In a surprise press event today in Switzerland, Tag Heuer, one of the more notable watch companies in the industry, announced that its next project would make the leap from traditional watches to smartwatches. But it's not going to do it alone; the Swiss company is partnering with Intel and Google in the hope of giving the watch a technical and fashionable edge in the market.
To help announce the partnership, Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver invited along David Singleton, Android Wear's engineering director, and Michael Bell, one of Intel's corporate vice presidents (and more importantly, the general manager of Intel's New Devices Group).
The trio, along with Guy Semon, Tag Heuer's general manager, didn't offer many technical details about the new watch, unfortunately. At the moment, all we know is that it's coming at the end of the year, with the pricing, specs, and features revealed shortly before the launch. We also know that the device will be running Android Wear, and Singleton confirmed that the partnership will produce the company's first luxury Android watch.
Android Wear already runs on smartwatches created by LG, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, and Asus, but grabbing a prestigious watchmaker like Tag Heuer definitely gives the platform a new market angle.
But what about Intel's part in all this? Based on our interview after last year's IDF with Ellen Healy, Intel's PR manager for wearables, Tag Heuer would seem to just be the latest partner in Intel's effort to work with as many reputable fashion brands as possible to increase the demand for wearables (in this case, specifically smartwatches). Bell echoed that same sentiment at the announcement.
"We believe wearable technology is going to take off, but this is not something to be driven by tech companies only," he said. "We believe that it requires a real partnership between established players in the space who understand customers and fashion and objects of desire."
But that's only part one of Intel's plan. Even though its partners get support by utilizing existing technology, Intel has a roadmap for creating an SoC specifically for its wearables partners. What's more interesting is that Healy noted that it won't be just one platform for all of its products, so maybe we'll see multiple variations of Intel wearable SoCs in the near future.
By partnering up with Tag Heuer, Intel gains another foothold in the wearables market. As long as you buy an Intel-powered wearable device, the company gains a profit. Before Tag Heuer, Fossil announced its partnership with Intel last September, and even with the partnerships, Intel already has its own smartwatch in the market called Basis, which works as a sleep and fitness tracker.
With this latest development, maybe other big watch companies will take the next step and talk to Intel to power their own wearables. It will be interesting to know how this luxury smartwatch will fare compared to Apple's luxury smartwatch. Both devices are aimed at higher-end consumers, but the approaches are completely different.