So this wedding, what does it mean? It means for TAG it’s a milestone for our brand. But it’s also a milestone for the Swiss watch industry. The Swiss watch industry has entered today, thanks to Intel, Google… the Swiss Watch industry is connected to the future. That is the importance of the event today. That is why I’m excited. That is why I am proud to be here.
The unveiling turned out to be pretty bizarre by tech event standards. It ended with a ceremonial cutting of the Swiss cheese, before opening up to an audience Q&A.
Not the first ‘luxury’ smartwatch
Google calls this smartwatch “the first luxury watch powered by Android Wear,” but Tag Heuer isn’t breaking ground today. Apple already retails a handful of luxury Apple Watch models priced as high as $17,000, and LG sells a $1,200 gold smartwatch called the Urbane Luxe. Actually, TAG Heuer isn’t even the first Swiss-made smartwatch. Mondaine technically beat it to the punch. And it doesn’t appear to be the first Intel-powered Android Wear smartwatch, either — Fossil did that in October.
This is certainly an interesting moment for the smartwatch industry — to see a Swiss watch maker with so much clout embrace Google’s imperfect Android Wear platform. It’s bittersweet, if not plain sad, to watch a seemingly timeless craft give way to a smartphone accessory.