UAE fans to get taste of celebratory piece

Clients in the UAE will be one of the first to be able to buy the chest.

A celebratory "coffret", French for coffer or chest, will be launched by Swiss luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer today and will be available for fans in the UAE as early as the first week of April, officials have told Emirates Business.

The limited-edition chest, which will be unveiled at the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show in Switzerland, is a celebratory gift box launched to mark the company's 150th anniversary. And customers in the Emirates will be one of the first to be able to buy it.

Prices for the coffret, each containing a limited-edition Tag Heuer watch, the Grand Carrera Calibre 17 RS2 Chronograph, and the company's first branded phone, the Meridiist, will start at €14,900 (Dh75,469), subject to customisation. The coffer has also been designed by French master craftsman Fred Pinel.

Baselworld, which begins today, is an annual trade show for the watch and jewellery industry held in the city of Basel in Switzerland every year. It is a leading event attended by some of the biggest names in the industry.

Only 150 pieces of the Tag Heuer coffret will be made, each for the number of years the 1860-founded company has existed, said officials.

Bringing the company's celebratory offering to the UAE first, before it rolls out to the rest of the Middle East, is an indication of the company's growing faith in the country and region, said Serge Simon, the General Manager of ModeLabs Manufacture, a Paris-based manufacturer of exclusive one-off mobile phones. Simon's company was tasked with creating the watch maker's first ever phone.

"The Middle East is a strategic market for us and for Tag Heuer because of its reputation for luxury goods. So there is a need to make sure our distribution systems keep with that plan," said Simon, who was recently in Dubai to showcase the product.

Officials from Tag Heuer said the UAE was the company's biggest market in the Middle East, and the fourth biggest and fastest-growing market globally after China, Russia and Hong Kong.

Tag Heuer, founded in Switzerland in 1860, is now owned by French conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the biggest luxury group in the world.

The Meridiist, a hand-assembled smartphone, was a major challenge for Modelabs to create, said Simon.

"We had to get the balance right. We had to create something that represented a company that has been known for 150 years to make some of the best timepieces. The device had to represent the company's heritage and also represent its values today," he said. "The high-end watch and smartphone markets will soon be the leading lights in luxury segment. And I think the Meridiist exemplifies that."

First unveiled in Europe in 2008, the Meridiist retails for around €3,400, depending on customisation.

Marketed as "a premium communications instrument", the hand-assembled device, says Simon, is made of more than 400 mechanical components, a dual time display in a 60.5-carat sapphire crystal with a top-mounted OLED screen among others.

The ultra-luxurious device is Modelab's first foray into that segment of luxury devices, having previously made branded phones for apparel company Levi's and truck brand Hummer.

"We've been making special-edition handsets for a while but in 2008, we created Modelabs Manufacture to cater to the booming tailor made handsets market. Now the company focuses exclusively on mobile phones for luxury brands only," said Simon, whose company recently signed an agreement with Fashion houses Christian Dior and Versace.

"We believe in the luxury category."

Although currently dominated by Vertu, a subsidiary of Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone maker, the luxury phone market has a lot of potential, said Simon. And he believes the Meridiist will create and thrive in a niche of its own.

"There are a lot of luxury phone out there. But there aren't many that fuse the best of luxury watches and phones in one device."

Asked how devices embedded with precious stones and metals can survive in a market where mobile phone technologies change quick and fast, Simon says his target customer for the Meridiist is one that appreciates the true essence of a mobile phone.

"With all these talk about technology, people tend to forget the basic features of a telephone. You want amazing voice clarity, long-lasting battery and an easy-to-you device with a flawless design. That is what the Meridiist is,'' he says.

"Also, our target customer would have already had his BlackBerry or iPhone. The Meridiist is his emotional purchase, because of his long relationship with the watch brand. That is what the device exemplifies."


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