Louis Vuitton Releases First Smartwatch with Eye on China

    The French luxury fashion house has introduced tech to its iconic timepieces and hopes its seamless operation in China will lure affluent travelers.
    A screen capture from Luhan's campaign video with Louis Vuitton for its debut of its first smartwatch.
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Hard Luxury

    Louis Vuitton introduced its Tambour Horizon smartwatch to the world today, but its newest digital timepiece carries a special significance for the biggest market for luxury watches: it’s the first watch on Google's Android Wear system to work in China.

    The luxury label released a campaign video for the watch today, featuring China's Justin Beiber, Luhan, among other global stars.

    The Tambour Horizon’s ability to operate seamlessly with China’s internet comes as the market is witnessing a rebound in demand for luxury timepieces following a rocky period for the industry caused in part by China's luxury gifting crackdown. That demand is also apparent for smartwatches—about 70 percent of respondents in a recent survey by RBC Capital Markets said they were planning to buy a smartwatch in the next year.

    Not only does the French fashion house’s parent company LVMH want a larger piece of the market share in China, it is setting itself up to compete with Apple. The tech company is still the leading global smartwatch brand, after first introducing its collection to the market in 2015. In China, Apple has already taken steps to capture designer-savvy affluent Chinese shoppers, teaming up with Hermès to create a more stylish, high-end option for consumers.

    Louis Vuitton’s release also strategically targets China’s growing number of affluent travelers by putting an emphasis on travel apps and curated city guides, as well as offering compatibility with Chinese apps, like Weibo and WeChat.

    “Right now, when [the] Chinese travel, they have to travel with two watches: one for China and one for the rest of the world,” Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive Michael Burke told Business of Fashion in an interview. “If a Chinese citizen buys the Horizon watch in Paris, when they land in Shanghai and they reboot the watch, it boots automatically on the Chinese operating system.”

    Louis Vuitton's new Tambour Horizon watch comes with customizable digital watch faces and three different case options. Photo:
    Louis Vuitton's new Tambour Horizon watch comes with customizable digital watch faces and three different case options. Photo:

    The watch features three styles of cases, more than 60 straps, and downloadable faces that are a nod to the brand’s mechanical Louis Vuitton Tambour watch. Prices start at about US2,500 for the case and US300 for the straps.

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