What Does Apple’s Latest Hire Mean for the iWatch?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) long-rumored iWatch — the iOS powered wearable tech product that is expected to debut sometime this fall — is widely believed to be the Cupertino-based company’s answer to wrist-worn devices made by rivals such as Samsung (SSNLF.PK) and Motorola. However, Apple’s latest hire suggests that the iWatch’s biggest competitors may be luxury watchmakers, rather than other smartwatch makers.

In what appears to be another sign that the company is positioning its rumored iWatch device as a luxury item, Apple has poached yet another executive from a renowned European luxury brand. TAG Heuer recently told Reuters that vice president for sales Patrick Pruniaux will be leaving the Swiss luxury watch brand to start a new job at Apple on Monday. TAG Heuer is a watch brand owned by multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. Although it is not known what Pruniaux’s role at Apple will be, it seems likely that he will be involved with the marketing of Apple’s fabled wearable tech device.

Apple’s interest in acquiring employees from Switzerland’s vaunted horology industry was first reported by the Financial Times earlier this year. The Financial Times cited multiple sources in the industry that reported that Apple was trying to poach Swiss watchmakers from various watch brands owned by LVMH. The Financial Times sources also suggested that Apple was seeking watchmakers, rather than executives, leading to speculation that the iWatch would be a hybrid device that combined traditional mechanical watch movements with modern electronics technology.

However, as a sales executive, Pruniaux’s primary expertise is in marketing, rather than watchmaking. This follows the pattern of other luxury industry hires that Apple has made over the past year. Last summer, it was revealed that Apple had hired Paul Deneve, the former CEO of exclusive French fashion retailer Yves Saint Laurent. More recently, Apple hired Angela Ahrendts — the former CEO of iconic British luxury fashion house Burberry — to head the iPhone maker’s retail and online store operations.