Announced one year ago, Google's Android Wear software is available on a half-dozen different smartwatches, ranging in price from $200 to $300. All of those smartwatches, whether they're the Motorola Moto 360, LG G Watch R, or Sony Smartwatch 3, are from traditional consumer electronics and smartphone makers. Today, Google is announcing a partnership with Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer that will put Android Wear on luxury timepieces for the first time.
Best known for its analog chronographs and sponsorships with Formula 1 and other sporting events, Tag Heuer is one of the largest Swiss watchmakers. Its collection ranges in price from just under a thousand dollars to well into the five figure range. Tag isn't usually held in the same regard as Rolex or other Swiss brands, but it certainly has more luxury cachet than the average smartphone maker or even Japanese watchmakers.
Google provides the software, Tag Heuer the design, and Intel the processing components
Part of today's announcement includes Intel, which will be assisting Tag Heuer with the internal components and sensors for its smartwatches. Prior to this, Android Wear watches used Qualcomm or Texas Instruments processors, so Tag Heuer's versions will be among the first to use Intel chips. Intel has ventured into wearables before — the $495 Mica bracelet is one designed for women — but its earlier efforts used proprietary software platforms.
The companies are not providing specific details about the watch or watches that will result from this partnership, nor are they saying how much they will cost when they hit the market. David Singleton, Google's director of engineering for Android Wear, says that the watches will "focus on the quality and performance that are expected from Tag Heuer" and the pricing will be a reflection of that. It's not clear how exactly a Tag Heuer watch with Android Wear will look, though Google says that all of the apps that developers have already made for the platform will work with all Android Wear watches, which means that a touchscreen and microphone are likely. A report from Reuters says the watch will be a "digital replica of the original Tag Heuer black Carrera, known for its bulky, sporty allure, and will look like the original."
It's not yet clear what a luxury Android Wear watch will look likeAndroid Wear's sudden entry into the luxury watch market may seem like a knee-jerk reaction to the Apple Watch, which will have gold versions selling for upwards of $10,000, but Singleton says that talks between Google and Tag Heuer started well before Android Wear launched last March. He notes that Google has been "focused on aligning with what people want to wear on their wrists" since the beginning with Android Wear, and this partnership is the next step in that. Google isn't saying that it will be exclusive to Tag Heuer for its high-end Android Wear watches, but it isn't yet announcing any other Swiss partnerships.
One of the biggest criticisms against Android Wear and even smartwatches in general is that they don't look or feel as nice as traditional watches. Partnerships with bona fide watch companies and the ultra-fancy versions of the Apple Watch are sure to improve upon that perception, but it will be interesting to see how the traditionally ultra-conservative Swiss watch world embraces the new technology. And — perhaps this is the more interesting part — we'll find out if people really are ready to spend $1,000 or more on wrist computers.
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