Richemont Puts the Smarts Into the Strap Rather Than the Watch

Swiss luxury goods maker Richemont is rolling out high-tech straps to counter the smartwatches designed by Apple Inc. and others.

IWC Schaffhausen plans to embed a communication device into bands of its timepieces, which will remain mechanical, the Cie. Financiere Richemont SA brand said Tuesday on its website. IWC Connect will let consumers track their activities and interact with other devices.

“We’ve engineered an intelligent design solution which perfectly integrates and underlines our product worlds,” IWC Chief Executive Officer Georges Kern said in the statement. “We do not touch our beautiful watches.”

Facing competition from Apple’s new watch, Richemont is taking a different tack than LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, which plans to introduce a $1,400 TAG Heuer smartwatch later this year. Richemont’s Montblanc brand has also said it will start selling interchangeable 350-euro ($388) e-Straps that can give previews of incoming messages and control a smartphone’s camera, allowing for easier selfies.

“It’s a smart approach,” said Bassel Choughari, an analyst at Berenberg in London. “The beauty of it is that this approach allows you to address new customers but also offer an upgrade to your existing customers.”

Kern said IWC decided to introduce the product -- which will appear first on its Big Pilot’s watches -- as customers are increasingly wearing connected devices on one wrist and IWC watches on the other. An IWC spokeswoman declined to provide details of the band’s release date or price.

Apple has intruded into the territory of luxury watchmakers this year by selling smartwatches for as much as $17,000.

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