TAG Heuer Makes ‘Bold’ Expansion in Women’s Watches

AG Heuer, a leading Swiss luxury sports watch, is broadening its brand positioning into the “untapped potential” of the U.S. women’s upscale watch market, says Daniel LaLonde, TAG Heuer North America president and chief executive officer. It will become “much bolder in the women’s market” than it has been, he told 120 trade and consumer journalists at a New York press conference in January. “We’re fusing sport with glamour, both part of the genetic makeup and heritage of TAG Heuer.”

The expansion, he said, marks “a new era” for TAG Heuer that builds on its 145-year history of watchmaking, innovation in sports timing (especially motor racing), and, since 1970, involvement with films and film stars.

It won’t expand distribution, though. “We want to build business in our existing [1,100] U.S. points of sales,” LaLonde said.

TAG Heuer’s plan follows a record year in 2004. In addition to receiving critical kudos for its innovative Monaco Sixty-Nine watch and V4 mechanical movement and becoming official timekeeper of the Indianapolis 500 motor races, its U.S. sales rose more than 30 percent (a new record), and, according to LaLonde, it became “the second-largest luxury watch company in the United States,” after Rolex. Its two best sellers were women’s watches—its 2000 diamond dial model and a diamond version of its redesigned Link collection—indicating “huge potential for TAG Heuer in the United States in the women’s [luxury watch] market,” he said.

Supporting the brand expansion is its 2005 ad campaign, photo-graphed by famed fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier, with four famous sports and fashion-oriented “brand ambassadors”—golf champion Tiger Woods, tennis star Maria Sharapova, and, new this year, racecar champion Jeff Gordon and movie star Uma Thurman. All will be involved in “visual marketing” and promotions and provide input on new watch designs.

Using Sharapova and Thurman underscores the brand’s move “from sports-inspired to sports, fashion, and glamour-directed,” said LaLonde, and its increased focus on fashionable luxury watches for women. Those include redesigns of its Link collection and a diamond version of its popular Formula 1 chronograph. Signature collections for Thurman, Sharapova, and Gordon (joining Woods’s) are coming. Also in the works—more new products, at higher price points, in TAG Heuer’s iconic Carrera collection and a “tennis watch” for Sharapova, similar to the “golf watch” Woods helped design.

“With our new campaign and new product collections, we’re strengthening our position as a luxury watch equally appealing to men and women,” said LaLonde.

The new ad campaign, with the slogan “What Are You Made Of,” was slated to launch with billboards in late February and in magazines in March. It’s the brand’s most expensive campaign ever, said LaLonde. He declined to reveal figures but said the ad budget is “double digits [in percent]” over 2003’s. TAG Heuer will also do more direct marketing and is working on an Internet strategy aimed at the college community.