What’s Cool With The Young? Tag Heuer’s 28-year-old CEO Knows

The Swiss luxury watchmaker has a different playbook from many of its industry peers, and its chief Frederic Arnault has good reason for it.
by Lynette Koh

Tag Heuer

When the senior executives of luxury brands try to reach out to the young consumer, they typically have to make educated deductions about what’s cool to the latest emerging demographic. But Tag Heuer CEO Frederic Arnault does not have to guess — he fits squarely into the “young consumer” set at age 28.

The third son of Bernard Arnault — the world’s richest man and founder of luxury group LVMH — was appointed to the top position at Tag Heuer in 2020, after serving as the brand’s strategy and digital director for three years.

During an interview with The Peak at LVMH Watch Week, the scion smiles knowingly when asked about the brand’s renewed focus on activities such as Formula One and golf. In other words, activities that some other fine watch brands have moved away from in recent years, in favour of partnerships in areas such as sustainability.

Says Arnault, “When I joined the brand, people were saying, ‘Motor racing, oh, it’s a sport of the past.’ ‘Golf, it’s an old man’s game.’ But in the past few years, this has changed completely. (These activities) are now young, hip and cool.”

In a candid chat with The Peak, he elaborates on why these activities are trendy once more, how collectors help to shape new releases, and why sustainability is not a big focus of Tag Heuer’s marketing campaigns.


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Tag Heuer’s new launches include automotive watches comprising Carrera and Monza models. Since you arrived, the brand has also embarked on a partnership with Porsche and renewed its partnership with the Red Bull Racing F1 team. Why is this important?

Formula One is so important for us, as part of our history and our brand — it’s the name of one of our collections. Racing, in general, is very important. When I joined the brand, people were saying, “Motor racing… doesn’t attract the younger generation. There are huge issues with sustainability. We should invest in other sports that are more modern.” And with golf, the same.

But in the past few years, this has changed completely. Now, Formula One is seen as hip and cool. We’ve also seen the strong growth of a female audience for Formula One after the Netflix show Drive to Survive. And golf, partly because of Covid (when it gained popularity as a socially distanced outdoor activity), has become a sport that’s also seen as very young and cool.


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Some other watch brands have moved away from traditional motorsports, citing sustainability concerns. What’s your take?

We don’t think sustainability is an issue there because Formula One is investing heavily to be as sustainable as possible. Sustainable fuel is the solution that they are currently investing in. Globally, there has been a strong political push towards going electric, but now, it’s being debated if it is actually the right solution. From a sustainability, systemic perspective – it’s not clear at all. E-fuels are potentially a better solution. Formula One is investing in that, and there’s been a lot of progress on that front.

The environment has been a popular marketing tool for many luxury brands in recent years. It’s interesting that Tag Heuer is not saying too much about sustainability.

We are working a lot in these areas — mainly on our products and supply chain, the repairability (of our watches), our choice of materials… but we are not yet communicating too strongly on this topic. (Pause.) I don’t believe in communicating too much on this topic because there are many grey areas. There are debates on the right solution for the planet, and there’s no consensus. It’s too early for us to have a genuine and strong point of view on these topics without risking the possibility of greenwashing.


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Singapore has a big Tag Heuer market. What are its unique characteristics?

It’s a collector-driven market. The population is not large, but there are many collectors, and a very strong appetite for watches. The Singapore market is a big part of our development and creative process. We like to involve our community of collectors, here and elsewhere, and gather feedback to design and build the best products. For the new Carrera anniversary piece, for example, we had exchanges with some key collectors on what they thought would most faithfully represent 60 years of history.

What’s your favourite among the new releases at LVMH Watch Week?

The Monza. There are two main differences between this Monza and the historical model. The first is the case material carbon fibre, which is modern and a great signature for our brand. Secondly, it is skeletonised. We really wanted to bring the watch to modernity and differentiate it from the past versions. We didn’t want it to be a re-edition. Making it a skeleton makes it clear this watch is different.

This article originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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