Tag Heuer's $1,500 smartwatch isn't really about Android Wear

Tag Heuer Connected Android Wear Smartwatch

Look closely: There's more than meets the eye with this extravagant new connected timepiece.

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Ever since we first heard about Tag Heuer's plans to sell a $1,500 smartwatch, something seemed inexplicably strange about the move.

Think about it: Why would anyone spend that much money on a device that's practically guaranteed to be obsolete within a year or two tops? Even in Appleland, where money flows as freely as the flowery adjectives in the company's events, that kind of proposition is a tough sell to swallow.

But you know what? Following today's official announcement of Tag Heuer's Connected Android Wear smartwatch, the whole thing suddenly makes a lot of sense.

From the Tag Heuer press release:

Anyone who purchases a Tag Heuer Connected watch will have the opportunity to exchange it for a mechanical watch with real Swiss movement inside.

At the end of the connected watch's two-year warranty period, customers can go to the Tag Heuer store of his or her choice to exchange the Tag Heuer Connected watch for a mechanical Swiss Made Carrera watch. With similar design, also made from grade 2 titanium, this mechanical watch has been exclusively developed and reserved for owners of connected watches. Its price is set at 1500 USD, 1’350 Euros, 1’400 CHF, 1’100 GBP.

In other words, the Android Wear watch you're buying today is merely a placeholder -- a proof of concept, if you will. While initial interpretations of Tag Heuer's plans suggested you'd somehow be able to swap out the device's hardware to keep it current, what the company really meant when it said the watch would be "upgradeable" was that it'd give you the opportunity to "upgrade" your soon-to-be-dated smartwatch to a timeless mechanical alternative.

Spending $1,500 on a traditional watch is far more understandable than dropping that kind of dough on a digital device. A traditional watch is essentially jewelry, and it's going to hold its function and its value for years to come. It's the kind of thing you can pass down from generation to generation. A smartwatch? Not so much.

Just imagine one day giving your grandchildren your first Android phone -- something akin to an original Motorola Droid. Even if it were encrusted in diamonds, it'd seem pretty silly. A smartwatch today isn't much different; at the rate that field is evolving, any device you buy right now is bound to become antiquated within a matter of months. It's par for the course with technology, especially in an area that's so new and rapidly developing.

Tag Heuer seems to be acutely aware of that fact -- far more than we initially gave it credit for. Its new $1,500 Connected watch isn't really a push to get people into connected devices at all; it's a carefully crafted marketing move designed to reinforce the Tag Heuer brand and satisfy the curiosity of existing customers while ultimately bringing them back to its traditional products. (And maybe also turning a few new customers onto those core products at the same time.)

Put yourself in the shoes of Tag Heuer's targeted demographic for a second. If you're the kind of person who enjoys spending sizable sums on luxury watches, you can see what all the Android Wear hubbub is about with a luxury version of a smartwatch right now. Then, when the sheen has worn off in a couple of years, you can trade that dated device in and get a traditional luxury watch -- a limited-edition model, no less -- that you'll enjoy forever.

In that context, the company's once-crazy-sounding smartwatch plan actually seems pretty smart.

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