Apple poaches Tag Heuer's sales chief ahead of iWatch launch

If Apple doesn't launch an iWatch soon, it's going to have a lot of luxury fashion execs twiddling their thumbs.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Apple has nabbed the vice president of sales for luxury Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer ahead of the expected launch of an Apple iWatch.

Tag Heuer confirmed on Friday that Patrick Pruniaux, its vice president of sales and retail, had left the company for Apple but did not confirm what his new role would be, according to Reuters.

The Tag Heuer is a part of the LVMH luxury goods group, which spans spirits, fashion, perfume, and jewellery.

News of Apple's latest hire from the luxury goods sector followed comments to CNBC last week by the head of LVMH's watch brands Jean-Claude Biver that Apple had poached its sales director in order to launch Apple's iWatch. He didn't name the executive.

Bliver said he didn't view the hire unfavourably as the exec had not left for a rival company.

"If he went to my competitor I would have felt betrayed. But if he went to Apple I think it’s a great experience for him," Bliver said.

However, Biver told Reuters that he believes the iWatch does have the potential to threaten the luxury watch industry.

Pruniaux joins a number of senior executives that Apple has recruited from the luxury sector in recent months, including Burberry's former CEO Angela Ahrendts, now Apple's new head of retail and online sales, and Paul Deneve, the ex-CEO of Yves Saint Laurent.

Reuters quotes Jon Cox, analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich, as saying that the iWatch won't be a threat to the luxury Swiss watch industry but could affect the market for products below $1,000.

While Google has jumped ahead of Apple with the recent launch Android Wear, Apple has spent the past few months bulking up on talent to bring health and medical features to the rumoured iWatch. Apple last month also unveiled HealthKit for iOS 8, which could underpin any launch of its own reportedly sensor-laden smartwatch.

With tech companies having made no end of mediocre attempts to crack the wearables market, Apple has had time to learn from and avoid the mistakes of early movers in the space. Apple is reportedly aiming to overcome the criticism that the current crop of smartwatches don't bring additional functionality beyond what smartphones already offer.

As the smartphone sales growth rates taper off, investors have been calling on Apple to pull off a new trick to stimulate the market. In classic Apple style, Apple CEO Tim Cook has only said to expect "exciting new categories" this year, but has given no details on when, if ever, a smartwatch might launch.

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