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CULVER CITY, Calif. — Tennis ace Maria Sharapova had a confession to make, sort of.

“I’m an accessories junkie and I love diamonds,” she said.

Clad in designer duds and diamond watches, Sharapova was at the Sony Studios here, where she was the off-court attraction at a photo shoot for Tag Heuer’s upcoming April ad campaign.

The session, shot last Sunday by Swiss photographer Joel von Allmen, was one stop en route to Japan, where Sharapova is to join the women’s tennis tour and make a personal appearance at her Tokyo hotel on behalf of Tag Heuer.

Amid the pulsing tones of Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” and lightning-quick wardrobe changes, aided by celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe, the 6-foot, 2-inch Sharapova posed like a pro, even asking, “Are you getting the watch in this shot?” without skipping a beat.

In its quest to fuse fashion, sports and luxury, Tag Heuer, owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has signed stylish athletes and entertainers to endorse the luxe brand, including Uma Thurman, Tiger Woods and NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon, as well as Sharapova. Another new print ad campaign, featuring Thurman, is planned for 2006, featuring photographs by Louis Vuitton regulars Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, who shot the actress for Vuitton’s accessories ads.

Continuing its “What Are You Made Of?” theme, which debuted in January with print ads shot by Patrick Demarchelier, the new print ad campaign with Sharapova, slated for fashion and lifestyle magazines, aims to lure sports watch fans into purchasing women’s luxury timepieces by portraying the glam athlete clad in clothes from Christian Dior to Dolce & Gabbana and Marc Jacobs, among others.

In addition to Tag’s sporty designs, Sharapova wears the F1 Diamonds watch, a pink number that retails for $1,900 — a style she also helped to design. “Designing is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Sharapova said.

“When we began to reposition the line two years ago, we realized two things: We had been ignoring the women’s market and men were purchasing watches for women in bigger sizes,” said Livia Marotta, Tag Heuer’s corporate communications director, who attended the shoot with Thierry Huron, the brand’s worldwide marketing director. “Ten years ago, women made up 5 percent of our business; now it’s 20 percent,” Huron added.

This story first appeared in the December 22, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

To that end, the company has designed several larger women’s watches, which it plans to push harder at retail, along with its female-friendly men’s watches like the Monaco and the Carrera — one of Sharapova’s favorites.

As she packed up her pink Prince tennis bag and headed for her waiting limo after the shoot, Sharapova said, “I’ve worn a Carrera forever, but now that I’ve had a chance to help design my own watch, I also wanted to have something pink and, of course, bling.”

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