Intel and Google are joining Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer to design and launch a luxury smartwatch by the end of the year, the three companies announced on Thursday at the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show in Basel, Switzerland.
“Silicon Valley is Switzerland, Switzerland is Silicon Valley,” TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver said at the start of a rollicking press conference that outlined how the new partners would create a watch that is “both luxurious, and seamlessly connected to its wearer’s daily life” and finished with the ceremonial cutting of a 37-kilogram wheel of cheese from Biver’s own farm.
“Swiss watchmaking and Silicon Valley is a marriage of technological innovation with watchmaking credibility. Our collaboration provides a rich host of synergies, forming a win-win partnership, and the potential for our three companies is enormous,” Biver said in a statement.
The future, unnamed smartwatch will be powered by an Intel-designed chipset and run Android Wear, Google’s modified version of its Android mobile operating system which is optimized for wearables. Pricing and availability were not announced, but Biver said the device could arrive any time between October and December.
TAG Heuer will design the watch itself, bringing the prestige and skill of Swiss watchmaking to the venture, but Biver noted that factors like where the future smartwatch is assembled and manufactured will likely mean it won’t be certified as a “Swiss-made” timepiece.
For Intel and Google, the partnership will ideally give a needed boost to the two tech firms’ early efforts to break into the wearables market.
Google has thrown its considerable promotional weight behind Android Wear in recent months—even debuting an Android Wear ad on the day of Apple’s big Apple Watch unveiling earlier this month.
But Canalys recently reported that only 720,000 wearable devices running the Web giant’s software made it to market in 2014, a year that saw a total of 4.6 million smart wearable bands shipped, according to the research firm.
Perhaps a Swiss-crafted Android Wear device matched up against Apple’s opulent $10,000 smartwatch will boost Google’s standing in the wearables world.
“By fusing beauty with technology, the Swiss watch has inspired generations of artists and engineers alike—including us at Google,” David Singleton, director of engineering for Android Wear, said on Thursday. “So we’re thrilled to be working with TAG Heuer and Intel to bring a unique blend of emotion and innovation to the luxury market. Together, and using the Android Wear platform, we can imagine a better, beautiful, smarter watch.”
Intel, meanwhile, has already dipped its toes in the luxury pool in its efforts to gain traction for its own hardware platform for wearable devices based on stripped-down, ultra-low power x86 processors branded Quark. The chip giant teamed up with fashion house Opening Ceremony at New York’s Fashion Week last September to showcase MICA, an Opening Ceremony-designed smart bracelet built on Intel technology that was billed as a “feminine fashion accessory with communications capabilities.”
What Intel hasn’t done yet is sell a whole lot of Quark processors to makers of smart bands, smartwatches, fitness trackers, and the like. What’s more, Intel’s wearable platform currently incorporates a fair bit of circuitry based on rival ARM’s technology, which surely rankles in a company famously committed to populating every corner of the computing world with its x86 architecture.