In a recent survey 43% of Apple users would consider moving their savings to Apple if they launched a consumer bank. That’s not overly surprising considering the staggering loyalty that exists with their brand, but it does raise the question – should they even try? How far should a company diversify before it runs the risk of exiting its field of expertise?
This all came about as I started to review a beautiful creation which represents the work of three companies – TAG Heuer, Pinel & Pinel, and SwissKubik. In this example, TAG has commissioned the fine French trunk maker Pinel & Pinel to produce a showcase for their Grand Carrera Chronograph and Meridiist mobile phone. A wise choice of partner because Fred Pinel is truly a leader in hand-crafted leather accessories. Always colourful and contemporary, his pieces are sought after by initiated individuals and prestigious brands alike.
The special edition case manages to encompass some of the best and worst aspects of partnerships in today’s watch industry. The unit itself is a miniature 1930s steamer trunk with integrated winder and USB charger. The top section opens to display storage space, and there is also a sliding drawer below the winder unit. The winder is a reliable and slick mechanism supplied by SwissKubik. This is a good choice for the Pinel brand; it matches their high quality workmanship and sense of functional style. In this sense, Pinel & Pinel and SwissKubik are partnering to create something better than either could produce alone.
The Carrera is an excellent example of Heuer at their very best; well built, functional, unashamedly masculine, and steeped in sporting heritage. Which makes it all the more frustrating that they bundle the Meridiist into this otherwise appealing package. The Meridiist is TAG Heuer’s attempt at taking on the ethereal ‘high-end’ phone market. This is a segment which probably looked very appealing during a PowerPoint-fueled boardroom presentation, because phones seem to be a perfect luxury product line: they’re personal, portable, and visible. What’s more, the market is relatively untapped. Sure, Vertu has got there first and has some corpulent examples of über-expensive phones – but that just proves there’s demand.
The glaring oversight is that phones don’t share any of their core characteristics or technology with watches. They might both display the time, but that’s where the similarity ends. Brands like Cartier and Harry Winston may have begun in diamonds and then moved to include watches in their line-up, but that is a natural progression because jewelry production shares a lot in common with watch manufacturing. Phones, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the technology spectrum. The consumer focus tends to be on higher speed, more functionality, and smaller size.
The overlap is purely branding – TAG are selling their image. For the same reason that Versace and Prada have dipped their toes into the mobile market, Tag Heuer believe they can grab a slice of the pie. But by selling their brand alone they are bringing nothing to the party. When Yamaha, for example, realized they could repurpose their metallurgy machines to make bikes they evolved the company and adapted. Nokia grew from a paper-mill into a power supply conglomerate before evolving into telecommunications. The unifying factor is that they brought with them some relevant expertise.
Could Apple become a significant player in banking? Possibly. It’s probably more appropriate to monitor the relative newcomers from eBay: PayPay. Their evolution from online auction site to global payment mechanism is just as unexpected, but they bring relevant experience and useful technology to a complacent industry. If TAG are only bringing ‘luxury’ to the phone market they are representing the very worst of the watch world. They may argue that they are bringing style and design, but their clunky low-spec Meridiist doesn’t back that argument up.
The real winners from this presentation box are the partner brands – Pinel & Pinel and SwissKubik. In this small unit they have demonstrated exactly how a good partnership can benefit both companies by showcasing the different value that each represents. One is the pinnacle of Swiss watch winding technology with their quiet, reliable cubes. The other is one of France’s premier luggage designers which has managed to find refreshing and stylish avenues in a staid market.
However, the unfortunate truth about this winder is that it simply isn’t available on its own. Pinel & Pinel would love to create a bespoke version of this in your own choice of cut and colour (if you have to ask at what price you certainly couldn’t afford it); but this particular example was purely designed to house the 150 limited edition TAG watches and their sadly miscalculated sibling, the Meridiist phone.
TAG Heuer reveals highs and lows of watch brand collaborations
TAG Heuer, Pinel & Pinel, and SwissKubik teamed up for a collaboration that brought out into the open the very best, and worst, aspects of partnerships in today’s watch industry.
H-Bomb (yes, that really is the name he's going with) has had aspirations of Prodigal foolery for many years. However it was only after moving to Tokyo that he truly discovered the excesses of watch buying. With eyes bigger than his wallet, he now has a modest collection which just about justifies a watch winder. The pain he experienced in buying said winder drove him to create WatchWindersInternational.com. He also likes to zip around the countryside on his motorcycles; just don't ask what's in the saddlebags.
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