By  on July 2, 2007

PARIS — Diamonds and Formula One racing may seem a strange mix for a winning recipe, but the two successfully have combined for Swiss watch firm Tag Heuer.

The brand, closely associated with motor racing and high-precision wristwatches (Steve McQueen wore a Tag Heuer in the 1961 racing movie "Le Mans"), has grown into a serious player in diamond-dappled women's timepieces, too.

Sales of women's watches have doubled in recent years, thanks to vigorous efforts at the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand to develop the segment, including a redesign of all of the women's watches. Tag Heuer also has reaped benefits from high-profile advertising campaigns featuring actress Uma Thurman and tennis sensation Maria Sharapova.

The U.S., where Tag Heuer has logged consistent high-double-digit growth across all categories, has driven the boom in women's. Now, worldwide president Jean-Christophe Babin said the company is stepping on the accelerator elsewhere around the globe. Women's watches generate 50 percent of the growth for the brand, he said.

"We hadn't really addressed women," said Babin, adding that about one-third of Tag Heuer's sales in value terms come from women's products. "To reach 40 percent for women's could be an interesting level."

Babin said the company, without abandoning its core men's market, would plan more events catering to women and ramp up advertising, as well. Last year, for example, the firm was host for a photography exhibit in Manhattan called "Strength and Beauty Embodied by Avant-Garde Women."

With women accessorizing more and more, Ulrich Wohn, Tag Heuer's North America president, said he saw no reason why the company shouldn't continue to gain traction with them.

"Watches are the new handbag for a lot of women," he said. "When a bag has a six-month shelf life, a watch seems that much more attractive because it lasts."

Wohn said American women, in particular, continue to be attracted by the trend for larger men's-style watches, which benefits Tag. "They love diamonds, too," he added, pointing out that watches with diamonds were selling best.

Babin said the average price of a women's watch from Tag Heuer is $2,300, about $400 more than the average for a men's timepiece, the difference being the diamonds.

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