Timelessness is a key tenet of TAG Heuer. By constantly creating (and updating) modern classics, it has become one of the most coveted watch brands in the world. TAG Heuer watches have come to be defined as the best value for money—even for the models that command high prices. In India, the highest-selling watches from the brand are the Carrera Day Date Chronograph and Carrera Chronograph 1887, both of which are priced between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3.5 lakh.
The Indian Timewear Industry 2011 report, published by the All-India Federation of Horological Industries and consultancy firm Technopak Advisors, says India’s watch market is currently around Rs 4,200 crore. This is likely to double in the next five years to Rs 8,500 crore, largely owing to the demand for premium watches. This could explain why India is a priority market for brands like TAG Heuer.
The Sunday Standard talks to Franck Dardenne, who took over as the general manager of TAG Heuer India in February, about the company’s plans for this market. Selling watches seems a rather drastic turn for this Frenchman, who holds a master’s degree in philosophy and whose previous jobs have included teaching high school students and working with the French Military Service. Dardenne started his career with TAG Heuer in 2002. In ’07, he moved to Asia to handle commercial operations for Japan and Korea. He has since extended his ouvre by catering to LVMH’s watch jewellery portfolio across India and the subcontinent. Excerpts:
How important is India for TAG Heuer watches?
We know that India will be the next key market, after China, and our aim is to build a leadership position here. Within the next five years, I’d like to put India in the top 10 markets of TAG Heuer. We were among the first brands to enter the country through a subsidiary 10 years ago. We launched direct activities, sold to multi-brand outlets and opened boutiques, through partners, and paid taxes, instead of just having a distributor importing our products. We quickly captured a Top 3 position and gained a solid reputation and good consumer awareness.
Have you created any India-specific watches?
Last year, we introduced the TAG Heuer Carrera India Racing Limited Edition for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. We have also created some limited editions for Shah Rukh Khan, our brand ambassador. For instance, for his movie Don, we created the TAG Heuer Monaco 69 watch. We also personalize watches for our customers here. For instance, our local clients wanted the Formula 1 Lady Steel and Ceramic Swatch to be gold plated as they felt that would make it more suitable with the sari. We developed it as per the local demand and sold it with huge success not just in India, but also all over the world
Do you intend to introduce more watches for women?
Women account for only one-fifth of our sales in India, while they are one-third of TAG Heuer sales worldwide. We believe we have a perfect fit with the independent, working woman, who does not want her timepiece to be just a piece of jewellery like her mother’s was. Still, whatever our growth among ladies, we do not expect sales to be over 40 per cent this year, or over 50 per cent in the future. Our roots lie in motorsport and, historically, TAG Heuer has been a gent’s watch. Yes, the definition of TAG Heuer as strength and beauty is more suitable to ladies, but the polarity remains masculine. We will never alter our DNA, whatever the market’s demand.
That said, we have just introduced a TAG Heuer Formula 1 Lady Steel and Ceramic, with a 32 mm dial. By the end of the year, we will launch the Link Lady collection that has been presented at Basel. It is not just a jewelled watch. Too often, in the past, watchmakers just took gents’ watches, reduced the size and put diamonds on them. Our Link collection is different; it is well thought out for ladies, in line with our DNA and yet sensual, with a river-stone shaped case and a sophisticated dial.
How do you plan to widen Tag Heuer’s reach in India?
In the luxury industry, many players have only now started talking about developing a presence in the Tier 2 markets. But we are already present there: TAG Heuer is distributed in 93 points of sales across 27 cities. For example, I recently participated in an event in Kanpur with our excellent trade partner, who is a major jeweller.