Hands-on Review: 2010 TAG Heuer Aquaracer 500m Chronograph

The latest of the Basel 2010 watches about to make their way to the dealers is the Aquaracer 500m Chronograph (Ref. CAJ2110), which as the name suggests is a Chronograph version of the successful Aquaracer 500m series.

The Calibre 5 Aquaracer 500m was launched at Basel in 2009 and represented a significant step-up in size and style for the Aquaracer series, with its vertically textured dial, distinctive rubber bezel with applied markers, helium-escape valve and “cyclops” sitting over the date at 9 o’clock.

The new model Aquaracer Chronograph builds on this style-template, but adding Chronograph dials in the traditional Valjoux 7750-layout (12, 6 and 9).

Given TAG Heuer’s heritage in diver watches, and as a previous owner of an Omega Planet Ocean (45.5mm), I was keen to try the new Chronograph to see if it’s a worthy successor to my old quartz diver from the 1980s


The Aquaracer series traces it origins back to 1982 when Heuer released the 2000 series. By 1982 the Heuer 1000 series was a big success for Heuer, especially in Japan, however its success presented a dilemma for Heuer. Heuer’s reputation was built on mechanical watches with Chronograph functions- but the 1000 series was neither a Chronograph nor a mechanical watch. The 2000 series addressed this by giving Heuer a quartz-Chronograph in the popular diving-watch style, and the series was initially marketed by Heuer as the “Chrono-Quartz” series.

Take a look at the photo below from the 1983 Heuer catalogue and you see several design features that TAG Heuer use on today’s Aquaracer 500m Chronograph- same sub-dial layout, date at 3 o’clock with a cyclops and rotating diver bezel.

At 44mm, the Aquaracer 500m Chronograph is the largest watch in the Aquaracer range, just as the 1983 Heuer 1000m Diver watch of the 1980s was the jumbo-version of the 1000 series- yet take a look below at how the 1000m diver is positively dwarfed by the new model.


The Aquaracer 500m Chronograph is powered by the familiar Valjoux/ ETA 7750 movement, which TAG Heuer call the Calibre 16. The 12-6-9 layout of the Calibre 16 dictates the placement of the registers on the dial and clearly the challenge here has been to fit everything on the dial. The dial layout becomes a little busy towards the 3 0’clock mark, trying to accommodate a date window, a cyclops, the TAG Heuer logo and the model name all within a pretty small corner of the dial.

  • Robertus

    Great review, nice job done there!

    If I may add my two cents why I do not really like this new watch:

    I like Heuer/TAG-Heuer a lot (my other brands that I like are mainly IWC, Breitling, Omega and a few others). I’ve recently purchased the Aquaracer Auto Chrono Day-Date black dial on bracelet.

    I like (and – so to say – collect) watches with the following features:
    Well-known manufacturer, automatic, chronograph, day-date, steel case, turning 60 min. count-up lunette, good waterresistance (100m or more), all-dark dial, excellent luminosity, steel bracelet, safety clasp with double pushers, micro-adjust and diver’s extension, links with screws.

    You cannot guess how narrow the choice is with all these requirements fulfilled… so I was very happy about the mentioned watch. This watch is up for sale now, practically unworn.

    Reasons: there were a couple of things that disturbed me before purchasing but decided to go on. These things are:
    – TH used the Elaboré version of the ETA 7750 for this model and as such for example it doesn’t have a Glucydur balance, has a Nickel balance instead. Again, may work well, but cheapish and the Glucydur is way more “temperature-insensitive”. Such a replacement balance was on order for me from another manufacturer. For this amount of money…
    – day and date discs white with black writing. Did not disturb me so much because they can be replaced with black discs any day. On order again.
    – bracelet links attached with pins instead of screws. Cheapish, but may work. With the very small micro-adjustment the watch was comfy just on the border with one more link in, so twice yearly I would have gone to the watchmaker to pin out or pin in one link.
    – narrow micro-adjust on clasp: see above.
    – diver’s extension too short and cheapish looking, stamped steel. I don’t dive but use my watch on the outside when nordic walking or x-c skiing.

    So these are the downs that were known to me before buying. After a few days of wearing I discovered two important others:
    – steel bezel has a very lightweight, cheapish feel and turns two easily. Many times in those few days it turned around unwanted. Official service center told me that nothing can be done. I wnet to the AD and felt a few others: really all AR bezels behaved the same.
    – lume on the hour markings and hands were way too insufficient for my 50-year-old eyes. (A few other models have great lume, just to name a few Breitling CSO, IWC Aquaracer 2009 Chrono. So this can be made much better).

