Intel May Team With TAG Heuer on Smartwatch

According to reports, the two companies could announce the partnership as early as CES in January or later in the first quarter.

Intel logo

Intel's name is again surfacing in connection with a luxury wearable computing device, this time a smartwatch from Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer.

Citing an unnamed source, Business Insider reported that TAG Heuer and Intel could unveil the new device as early as the upcoming 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which starts Jan. 5 in Las Vegas, though an announcement could be delayed until later in the first quarter.

According to the report, the stylish smartwatch would look more like a traditional wristwatch rather than other smartwatches that offer touchscreens that display messages and other alerts. The device would track such data as the number of steps the wearer takes and the number of hours they sleep.

It would be the latest in a series of moves by Intel as the company looks to rapidly expand its presence in the Internet of things (IoT) and wearable device markets, and dovetails with the chip maker's interest in associating itself with wearable products that are both connected and fashionable. High-end retailer Opening Ceremony is out with a smart bracelet named MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) that is powered by an Intel chip and sells for $495. Intel also is partnering with SMS Audio on earbuds that also measure the user's heart rate, and more recently, the chip maker last week announced a partnership with fashion eyewear designer Luxottica Group—whose brands include Ray-Ban, Oakley and Vogue Eyewear—to make smart glasses.

The IoT and wearables have become a focus for Intel since Brian Krzanich took over as CEO in May 2013. Krzanich has talked about how Intel was late seeing the trend toward smartphones and tablets, and has vowed that it would aggressively pursue new opportunities that arise. The wearable device market fits into the category for growth areas. IDC analysts expect the number of wearable computing devices shipped this year will exceed 19 million, and grow to 111.9 million in 2018.

Under Krzanich, Intel launched the New Devices Group and earlier this year bought Basis Science, which builds health- and fitness-tracking smartwatches. Intel in September launched the latest Basis Peak smartwatch. Intel last year also launched the Quark family for small, low-power systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) aimed at the IoT and wearable devices.

Talk of TAG Heuer getting into the wearable device market began surfacing this fall following reports that the company was working with Apple on a smartwatch. In July, Apple reportedly hired an executive from TAG Heuer and its parent company, luxury goods group LVMH.

According to the Business Insider report, TAG Heuer executives confirmed that the company was working on a smartwatch. In November, Jean-Claude Biver, head of TAG Heuer, told Bloomberg that this unit would be the best fit within the LVMH portfolio for a smartwatch, and said such a device would focus more on user features rather than communications capabilities.

"Communications is not the business of the Swiss watch industry," Biver told Bloomberg, without giving details on what kinds of features a TAG Heuer smartwatch would have. "We don't have the technology. And if you don't have the technology, you have to buy it. If you have to buy it, you're always late."