TAG Heuer announces ‘bold’ expansion in women’s watches

TAG Heuer, a leading Swiss luxury sports watch, said Tuesday that it is “broadening” its brand positioning into the “untapped potential” of the U.S. women’s upscale watch market.

“TAG Heuer will become much bolder in the women’s market” than it has been, said Daniel LaLonde, TAG Heuer North America president and CEO, to some 120 trade and consumer press journalists at a New York press conference. “We’re fusing sport with glamour, both of which are part of the genetic makeup and heritage of TAG Heuer.”

The expansion, he said, marks “a new era for TAG Heuer,” that builds its history of watchmaking (145 years), innovation in sports timings (especially motor racing) and, more recently (since 1970) involvement with filmmaking and film stars.

Supporting the brand expansion is its 2005 ad campaign, also unveiled Tuesday. Photographed by world-renowned photographer Patrick Demarchelier, it features four sports and fashion-oriented “brand ambassadors”—international gold champion Tiger Woods, tennis star Maria Sharapova and, new this year, race car champion Jeff Gordon, and movie star Uma Thurman. All will be involved not only in “visual marketing” and promotions, but also provide input for new watches.

The use of Sharapova and Thurman, especially, underscores the brand’s expansion from “sports-inspired to sports, fashion and glamour-directed” and its added focus on fashionable luxury watches specifically for women, said LaLonde. New watches for women include redesigns of its Link collection and a diamond version of its popular Formula 1 chronograph. Signature collections for Thurman, Sharapova, and Gordon (joining Wood’s) will be added this year and next. Also in the works—more new products, at higher price points, in the iconic Carrera collection and a “tennis watch” for Shaparova, probably similar to the “golf watch,” which Tiger Woods helped design.

“With our new [ad] campaign and new product collections, we are strengthening our position as a leasing luxury watch that is equally appealing to men as to women,” said LaLonde.

The new ad campaign, with the slogan “What Are You Made Of,” will launch with billboards in late February and in magazines in March. It is the most expensive ad campaign in the brand’s history, said LaLonde. He declined to give a specific figure, but said that it’s “in double digits” over 2003’s advertising budget.

In addition, TAG Heuer will do more direct marketing and is also working on an “Internet strategy to communicated directly to the college community,

There won’t be any expansion of distribution, though. “We want to build business in the existing our points of sales,” LaLonde said. The brand has about 1,100 U.S. outlets.

TAG Heuer’s planned expansion in the women’s watches builds on its recent successes, especially its record year in 2004. In addition to critical kudos for its innovative Monaco 69 watch and V4 mechanical movement, and being named official timekeeper of the Indianapolis 500 motor races, TAG Heuer’s sales grew 35% in 2004 (a new record) and, says LaLonde, it became “the second largest luxury watch company in the United States.” Its two best-selling watches, significantly, were both women’s watches—its 2000 diamond dial model and the diamond version of its redesigned Link collection. That indicates “there’s a huge, untapped potential for TAG Heuer in the United States in the women’s [luxury watch] market,” he said.