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iWatch imminent, Apple hires sales exec from Swiss watchmaker

The company nabs the vice president of sales and retail from Tag Heuer, as it reportedly gears up to launch an iWatch later this year.

Think different: A Tag Heuer billboard in LA in 2009 shows golf legend Tiger Woods, who lent his name to one of the Swiss company's luxury watches. David McNew/Getty Images

Apple has hired a top sales executive from Swiss luxury-watch maker Tag Heuer, as the iPhone and iPad maker purportedly gears up for an October launch of a smartwatch.

Jean-Claude Biver, head of watch brands at luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH, which counts Tag Heuer among its subsidiaries, told CNBC on Friday that Apple had signed on Tag Heuer's sales director. A later report in Apple-focused publication 9to5Mac cited an unnamed source in identifying the new hire as Patrick Pruniaux, Tag Heuer's vice president of sales and retail. Reuters later confirmed.

"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," CNBC quoted Biver as saying. Biver also told Reuters that Swiss watchmakers would have to keep an eye on Apple.

"The iWatch will have the same status symbol power as many other Apple products, especially at the beginning," he told the news agency. "I personally believe it has the potential to be a threat for the industry, and it should not stay with its arms crossed."

A September or October launch of an iWatch has generally been predicted, with Reuters quoting anonymous sources in reporting late last month that Apple had hired Quanta to start mass producing the wearable in July for launch as early as October. The news agency has also noted, citing a patent official, that Apple has applied for a trademark on "iWatch" in Japan. And CNET's Scott Stein has pointed out that though there was no mention of an Apple wearable at the company's recent WWDC developers conference, there were plenty of announcements that would suggest the imminent arrival of the iWatch.

Pruniaux isn't the first executive Apple has plucked from the luxury-goods sector. Last July, it hired former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve to work on special projects, and in October it brought on Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of UK luxury retailer Burberry Group, to oversee its retail operations.