Late last year we brought you the first photos of the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 72 Countdown- a new chronograph that features a Countdown chronograph complication designed for sailing. We’ve now had the chance to spend a week with the two models to bring you a more detailed review of the latest Aquaracer.
There are two options in the Calibre 72 range- the standard Aquaracer 500m Calibre 72 (below right) and a Limited Edition “Oracle Team USA” model (below left) which marks TAG Heuer’s sponsorship of the team defending the America’s Cup later this year in San Francisco.
Both watches are based on the 2013 Aquaracer 500m update, which includes a revised dial design and ceramic bezel. To help with visibility of the Countdown window, the Calibre 72 duo get bespoke skeleton hour/ minute hands.
While some have bemoaned the smaller size of the Aquaracer 500m watch (41mm down from 43mm), both chronograph models clock in at 43mm, making them only marginally smaller than the out-going model (44mm). There is no getting around that this is a hefty watch, a feeling accentuated by the thick case.If you prefer your watches more moderately sized, then it’s best to look at a different model in the Aquaracer range.
Speaking of the case, it’s finished in an attractive combination of brushed and polished steel, with distinctive rubber “over-moldings” on the crown and pushers. TAG Heuer has expanded the use of ceramic bezels across several models in the range, including the Carrera, Aquaracer and Formula 1. The reason is simple: Ceramic is 4 X harder than steel and so less prone to scratching and colour fading over time. For the science-heads, the bezel is made from Zirconium Oxide, stabilised with Yttrium- ZrO2/Y2O3.
One of the least-understood features of this watch is the countdown function- used in Sailing. Also known as a “Regatta function”, the timer is used to help skippers manoeuvre their boat in the 15 minutes before a race starts so that they are in the perfect position to cross the start line as soon as the 15 minutes is over and the race starts- that’s why the timer counts backwards. The starting point for understanding how this works is to know that the “Regatta disc” is a disc divided into three equal segments:
- Blue, Grey and White for the standard Calibre 72
- Blue, Red and White for the Oracle Edition
Each disc lasts for 5 minutes. Some races allow the yachts to manoeuvre for 5 minutes before the start- others allow 10 or 15 minutes. The example below shows how a 10-minute countdown works on the Oracle Edition model.
Aquaracer 500m Calibre 72 Countdown Chronograph- CAK211A
The standard model is available only with the Black dial/ Blue highlights combination. It’s a colour combo that TAG Heuer is using on a few models at the moment, and while it looks good, the Blue doesn’t stand out as much as other colours (namely, Red). While you’ll spot the Blue Countdown register straight away, it may take a little longer to clock the Blue-tip on the central Chronograph hand and the 30-minute Chronograph hand at 9 0’clock.
On the Wrist
One of the first things that I noticed wearing the watch is the deeply set date window at 12 o’clock. The crystal has a small “internal cyclops” reminiscent of the TAG Heuer 3000 chronograph from the 1980s. Notice the “glassy” look of the bezel in the photo below around the 30 minute marker? That’s another characteristic of ceramic…the difference is greater between ceramic and the usual steel than you’ll pick up in standard press photos.
Aquaracer 500m Calibre 72 Oracle Team USA- CAK211B
- Team USA logo
- Blue/ Red/ White Countdown disc
- Red central chronograph hand
- Red 30-minute chronograph hand
- “Countdown” script on the Bezel
The Oracle version has its own bespoke caseback, with the Oracle Yacht engraved on the back. The Yacht is an AC72 class, a catamaran with a height of 72 feet/ 21 meters- hence Calibre 72. And to prove that the Swiss struggle with using the Imperial system, the first time I heard about this watch, the movement was called the Calibre 21!
On the Wrist
While I changed my mind several times about which version I preferred (probably the standard watch), there is no doubt that I preferred the Rubber strap (above) to the bracelet, as I usually do with diving/ sports watches. The rubber strap is a new design and looks fantastic. It uses the square-hole design in a nod to the Isofrane straps of the 1970s/ 80s.
The Calibre 72 Chrono is the first Aquaracer/ 2000 Chronograph offered that doesn’t conform to the standard Calibre 16/ 7750 layout- and looks all the better for it. Its a different option that he standard Calibre 16 Chronograph- probably a more sporting option in my mind given the Countdown window.
The Aquaracer is beautifully built watch and has a real weight to it. Using a ceramic bezel may seem like a small change, but it does catch the eye and should be significantly better usability than a steel bezel- both today and in 20 years time. Most buyers won’t use the Countdown function for yacht racing, but just like a chronograph function for timing laps around a trace track, it’s reassuring to know that you could!
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 72 Countdown is on sale now- expect to see it feature heavily in TAG Heuer’s advertising as the America’s Cup draws closer.
Further Reading[color-box color=red]
- History of TAG Heuer and Sailing- http://www.calibre11.com/tag-heuer-sailing/
- Review of the Aquaracer 500m Watch- http://www.calibre11.com/review-tag-heuer-aquaracer-500m-ceramic-bezel/
- First Look- Aquaracer 500m Calibre 16 Chrono- http://www.calibre11.com/2013-aquaracer-500m-calibre-16-chronograph
- First Look- Aquaracer 500m Calibre 72 Chrono- http://www.calibre11.com/tag-heuer-aquaracer-calibre-72-countdown/