Champions of Design – TAG Heuer

27th November

The tale of how Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) the investment vehicle of Formula One fanatic Mansour Ojjeh resurrected Heuer, the distressed Swiss watch brand, is a rare demonstration of the benefits of private equity.

Whether by luck or design, the brand trips off the tongue better as TAG Heuer. Unlike many corporate amalgams, the names work in sweet harmony. So do the logos – the constrained symmetry of Heuer is relieved by the racy TAG monogram above. Although the branding benefits from hybrid vigour, it’s the appliance of marketing, not science, that catapulted it onto the prestige market.

Working to a strategy initially forged by the creative-commercial partnership of BBH with Ron Dennis of TAG McLaren, the long tail of undistinguished timepieces was ruthlessly pruned to define a coherent look. Featuring heavy bezels and metal bracelets, a chunky, masculine feel was amplified by punchy packaging and evocative advertising to echo Heuer’s long association with motorsport and attract a younger, style-conscious audience.

Using consistent design, unerring quality and higher prices, TAG Heuer restored its fortunes by focusing on its core, and perhaps taught the Swiss watch industry to respect the power of branding, while earning itself a $750m exit to luxury good owner LVMH in 1999. From rags to riches in 15 years: it’s a story worth repeating.

By Andy Knowles, chairman, jkr.

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