Mar 6, 2015
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New Tag Heuer boss replaces top managers in turnaround drive

Mar 6, 2015

The new head of Tag Heuer, luxury group LVMH's biggest watch brand, has replaced half a dozen top managers as part of a drive to revive sales, he told Reuters.

Jean-Claude Biver, who took the helm in December, said the brand needed to focus on best-sellers such as the all-steel mechanic Carrera and Aquaracer models costing around $1,500-$4,000, over more expensive watches that did not sell so well.

Tag Heuer

A drive to sell models over $5,000-$6,000 has backfired for Tag Heuer which, along with a general industry slowdown, led it to cut management and production jobs and make some staff temporarily unemployed in September.

Biver said he had chosen to promote internal and younger staff whom he was coaching, as bringing in outsiders could be disruptive at a time when the brand was undergoing change.

He said the new appointments concerned key posts such as heads of marketing, sales, production and customer service, with the new team in place since the end of last year.

"When you are trying to make changes in the corporate culture, it is not the right time to bring in external people who do not know the history of the company," Biver said in an interview.

Tag Heuer, which is estimated to make close to $1 billion in annual sales, competes with Swatch's Longines and Omega as well as privately-owned Breitling. It makes around one third of its sales in the United States, its biggest single market.

Tag Heuer's experience resembles that of other luxury brands such as Gucci, whose upmarket strategy has also dented sales. Last month, Gucci owner Kering admitted it had not focused enough on "entry-level" leather goods, which make up the bulk of business.

Biver, 65, a watch industry veteran, became head of LVMH watches just under a year ago after successfully developing watch brand Hublot.

He took on the revamp of sister brand Tag Heuer at the end of last year, a mission he described as "probably the last and one of the most challenging and interesting of my life".

To boost morale, he is aiming to meet all 800 staff by June at a series of two-hour breakfasts, each involving 40 people.

"I want to bring pragmatism, humility, and help people understand that the customer is the priority," he said.

iver said Tag Heuer had also offered to pay for employees' train tickets and meals to attend the Geneva car show, which starts this week and where the brand has a stand, and later this month to attend Baselworld, the world's biggest watch fair.

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