‘Luxury consumers are primed’: Why it’s the right time for Louis Vuitton’s smartwatch

Early today, after three days of teasing the news on social media, Louis Vuitton revealed the Tambour Horizon, a smartwatch featuring many of the same functions smartwatch wearers know well. The luxury brand is betting on an elevated look, as well as a few unique bells and whistles, to sell shoppers on the style, despite its hefty $2,450-$2,900 price tag.

“It’s the first luxury smartwatch, fully dedicated to the Louis Vuitton universe and with the best technology,” said Hamdi Chatti, Louis Vuitton’s vice president of watches and jewelry. “We’ve worked on this project for two years now.”

And, according to Syama Meagher, chief retail strategist at fashion and retail consulting firm Scaling Retail, the result is “a really big deal.”

“Louis Vuitton is taking cues from companies who are breaking ground in the fashion-tech space, like — dare I say it? — Rebecca Minkoff,” she said. “It’s starting to blend fashion and technology, and starting to invest money into tech-first elements. If they can do this successfully, and launch other products so this doesn’t become a one-off, then there’s an opportunity.”

A spokesperson for Google, which collaborated with Louis Vuitton and Qualcomm Technologies on the Tambour Horizon, declined to comment on future plans to partner with the brand. However, Vanessa Friedman reported that connected luggage, footwear and clothing are on the brand’s horizon.

Getting a jump on the competition
The Google rep said those familiar with Google’s smartwatches will be quick to pick up on the watch’s new features. Yes, it tracks steps, and provides notifications of calls and texts, but it also “offers a highly customized software experience that provides a luxury look and feel.” For starters, unlike other smart devices, its functions transition seamlessly to China. In addition, they said, it incorporates apps and watch faces that are designed to create a personalized experience.

Image from Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Horizon campaign (via louisvuitton.com)

Those exclusive apps include City Guide, which grants new access to Louis Vuitton’s popular print guides by recommending restaurants, shopping destinations and more based on a wearer’s location. There’s also My Flight, a travel app that tracks the progress of flights, keeping travelers up-to-date on delays, cancellations and gate changes.

Meagher called the development of the apps a smart move. “Unlike other brands with apps, Louis Vuitton is embedding itself into the consumer’s life beyond a transaction,” she said. “There’s huge opportunity that comes with tapping into a resource. [Louis Vuitton] can do more with data tracking, advertising, the list goes on.”

As for the look of the watch, shoppers have options: They can choose from Graphite (brushed steel), Black (black-coated steel) and Monogram (polished steel) styles, each of which features a customizable face and comes equipped with 30 interchangeable bands, which are different for men and women.

The widespread shift to “smart”
According to Bloomberg, it’s a good time for makers of traditional watches to start thinking about smart versions — after all, in just two years, Apple became the world’s second-bestselling watch brand, now outranked only by Rolex.

Of course, this is not the first smartwatch rolled out by a luxury brand. In 2015, Hermès teamed with Apple Watch, the result of which now runs for a cool $1,250. That same year, Tag Heuer released its Connected style, which sells for $1,500. Bulgari and Montblanc are among other luxury brands that have hopped on the smartwatch bandwagon.

“It has been fantastic to see major players in the fashion and luxury industry bring their own expertise, design ethos and features to the Android Wear ecosystem,” said the Google spokesperson, noting that its latest partnership was a no-brainer, following its recent luxury collaboration: “Louis Vuitton, like Tag Heuer, belongs to LVMH. After our strong success with Tag Heuer’s smartwatch, it came naturally for us to want to work with more brands within the group.”

Even so, as Meagher sees it, the Tambour Horizon is the first of its kind to market. “None of the other luxury houses have come forward with a product that successfully blends fashion and technology,” she said. “Smart watches just look like sport watches: They’re big, they’re not sophisticated. Hermès for Apple was almost there, but Hermès only did the straps. Apple’s branding was still very much focused on the tech sector.”

“Our clients want new technology — it’s important — but they want to have our ‘savoir faire’ on their wrist,” said Chatti. “With its Tambour case made in Switzerland and components assembled in Silicon Valley , the Tambour Horizon successfully combines the very latest in advanced technology with the demands of traditional watchmaking. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Answering global demand
In the past few days, Louis Vuitton worked to pique the interest of its 6.4 million Twitter followers and 18 million Instagram followers with messages hinting at the debut. “On the other side of today, tomorrow is already underway,” one message read. “Don’t take time. Let time take you,” read another. Each was paired with the same hashtag: #LVConnected.

On the other side of today, tomorrow is already underway. To be revealed tomorrow, here on Instagram. #LVConnected

A post shared by Louis Vuitton Official (@louisvuitton) on

A Louis Vuitton Instagram post teasing the launch

It successfully built excitement. According to Brandwatch, as of noon today, the hashtag had been used 3,800 times on Twitter and Instagram, and accumulated 44.7 million impressions. About 20 percent of participants in these conversations were based in Thailand, Indonesia and China.

This morning, the watch’s campaign — “Connected Journeys” — debuted across social channels and on LouisVuitton.com. It includes a 30-second film featuring a range of ambassadors, including model Miranda Kerr, K-pop star Gong Yoo, Jaden Smith and Catherine Deneuve.

“It’s essentially a global brand launch,” said Meagher. “Louis Vuitton used global celebrities, which is great. Now people who are engaging on social — the global audience — can really identify themselves. A lot of other brands can take a cue from this.” To note: Allied Market Research reported that the global smartwatch market is projected to be worth $32.9 billion by 2020.

As for whether customers will be willing to spend thousands of dollars on a connected watch that could soon become irrelevant, Meagher is confident.

“Luxury consumers at this moment are primed — especially those early adapters who want to be first. This is the next generation of luxury smart watch looks like,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect it to be cheaper. If it was cheaper, it wouldn’t be Louis Vuitton.”

Image via LouisVuitton.com

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