Tag Heuer launches first U.S. unit in SoHo

Tag Heuer is dipping its toes into Manhattan’s crowded retail scene with the opening tonight of its first U.S. store in SoHo.

The Swiss watch firm is also set to announce today that Daniel Lalonde has been named the chief executive officer of the LVMH Watch and Jewelry USA division, taking over the position formerly held by Susan Nicholas. Lalonde, a former executive at Nestle Group, will report to Jean-Christophe Babin, Tag Heuer’s worldwide president.

The 1,800-square-foot store is located on West Broadway between Spring and Prince Streets and features the range of the brand’s watches for men and women, as well as its new licensed sunglass line.

We are looking to raise the level of the brand’s profile here,” said David Savidan, the company’s vice president of marketing, as he put finishing touches on the store Wednesday. “We have large international distribution and we thought it was important to have a store in New York also. This is a way for us to show what the brand is about.

This unit is the brand’s eighth store worldwide and the third featuring its new design elements. Designed by Tokyo-based architect Gwenael Nicholas, who also worked on the Issey Miyake SoHo unit, the store has watch displays integrated into the architecture and, overall, the site has a sleek, minimalist feel. The space features a curved wall in dark, walnut wood, while another wall has black transparent glass with large reproductions of Tag Heuer advertisements and marketing materials. In the back is a small sitting area where customers can view high-end watches, said Zane Rhodes, the firm’s retail business director and manager of the SoHo store.

Savidan declined to say if Tag Heuer is looking at opening additional stores in the U.S., but said the company was particularly pleased to be in SoHo, which was its first-choice neighborhood in Manhattan. The area has been bustling with new watch and accessories stores. Movado and Montblanc recently opened stores in the neighborhood.

The 142-year-old company, a division of LVMH since 1999, now has sales estimated at about $300 million. The brand made its mark in the last decade primarily by offering steel, sports watches in the $600 to $800 range, an opening price point for fine watches. In the last few years, it has focused more on its higher-end business and had added more watches in the $1,500-and-up range. Now the bulk of the watches sell for between $1,000 to $3,000 and the firm has steadily increased its offerings of women’s styles with gold and diamonds.

Tag Heuer is sold in 1,200 stores in the U.S., evenly split between department and specialty stores, according to Savidan.

The sunglasses, produced under license by Logo, sell for $205 to $385 and include sport andfashion pieces. This is the first season sunglasses are in stores and also the first licensing deal for the company.

“Similar to our watches, we have both sport and fashion styles,” Savidan noted.