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PARIS — Tag Heuer is in a Left Bank state of mind.

This story first appeared in the January 4, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For its first French store, the Swiss watchmaker has joined the growing number of luxury brands on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, where it has opened a bijou store near Ralph Lauren’s flagship.

“It’s kind of a surprising location: The Left Bank is not necessarily where most luxury brands start, but Tag Heuer is also a different brand,” said chief executive officer Jean-Christophe Babin.

“It’s really an up-and-coming district for luxury,” he added.

The area combines Tag Heuer’s ideal local customers — affluent professionals in their 30s — with tourists from the U.S., Japan and Brazil, countries where it has a strong market share, Babin noted.

In line with architect Eric Carlson’s retail concept for the brand, the 300-square-foot unit at 167 Boulevard Saint-Germain features a clean, contemporary design that contrasts ceramic and wood with brushed steel and bronzed aluminum. A giant photo of Steve McQueen, the face of the iconic Monaco watch, dominates the back wall.

The store is one of 10 openings worldwide in December, bringing Tag Heuer’s total number of stand-alone boutiques to around 100. The brand plans to continue opening 20 to 30 stores a year over the next few years, Babin said.

“Eventually in Paris, we could easily end up with two or three, and we’re also shooting for a big shop-in-shop in Galeries Lafayette or in Printemps or both,” he said, referring to two of the French capital’s largest department stores.

Sales at Tag Heuer, which is owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, have surpassed expectations this year, prompting chronic shortages on some of its top sellers, including the Carrera and the Ladies’ Aquaracer, Babin said.

Though Asia remains the fastest-growing market for luxury watches, Europe has also contributed to the sales rise because of strong performances in France, the U.K. and Germany, Babin said.

“What we see this year is very strong double-digit growth for Tag Heuer.…2010 will be our highest-ever year, one year after the worst [financial] crisis since the Second World War,” he said.

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