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EXCLUSIVE: Tag Heuer to Relaunch Eyewear With Thélios

The watchmaker’s first collection under the deal will be revealed during January’s LVMH Watch Week and bow on Feb. 1 at an event in Milan.

A teaser image of the upcoming Tag Heuer eyewear line. COURTESY OF TAG HEUER

PARIS — Tag Heuer is setting its sights on eyewear once more, handing over manufacturing and distribution of the category to Thélios, the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned eyewear manufacturer.

“The introduction of our new eyewear collection in collaboration with Thélios is not an addition of an accessory line,” said the Swiss watchmaker’s chief executive officer Frédéric Arnault. “Our ambition is to set new standards in the eyewear category and completely disrupt it.”

Designed by the watch brand, the first Tag Heuer eyewear collection under the deal will be revealed during January’s LVMH Watch Week and bow on Feb. 1 at an event in Milan. A launch campaign is also in the cards, under the “Avant-Garde Eyewear” tag line.

Eyewear is an important part of the Tag Heuer history, reminded Arnault, naming past bestsellers such as the Reflex and 27 Degrees. The brand introduced eyewear in 2002, through a partnership with an independent French manufacturer that ran until 2016.

To carve a space for itself afresh in a crowded sector, Tag Heuer counts on its “rather unique position compared to fashion or pure-player brands” thanks to its watchmaking heritage and its sporting inspirations, for the executive.

“We need to reconnect with that glorious heritage but not just repeat the past because the [eyewear] market has evolved very much in the past decade,” said the watchmaking executive.

To this end, the brand found an “excellent partner in Thélios thanks to its expertise, production, industrial and distribution who also knows to respect the integrity of the design, image of the houses,” since it is part of the LVMH group, said Arnault.

Thélios CEO Alessandro Zanardo described the way eyewear was previously “not just another category but another pillar” for the watchmaker, a “spirit that is very strongly pushed with this new collection.”

“Opticians in particular are really looking forward to this comeback because they have a strong memory of what the brand was,” said the eyewear executive, adding that Tag Heuer had also stuck in the mind of aficionado consumers.

Arnault outlined the brand’s intention of modernizing its not-so-distant eyewear past, bringing strong novelty and leaning more into sunglasses with the relaunch, which is about “a whole new dimension of allure, commitment to precision, sport and design, expanding our reach to an even wider audience.”

While Arnault’s priority upon taking up the top role at the company in 2020 was repositioning the brand’s watch business, eyewear was always in focus. “It wasn’t just an accessory, we were known and recognized as an eyewear maker, with a place and position both among retailers and clients with a unique identity and an avant-garde know-how,” he told WWD.

The plan is therefore to return “with something modern, disruptive and true to the brand,” he continued.

The new collection will include “breakthrough innovation in design, in mechanical solutions, in materials, in quality,” promised the Thélios executive, including “new materials that have never been used in the eyewear industry, solutions that come from industries [and] the mechanical precision taken from watchmaking.”

Consumers can expect a “sporty look and attitude for daily use” across optical and sunglasses with a high-end pricing owing to designs approached with the angle of Tag Heuer’s “technical, precision engineering and watchmaking” DNA, according to Arnault.

While neither company revealed the size of the upcoming eyewear collection, Zanardo said it would be a “precise collection — few families but each very consistent — so that consumers can navigate very clearly through [them].”

The new eyewear will be sold at selected Tag Heuer flagships as well as Thélios’ selective network of retailers and opticians. Europe will be the key market at launch, followed closely by the U.S. and selected retail points in Asia, according to Zanardo.

Asked whether disruption in the eyewear space could mean smart glasses, Arnault said there were no plans in that direction. But he confided that before he joined the watchmaker in 2017 as Tag Heuer’s head of connected technologies, he had a conversation with then-CEO Jean-Claude Biver about working on a project around connected eyewear.

“Things have greatly evolved and before connecting our eyewear, we had to be very strong on our connected watches, reinforce our core of traditional watches, relaunch eyewear and validate that it was a segment that has a future — which remains to be seen,” he continued.

The Swiss watchmaker is the latest LVMH stablemate to ink a deal with Thélios after it came under the full control of the French luxury group in 2021, following an agreement to purchase Marcolin’s 49 percent stake of the business.

The eyewear specialist produces collections for Dior, Fendi, Celine, Loewe, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Fred, Berluti and Rimowa. Givenchy and Bulgari were the latest LVMH brands to join the Thélios portfolio, respectively in 2022 and 2023.

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