Adding Dynamism To Legacy

Frédéric Arnault was just 25 when he was appointed CEO of TAG Heuer in 2020. Well, you can’t but not introduce him as a son of the LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, the richest man in the world. Arnault has a degree in computational and applied mathematics from École Polytechnique, a French science and technology university with a list of notable alumni, including Nobel laureates, presidents, and captains of industry that include his own father. Catching up with him at the LVMH Watch Week in Singapore was as interesting as it was enriching. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Frédéric Arnault |
Frédéric Arnault |

So, how was 2022 for TAG Heuer?

It has been the best year ever for us. If there’s one word to summarise 2022, it’s dynamism. We did a splash at Watches and Wonders with the new Superdiver, the Solargraph and the Plasma, which was highly commented on by the industry. And we ended the year with a great recognition at the GPHG Awards at Geneva for the Monaco Gulf. We were very active with events throughout the world, with new boutique openings, to celebrate victories by our athletes, and especially with F1 racing.

How does it feel to bring LVMH Watch Week to Singapore for the first time?

It’s the 4th edition of the watch week. And for us, it’s an opportunity to talk about novelties together as a group at the beginning of the year. As you are aware, the 1st edition was in Dubai. After the pandemic, we wanted to come back to Asia and we thought that Singapore was a central hub where we could bring all of our key markets together from Southeast Asia, Korea, India and Oceania.

TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th anniversary

Will you take us through three of your key launches, which you are most proud of?

The first one has to be the Monza. It’s the cushion shape that we had in the past, but it’s so unique and that will become very identifiable to the brand and to this collection. While doing this relaunch, as a faithful re-edition we wanted to bring this shape to modernity, and we realised that through material—the forged carbon case and the design of the dial, the sapphire sub-counters and the innovation in the movement with the great flyback functionality. It’s a great modern watch and when you start looking at the details you realise it is rooted in our heritage—the pushers, the hands are inspired from the historic Monza.

Second, I have to go with the limited-edition Carrera anniversary piece. Even if it’s just the beginning of the celebration of the 60th anni­versary, this announces the future of the Carrera collection, so it’s a real milestone for the brand. It recalls one of the most desirable designs in the history of Carrera, with raised profile ‘glass box case’ in sapphire crystal and the unique dial. And it also indicates the future design that we will be announcing in Watches and Wonders in March. It is still too early to talk about, but what I can say now is this is the last watch we will have with this exact case, and that we will be faithful to the spirit of it, but bring it to modernity.

As I understand, the third one is your personal favourite too. I’m very excited about the new Solargraph. First of all, as a technology, quartz is very important in our collection and it’s more precise too. And you don’t need to wear the watch for it to work. There’s one drawback today; every 2-3 years you need to change the battery. We have solved this issue with the Solargraph technology, because it lasts 15 years without needing any service and works for six months with just a few hours of exposure to sunlight. So, it’s a state-of-the-art technology at the core of the Solargraph. It’s made fully in titanium Grade 2—very light, very durable, very thin and adapted for a healthy, active sportsy lifestyle. It’s great looking, too, with the contrasting hands on a black dial.

How are you giving shape to strategies on the product pillars, distribution, retail strategy and lastly, marketing and ambassadors?

Repositioning a legacy brand means investment on quality, perceived value, iconicity of our models. We have four main product pillars. On the traditional watchmaking side, the Carrera is the ultimate elegant sports watch. Thin bezel, clean dial, super legible, both on rubber and steel straps, different movement offerings with three hands, day, date and chronograph. A highly desirable collection of watches worldwide!

Then we have the ultimate tool watch, the sporty Aquaracer, that we divided into two sub-collections—diving with ceramic bezel and outdoor sports that we are now releasing with the Solargraph technology in a 40 mm case.

TAG Heuer Monza Flyback Chronometer

Then we have our entry watch, that people love so much, the Formula One. It’s playful, colourful, young and very sporty. We released late last year the new colours of green, yellow and red that were very electric and corresponded well with this collection.

The last but not the least, the Monaco, the square-shaped icon. If you think of square watch, you think of Monaco. It was very avant-garde when it was launched over 50 years ago. It still is very avant-garde and we’re very proud of this. We are complementing this collection today with the Monza watch. We don’t consider Monza as a pillar yet but more as an extension of the Monaco collection that is a shaped watch and we’re talking to the same type of customer there.

Then, of course, we have the connected watch. That’s also a pillar, but we view that as a different customer, a different mindset, a different journey.

But how has been the performance in the connected watch space for you?

Very strong.

The future of the Carrera collection is a real milestone for the brand. It recalls one of the most desirable designs in the history of Carrera, with raised profile ‘glass box case’ in sapphire crystal and the unique dial.

The company will continue to invest in the connected watch space, right? Tell us about the 2nd edition of the Connected Golf in a smaller 42 mm size.

Yes. Well, in the connected, smaller size was a demand, but the main size still remains the bigger 45 mm one. And the main reason is not necessarily the fit on the wrist but more the size of the screen. To see all the information well, it’s better to have a bigger screen and hence the need for a bigger watch. And we have added the feature of tracking shots in the new connected piece; you can always turn off the functionality and use it manually. We believe most customers will use it.

What is your retail and e-commerce strategy?

In the past three years, we have been investing a lot on monobrand boutiques. In the past, we had a lot of multibrand doors, we were at 4000 points of sale worldwide in 2019 and it has now come down to 2500 by the end of 2022. We’ll continue to reduce this number, while increasing the number of mono boutiques. We want to offer the best service to our customers with dedicated teams offering our full collection in the right brand environment.

TAG Heuer Connected Golf Calibre E4 42mm

E-commerce is very important for us. We are a leading luxury watch brand online. We believe a good website experience is essential, because most of our customers go to the website at least once to have some information, to discover the product in the process of decision making. We invest a lot to offer the best brand and product presentation as well the best level of service online. A lot of customers love the ease of online purchase of watches and we believe as a luxury brand it’s a service we must offer to our customers today. Twenty per cent of our sales come through e-commerce.

Coming now to marketing and ambassadors, what’s happening in that space for TAG Heuer?

We are refocusing on some of our core territories like ‘sports of speed and precision’. We are investing heavily in the world of racing with Porsche, with some iconic races around the world such as the Monaco Grand Prix, the historic Indy 500. Also, with other sports of speed like skateboarding with Sky Brown, surfing with Kai Lenny, track and field with Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Sydney McLaughlin.

We are also historically present in the world of cinema. We’ve had iconic actors like Steve McQueen wear the brand. Though he didn’t represent the brand, the association is legendary.  We decided to enter a new collaboration with Ryan Gosling two years ago as we believe he fits well with the brand values and we’re very proud that he chose TAG Heuer as the first brand to collaborate with.

And our long association with Patrick Dempsey continues. He’s not only a passionate actor but also a race car driver, and this great duality fits very well the brand. He’s also an ambassador of the TAG Heuer and Porsche collaboration because he represents both brands.

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