The Tag Heuer Connected launch in New York could well be remembered for the moment the smartwatch came of age – but for those who were there, it will always be about Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver's ceremonial cheese.
You see, Biver sits at the head of the Swiss watchmaking table. Things work differently there. In the the tech world product launches are about embargos, black turtle necks, on-brand buzzwords, insane hyperbole and videos of nature. These are not in Biver's brand guidelines. Biver's a maverick – and the appearance of his ceremonial cheese made one of Steve Ballmer's stage appearances seem stuffy.
Essential reading: Tag Heuer Connected guide
At the natural end point of the press conference, Biver took to the stage for a moment of pure theatre. He explained the origins of Swiss watchmaking and how sneaky French Catholics exploited bored farmers into creating watches for pennies back in the 1500s. It was an odd history lesson.
"I say to my wife I want to buy a farm and make cheese. She asked 'why?' Because my passion is watches! The origin of my passion is the farmer.
"So the present we bring is from the cows, and the cow has his bells. And one for you Brian (Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel), one for you David (David Singleton, VP engineering Android, Google).
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHA," Biver's mad cackling would eventually fill the silences as technology's biggest names sawed at a giant gouda.
Biver trolled everyone on stage by making them pose with ceremonial cow bells, which literally rang in the most bizarre five minutes of technology showmanship since Michael Bay freaked out on stage with Samsung.
We could only imagine the kind of implosion Bay would have suffered had he been forced to wear Biver's gigantic cow bell, as a ritual rustic round cheese took centre stage.
"When we travel from Switzerland we have to bring presents. And the best present was my cheese," exclaimed Biver.
"The cheese has a very strange –" he began to warn, then thought better of it. Taste? Smell? No-one will ever know. Those who were fortunate to eat a piece of tech history after the event, please let us know.
"You can bring it now," he told two teenage Soviet manservants who struggled to bring the cheese on stage.
Biver then started attacking the cheese with one of the large knives atop the truckle. But they made little impression on its waxy surface. He quickly delegated to Kraftwerk's stunt double, who was zero use.
Biver then set upon the cheese himself, while berating the Americans for providing such small and inadequate blades. "We don't have the right knives, in America you don't know this. We should have brought a knife from Switzerland," he said. "But in plane it's difficult." We honestly felt he spoke from experience.
His cutting took a desperate turn.
COMRADE #762148 YOU'RE GOING TO LOSE YOUR HAND.
You're going to lose your right hand while Brian Krzanich just looks on awkwardly. One day he will gift you a smart prosthetic designed with Intel Edison, but will always beat himself up that he didn't drag Biver off that goddamn cheese.
Finally, Biver and the junior Stazi decide to tear the cheese in half and bring the episode to a close. The relief was palpable....
Ben Clymer is editor of Hodinkee, the watchmaking bible online. He deals with this kind of madness every day and even he's looking at the events of the last ten minutes and wondering where it all went wrong.
"And now the ceremonial cheese has been cut...finally" Clymer breathes, and brings the event swiftly to a close.
What have we learned? We learned about the history of the Swiss watchmaking. We learned that American knives are duller than stuffy Apple-style keynotes – and most of all, we now know that every tech event needs Jean-Claude Biver.
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