Another day, another entrant to the smartwatch arms race.
Make that entrants, plural. On Thursday, Gucci and Tag Heuer both announced their intentions to launch products in the category — Gucci, through a collaboration with Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, who developed his own connected wristband with his tech company I.am+, and Tag Heuer, via a partnership with Intel and Google.
A rep for Will.i.am declined to give further details on the watch's production timetable or functionality at this point, though it did release a rendering of the device, which has a banded cuff shape not dissimilar to the rapper's first offering. The LVMH-owned Tag Heuer was similarly scant on launch details, but because the smartwatch market is still so nascent, companies can make a big deal out of a partnership announcement.
Gucci and Tag Heuer's partner picks are alone pretty telling. For Tag Heuer, getting into the wearables business probably seems imperative and inevitable. It's unclear how much the Apple Watch will cut into traditional watchmakers' sales, but it does pose the biggest threat so far, and it's heading to stores in April. So, Tag has got to compete to protect its business, and to do so, it brought in the biggest possible tech guns (that are not Apple): Google and Intel. Makes sense.
What's Gucci aiming to get out of a smartwatch launch? Well, press and relevance, probably. Will.i.am's original smart band, while decent looking, was not nearly a technological powerhouse. Nor was Opening Ceremony's flashy collaboration with Intel. These devices might advance our understanding of what a tech accessory can look like, but technically, they've got nothing on Apple or Google's operating systems. If a person wants to buy a smartwatch, would they really not go for a $349 Apple Watch instead?
Or maybe they'll opt for a Tag Heuer model. Google already has a number of Android Wear watches out, but its collaboration with Tag Heuer will be the first luxury model. That could really count for something.