Apple Grows Luxury Expertise With Hire of LVMH's Patrick Pruniaux

Monday is said to have been the last day at LVMH for watch specialist Patrick Pruniaux. Soon, he'll join former Burberry and YSL execs at Apple.

Apple luxury retail

Apple's luxury retail brain trust continues to grow, and with it rumors of an impending smartwatch, if not other high-end accessories.

The company's newest hire is Patrick Pruniaux, who comes from the luxury goods group LVMH and its TAG Heuer watch brand, Reuters reported July 4.

As of July 7, the day reported to be Pruniaux's last at LVMH, his LinkedIn profile said he lives in Switzerland and that he specializes in "luxury," "wines/spirits" and "watches & mobile phones."

Before joining LVMH's TAG Heuer division in 2005, Pruniaux was with its Moet Hennessy brand in the United States and Latin America. He holds an MBA from the HEC Paris & London Business School.

In May, Apple hired Angela Ahrendts away from her chief executive position at Burberry to oversee the strategic direction, expansion and operation of its online and retail stores. And last July, it lured Paul Deneve away from Yves Saint Laurent.

From a few rungs down the retail ladder, Apple last August also hired consultant Jay Blahnik, who is credited with Nike's successful FuelBand fitness accessory.

During its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote June 2, Apple introduced iOS 8, the newest version of its mobile operating system that will be run on whatever hardware it introduces in the fall. Features highlighted during the keynote included Health and HealthKit, applications that make clear Apple's interest in moving into the health and fitness markets. The long list of doctors, engineers and biomedical specialists it has hired over the last two years indicated much the same.

Is Apple developing a smartwatch with luxury appeal but fitness perks?

According to reports, multiple options are a possibility. Sources have told Reuters that Apple smartwatches are scheduled to go into production in July, though as of last June, sources told The Wall Street Journal that specifications were still being finalized and Apple was likely to offer multiple screen sizes.

A June 15 New York Times profile on Apple CEO Tim Cook referred to the rumored iWatch as a matter of fact, reporting that Cook "is less involved in the minutiae of product engineering for the watch, and has instead delegated those duties to members of his executive cabinet."

Jean-Claude Biver, head of watch brands at LVMH, told Reuters that smartwatches are a threat to the Swiss watch industry that should be taken "seriously."

Samsung's earliest smartwatch effort set a low bar for Apple, and all newcomers, and seemed to have little in common with fine timepieces besides wrists. But much has changed in a year. The French company Withings, for example, recently introduced the Activité, a smartwatch with the appearance of a classic timepiece but the ability to track steps, among other features.

People want to wear beautiful things, Withings CEO Cedric Hutchings said at the CE Week trade show in New York June 23. While they'll try out "rubbery things" they don't wear them for good, he added. "And what impacts our health is what we do over the long term."