TAG Heuer: moving upscale

TAG Heuer S.A. is introducing its 6000 series wrist watch collection, which will be priced higher than previous sports watches. The 30 styles in the collection will cost from $1,200 to $2,900 and be available in stainless steel, 18-karat gold or a steel-gold combination. The 6000 line will begin limited distribution in Sep 1992. Although TAG Heuer sells 700,000 watches a year internationally, only around 2000 of the 6000 series are expected to be sold in the US in the first year. The product launch will include a choreographed dance piece by the Feld Ballet/NY, sponsored by TAG Heuer.

TAG Heuer, the watch line that over the past few years has become a leader in sportsĀ watches, is introducing a new exclusive collection that will move the brand into higher price points.

The collection, dubbed the 6000, is in either stainless steel or a combination of stainless and 18-karat gold. This is the first time the brand has used fine metals.

“The move is consistent with our strategy to go upscale,” said Luc Perramond, president of Heuer Time & Electronics Corp., TAG Heuer’s U.S. subsidiary. He said the firm has tripled the average TAG Heuer price point over the past four years.

Perramond said the average TAG Heuer retail currently is $750 to $800, and the new 6000 collection will range from $1,200 to $2,900 retail.

He said next year an 18-karat gold watch will be introduced.

Perramond said worldwide TAG Heuer sells 700,000 units a year. He said the 6000 series will have limited distribution, sold only in a few select stores the first year. He expects to sell only 2,000 in the U.S. the first year. The watches will be distributed in September.

“We will always stay in sport watches. We’re not looking to do dressy watches,” Perramond said. “We have built a strong brand image, and with improved quality and functions we have been able to move into higher price points.”

The 6000, which is currently hitting stores in Europe and the Far East, features 30 sporty styles. It has a patented bracelet with curved links designed to mold to the shape of the wrist or is available with a saddle-stitched leather strap in a range of fashion colors.

The 6000 watches possess the same technical features as the other TAG Heuer watches, including water resistance, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and luminous hands and hour markers. The faces come in gray or white.

As part of the 6000 series launch, TAG Heuer is supporting the Feld Ballet/NY summer preview season. Eliot Feld, director and choreographer, has choreographed a dance to commemorate the launch of TAG Heuer’s 6000 collection, and the performance will debut Aug. 18.

Perramond said this is first time the watch firm has supported the performing arts; past sponsorships have been exclusively sporting events such as skiing, yachting and car racing.

“We chose an art that is technical and athletic to support and help us build our brand image,” Perramond said.

The firm was started in 1860 by Edouard Heuer in St. Imier, Switzerland. From the beginning it focused on precision timekeeping, and was appointed the official timekeeper for the 1920, 1924, 1928 and 1980 Olympic Games.

In 1985, Heuer joined forces with TAG (Techniques d’Avant-Garde), a Paris-based technology firm that supported sports-related activities.

The global watch

For some watch firms, one campaign can translate globally, but for others, cultural differences call for variations on a theme.

Timex’s five-year-old strategy is multifaceted, as its many groups of watches target different types of people, said Susie Watson, advertising and public relations director.

“No longer can you target one group with your brand and expect to get any diversity,” she said. There’s very little overlap between their target groups, she noted.

Timex has four campaigns: one for the Expedition outdoorsy watches, one for the Ironman watchesfor sports enthusiasts, one for the women’s fashion watches called True Classics and one for the Turn & Pull analog alarm watches. Coming up is a new campaign for the new Humvee watch (inspired by the Hummer vehicle), which will address a young, alternative male customer.

This year, Watson said, the firm will spend $18 million on advertising.

At Citizen, president Laurence Grunstein said the company continues to use its campaign entitled “Citizen. How the World Tells Time,” which was created five years ago.

Since the campaign began, he claims Citizen’s market share has gone from number two to number one in the over $50 watch category in the U.S.

While the firm is capitalizing on its global-style slogan, Grunstein said it doesn’t lose sight of all the differences in cultures.

I think the world is getting smaller, the Internet is helping that, and in time this diversity in advertising may change,” he said. However, he noted that the firm must still tweak the campaign for the differences among countries.

Citizen will increase its ad budget between 10 and 20 percent this year over last year. Last year it was roughly $10.5 million, Grunstein said.

Over time, the media mix has changed. Fourteen years ago, all advertising was on TV, he said. Now it’s about half TV, half print. Last year, TV advertising was 55 percent with print at 45 percent; this year those percentages will be flip-flopped.

At Tag Heuer, U.S. president Susan Nicholas said the firm has propelled its uniqueness of being a higher-end, branded sports watch.

We came in and took a small functional segment of the watch category — sports watches — and moved them to a prestigious alternative to a dress watch,” she said, comparing the phenomenon to what has happened with sports vehicles becoming a status symbol.

When the firm launched the Kirium watch last year, it commissioned Herb Ritts to do a photo shoot of 13 world-class athletes in the nude to make the tie between sports and watches. Tag Heuer exhibited the photos in art galleries here and in Los Angeles, and now plans to use them in a brochure to reach more consumers in the next few months to promote a new Kirium chronograph watch.

Close to $10 million has been spent on advertising for the firm this year, with the national program comprised of 90 percent print advertising in about 30 publications. The rest is large outdoor advertising such as wall paintings.

At Swatch, vice president of marketing Carlo Giordanetti said it runs the same TV spots in various countries, as the firm seeks “to convey the brand message with a lifestyle message of Swatch.”

The motto, “Time is what you make of it,” is used to trigger an emotional response in all viewers, Giordanetti said.

Giordanetti said that, this summer, Swatch will push its image with the Goodwill Games through TV spots on CNN, CBS and TNT and outdoor billboards.