    I was very happy to hear that there will be a successor model of the one mentioned above. Why I do not purchase? The reasons (in order of importance for me):

    – Weekday feature disappeared! Otherwise dial is beautiful (I don’t know if there is a blue dial option but hopefully) and I love the cyclops again for readability and the Rolex origin does not disturb me. There are quite a few chances of maintaining the weekday window, see e. g. some Fortis models with day at 9 o’clock, or to place the date with the cyclops between 4 and 5 (with vertical digits!). Crowded dial does not disturb me.
    – Helium valve appeared at 10. A very, very bad step from TH to do it this way!: it goes clearly after the Omega Seamaster, while 99.99999 percent of users do not saturation-dive, it stands out of the case, and I simply do not believe, that no-one at TH thought that if they wanna introduce a Helium valve the very best place for this is the steel part of the case at 9 o’clock!!! Here the following of the Sea-Dweller would have been the way to go, having a valve without standing out of the case (for example the Certina DS-3 re-issue has the same, so it is not trade-marked) and finally the extra part of steel of the case at 9 could have found a function (housing the valve), while for almost 30 years now it’s been purely a design element!
    – rubber bezel looks nice but does not feel very durable on the long run and it still turns too easily, still has a touch of cheapness, though feels improved a bit.
    – No info about the balance wheel, hopefully finally Glucydur but not sure.
    – calendar disc in white again: replaceable.
    – bracelet is completely unchanged regarding pins, short micro-adjustability and short and stamped-only divers extension.

    So that’s why I won’t consider this new model though it had all the good base for TH to make it according to my wishes (and I guess to many other’s wishes). Today a watch with all the features I’ve written at the beginning of my post cannot be found on one special watch, but the order of importance makes me search elsewhere now. (My daily wearer is the Breitling CSO and the IWC Aquatimer Chrono Cousteau 2010 is on order for me.)

    I’ll go on following the new TH models in the future but no real hope of returning the weekday for example, as the Seiko chronograph movement did not have this feature even at Seiko.

    Remember: just my two cents, others may have of course different opinions.

    Best regards: Robert

  • wilfreb

    for me this watch is nothing especial, i should had the 1887 movement inside, i mean the design are superb [i love my Aquaracer 500M] but that movement is so common .

  • DC

    Some interesting points raised here:
    – Robertus, agree with some of your points, but am surprised that you didn’t like the bezel movement. On the example that I saw it was very crisp. Some of your other points don’t worry me so much (date/ day function, Hellium valve), but understand your preferences

    – Agree with Wilfreb and DKR that it would have been great to have the Calibre 1887 in the watch, and maybe we will see it in the future given that its the same layout as the 7750. its been almost 12 months since the Cal. 1887 was announced and its only now that the Carrera is startingto head to the stores, so expanding beyond the Carrera 1887 may take some time. Lets see what TAG Heuer show us at Basel in March

    – Lastly on the price, the $4500 is in Australian dollars- even though the USD and AUD are worth about the same, luxury goods are a lot more expensive in Australia, so expect the US price to be less than this.


  • DKR

    Totally agree with wilfreb.. Is it just me or is $4,500 for a 7750 based diver getting a little bit crazy?? I paid little more than that for my El Primero based Link Calibre 36. The 1887 movement would have justified the price.

    The real missing link in the Aquaracer range is one with a Calibre 7 based GMT movement. None of the absurd rotating city disk from the Link GMT either. Just a simple 24hr hand and 24hr bi directional bezel.

  • Wisconsin Proud

    David, thanks for the pics/text.

    First, I have seen the brochure for the Aquaracer line and this watch's msrp inthe USA is $3150. I was surprised it was less thanthe outgoing Aquagraph but I think (finally) TAG may be reeling in prices after a period of significant increases.

    Consider that 3-hand autos are now in the $1700 range compared to the Link auto and Monaco auto which is at $2600 and $2700.

    I just don't understand the comment by one poster who would pay $4500 if it had the 1887.

    For a few hundred more, you get a much higher depth rating, a proven chrono movement, and He valve.

    I like the 3-D subdials which give the dial alot of depth.

    One question: solid back or clear?


