Apple has made another of its well-known high-end hires. This time, the iPhone maker has plucked one of watchmaker TAG Heuer's top-level executives apparently to work on the up and coming iWatch.
Jean-Claude Biver, president of the watch division at LVMH, which owns several luxury brands including TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot among others, announced in an interview aired over CNBC that TAG Heuer vice president of sales and retail Patrick Pruniaux left the company to join Apple.
"Our sales director left yesterday because he took a contract from Apple to launch the iWatch," he said (video).
"If the job is great, you should be happy for him. And this is a great job. If he had gone to my direct competitors, I would have felt really betrayed. But if he goes to Apple, I think it's a great experience for him," Biver added when asked how he felt about one of his top men leaving the company.
Pruniaux, who spent seven years at TAG Heuer, will most likely work with Apple's sales and marketing teams for the iWatch. Speculations abound that the iPhone maker is bent on marketing its smartwatch as "Swiss-made," a term synonymous to high-quality in the wristwatch industry, and has been trying to poach a number of luxury Swiss watchmakers with little success.
"For sure they are trying to approach the Swiss manufacturers, but 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," said luxury industry analyst Mario Ortelli of Bernstein. "They 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."
Apple has declined to comment, and although the company has made no announcements of its plans about a smartwatch to trump all the current offers in the market, rumor has it that the Cupertino-based company is set on unveiling the fashionable iWatch with a focus on fitness, health and pushing notifications from a linked iPhone.
Last year, 9to5Mac reported that Apple was putting together a high-profile team of experts in the medical sensor, engineering and fitness fields to work together in secrecy in buildings separate from Apple's 1 Infinite Loop headquarters. The company also hired Nike's Jay Blahnik and medical executives Dr. Todd Whitehurst, Ravi Narasimham and Michael O'Reilly. Apple even contacted basketball star and professional athlete Kobe Bryant reportedly to test the iWatch.