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Apple poaches Swiss watch exec for iWatch launch

Apple has hired the sales director of luxury Swiss watch maker TAG Heuer to help with the launch of its new iWatch, as the technology group intend on using the prestigious "Swiss made" label to market its new gadget, the head of LVMH's watch brands Jean-Claude Biver told CNBC.

Biver said the watchmaker's sales director left as recently as last week, "to take a contract with Apple" in order to launch the iWatch. LVMH owns Swiss watchmakers TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

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The Californian tech company, which is rumored to be releasing the hotly anticipated iWatch later this year, has tried to poach a number of employees from high-end Swiss watch makers without much success, according to analysts.

An employee assembles a Hublot wristwatch case at the company's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland,
Gianluca Colla I Bloomberg via Getty Images
An employee assembles a Hublot wristwatch case at the company's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland,

Biver said he was happy for the employee as the new role represents a great opportunity for him.

"If it had been a direct competitor, I would have felt a bit betrayed, but if he goes to Apple I think it is a great experience for him," he said.

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Apple's plans to hire Swiss watch experts are an attempt to market its product as "Swiss made", which senior luxury goods analyst at Bernstein, Mario Ortelli, said is a label that is synonymous with quality when it comes to watches.

"For sure they are trying to approach the Swiss manufacturers, but the Swiss have got no great interest in working with Apple – if you are a luxury producer and you cooperate with Apple, you have got a dilution," Ortelli told CNBC.

"They (Swiss watchmakers) do not want to create a device like the iPhone, the iPhone is designed in California and assembled in China – so they don't want to dilute the value of the Swiss name," he said.

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Ortelli said Apple's new product poses a threat to the low-end Swiss watches, but ultimately it is an opportunity for high-end watch brands, as it could create more young watch consumers who will then be introduced to the watch market.

By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her onTwitter @jenny_cosgrave

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