Apple has poached a top executive from renown Swiss watch manufacturer TAG Heuer, adding further support to rumors that an iWatch announcement is coming this year.
The news comes by way of CNBC, which interviewed Jean-Claude Biver. Biver is the head of watches for LVMH, which owns TAG Heurer, Hublot and Zenith, among other European luxury brands. He said TAG a Heurer sales director left for Apple as recently as last week.
"He took a contract with Apple to launch the iWatch," Biver told CNBC. "If the job is great, you should be happy for him. And this is a great job. If he would have gone to my direct competitors, I would have felt a little bit betrayed. But if he goes to Apple, I think it's a great experience for him."
In a follow-up to the CNBC story, 9to5Mac reported Apple hired Patrick Pruniaux, TAG Heuer's Vice President of Global Sales and Retail, last month, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Whether this is an old LinkedIn or a current LinkedIn, this is the LinkedIn of Patrick Pruniaux.
This isn't the first time Biver has spoken with CNBC about Apple's watch aspirations. In March at the Baselworld luxury watch show, Biver responded positively to reports that Apple has been trying poach LVMH employees in order to tack a "Swiss made" label on the presumptive iWatch.
"I think it's very clever if Apple is doing it," he told CNBC. "And if they would do it, I would really say bravo... Apple is not only a technology company, it's also a retailer, and it's also somehow a luxury brand. And if Apple wants to maintain this luxury appeal, then I would recommend they make the watch in Switzerland."
If we accept on face value that this unnamed sales director has left for Apple, then the next question becomes why. Obviously, strong sales and marketing experience is transferable across product categories. Apple may simply want expertise in appealing to even tonier customers, or is looking for insight into international markets.
But let's not ignore the mounting body of evidence that Apple is readying for an iWatch release. In June, Reuters reported that an Apple smartwatch would go into production this month in preparation of an October release, according to supply chain sources. And that Reuters story most corroborated an earlier report from the Nikkei Asian Review.
If anything, Apple's engagement with TAG Heuer's sales director is reminiscent of Google hiring fashion brand marketing veteran Ivy Ross as its new Head of Glass. Ross had already worked for Coach, Calvin Klein and Swatch before signing on with Google to craft a more consumer-friendly story around Google's smartglass product.
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