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iWatch watch: Apple tags sales bod from luxury Swiss watch firm

TAG Heuer retail man pinched for wearables division

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Apple hasn't officially announced the arrival of its iWatch, but you don't have to be Nostradamus to see what's on its way.

Fanbois have now been given the the clearest indication so far that a wrist-borne computer is set to issue forth from Cupertino, following the hiring of a head honcho from Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer.

Patrick Pruniaux, TAG Heuer's sales and retail vice president, has jumped ship from the Swiss brand, which makes products aimed at secret agent/city banker/rich person types.

The news was revealed by Jean-Claude Biver, group head of LVMH, the Paris-based conglomerate which owns Tag Heuer.

He told CNBC: "If it had been a direct competitor, I would have felt a bit betrayed, but if he goes to Apple I think it is a great experience for him."

Mario Ortelli, senior luxury goods analyst at Bernstein, told CNBC he believed the fruity firm was trying cop some of that "Swiss made" reputation for quality. The analyst maintains that Swiss firms would be "diluting" their brands should they take a decision to work with the showy US manufacturer.

"The Swiss have got no great interest in working with Apple – if you are a luxury producer and you cooperate with Apple, you have got a dilution," Ortelli said.

"They (Swiss watchmakers) do not want to create a device like the iPhone, the iPhone is designed in California and assembled in China – so they don't want to dilute the value of the Swiss name."

It's not difficult to see what Apple might be planning here. Pruniaux is one of many recent non-tech hires at Apple, which is as obsessed with retail and branding as it is CPU cycles and industrial design.

The thing about luxury is that many people can't really afford it.

Will people cough up for $300 iWatch to measure the length of their jogs and send voice messages to their mates? If Pruniaux has his way, they will. He now has the job of making sure the iWatch is quickly seen as iNvaluable. ®

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