But while those two companies are betting big on combining forces with their new Wear OS (now simply Wear), in an attempt to dethrone Apple, Tag Heuer has steadfastly stuck to its strategy of creating smartwatches for people who lean towards more traditional luxury timepieces. Until now, that is.
Now, thanks in no small part to the brand’s CEO Frédéric Arnault being an avid gamer, Tag has pimped its Connected wearable into a Super Mario limited-edition smartwatch ($2,150, available July 14), complete with an animated version of the plumber built into various parts of its UI.
While such a maneuver may seem like an odd collaboration for a luxury Swiss watch brand, there are more than a few factors at play here. The first is that the average age of a gamer these days is 35, older than most would guess, and this marries with age ranges for luxury goods, which are traditionally older too. Second, high-end watches adorned with computer game characters are nothing new. Right now, for example, if you have a spare $17,000, you can grab RJ’s Moon Invader Space Invaders Pop watch.
The third and possibly the key reason for this Tag X Nintendo smartwatch play is Arnault himself. At just 26, the son of Bernard Arnault, who briefly surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world in December 2019 as chairman of LVMH, is by some margin the youngest watch CEO in Switzerland. Before taking on the top job at Tag, he joined the company in 2017 to oversee development of the Connected smartwatch, and it remains very much his baby.
Spotting a possibly savvy partnership, Arnault started talking to Nintendo about a joint project two years ago while he was still heading the Connected division. “It was my idea to contact Nintendo,” Arnault says. “I am a Mario fan. Playing Mario Kart with my brothers? It does happen. We felt that integrating some gamification to the fitness experience on the Connected, which is a product that is supposed to have an influence on people’s behavior and life, was important. And instead of trying to build this gamification by ourselves, it made sense to find a partner for that.”
As well as some physical design cues on the new Connected, such as the bezel graduation, push buttons, and crown logo, being filled with Mario’s famous red cap lacquered color, an ‘M’ engraved on the strap buckles, and a Super Mushroom, Pipe, and Super Star at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions, two versions of the Heuer 02 watch face were created for this edition. One uses Super Mario’s iconic red and blue, the other a more traditional watch face with subtle touches of red.
But fans will likely be drawn in by the Mario dial animations that unlock when you hit fitness goals throughout the day. A different animation plays out when you hit 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent of your daily step count, which Tag says is inspired by gaming Easter eggs.
Right now, this interactive Mario watch face only comes preinstalled on the TAG Heuer Connected Super Mario Limited Edition, but Tag is considering making it available on other editions of the Connected at some stage.
As for whether a Mario mashup is a step too far for traditional Tag customers, Arnault is confident. “I believe that, for sure, it was a risk. But it also fits very well with what we're trying to say with the product. The Connected watch is a digital product, and we are partnering with a digital icon,” he says.
This story originally appeared on WIRED UK.