  • Wisconsin Proud

    I'll also add that the reason it may appear cramped at the 3:00 area is that logos and text have become much larger over the years.

    My 41mm AR chrono has the logo and wording fitted between the date window and the center of the dial and does not extend over or under the date wheel/cyclops.

    This 500M uses much more space in comparison probably due to applied logos vs printed logos and text.

  • Wisconsin Proud

    Thanks David!

  • DKR

    Wisconsin Proud – I’d say this is a very poor substitute for the Aquagraph. The Aquagraph is, IMHO, a classic of the modern Tag range. It had a unique movement within the brand, was built as a genuine tool watch (with elapsed minute hand and pushers usable down to 500M), plus it was so good it is used by real (not just desk), divers.. 😉

    To me, this is just another chunky chrono diver, and 90% of people may possibly never even get it wet.. I think the reality is that few will use this as a serious diver, given it lacks the functionality of the Aquagraph (and even then, something like the Aquagraph is only a backup to a serious dive computer), so the He valve is an added unnecessary complication and the tiny percentage of people that actually do saturation diving are unlikely to take this down with them.

    DC – Great review BTW. I’m an aussie too (Canberra based), so even for me the price seems a bit steep. I bought a Calibre 17 Carrera about 3 years back and paid $2,800 from an authorised dealer in Sydney. And the movement in that was, in my view, better than the 7750.

  • wilfreb

    i also prefer the handsome transparent caseback on my 500M cal 5

  • DC

    Agree Wilfreb- although I do like the traditional Divers helmet.


  • Adsw

    Having read the comments I think the ones about movement should be kept in context why fix what is not broken.

    We all like a nice movement but for my collection they are worse for need of service and very rarely as good at constant time keeping.

    All of my 7750s are perfect I have never needed them serviced and once timed up keep good time for longer ( one still does 1 sec a week after ten years ) , they are clunky and they are basic but they are very very good .. After all its about keeping time not looking at the movement.

    Form over function plus cost ..All companies work this way Tag is no exception and frankly they get it right most ofn the time.

  • Kai L Man

    I wish they will make a GMT verion with Ceramic Bezel and Raised 24 Hours Markings (Even Hours) and smaller 24 Hours Markings on the Dail (Odd Hours). Also the Date Window at the 3 o'clock position instead of at 9 o'clock or even no date.

    As for the Chronograph I do prefer the Sub-dails to be at 3,6,9 O'clock instead of 6,9,12 o'clock (which looks more balanced)The 9 o'click Sub-dail do not match the others (seem lazy)

    The Hands should be Tapered outwards and not inwards.

    I think that all the thing I do not like about the 500M.

  • Kai L Man

    Cyclops are a big No-No, leave it to Rolex (BTW I have a Submariner).

    Also, Matching colour Date Wheel and Dail.

  • DM

    To begin with, I don't know where you guys get all these prices but in my local Tag dealership this watch costs the equivalent of $2400. If you look closely at this timepiece youll notice the thing that distinguishes it from lots and lots of other wuss "classic" <40mm girlie pieces – some 2 big hairy testosteroneous balls!!! This is a mans watch I love it! OK no 1887 so what? Buy a pink chopard youll be better off and in style.

  • DC

    DM, you sound a like a man who knows what he likes…

    The price that I quoted is the price in Australia. Sure, the A$ is worth more than the USD, but we're a small market and so everything here costs more than the USD equivalent.



  • Stephen

    Hi David I am contemplating purchasing the chrono diver500m but am a bit concerned about the watch being top heavy as well as the comfort on the wrist given the ridges on the case back

  • LHL

    Hello Stephen,
    I can give you my own opinion and personal experience with this watch. Even though the watch is large it doesn’t really feel top heavy. As for the ridges on the case back, you don’t even feel them. This watch actually wears very nice and comfortable. What I will say makes a difference is the weight of the entire watch. If you go with the rubber strap over the stainless steel bracelet it makes the watch much lighter. With it being lighter you can wear it just about anywhere for the entire day without any real issues
    about its weight and it bothering you. On the other hand, if you go with the stainless steel bracelet, It gives the watch a different look and makes it much heavier. This can be an issue, especially if you wear it all day long and not used to wearing heavy watches. This is not the case with everyone. Some people do fine and actually like large and heavy watches, while others can only stand them for a short period of time, which then use them only for special events where they won’t necessarily have to wear it all day.
    My recommendation for you is to first think about how you plan on wearing this watch. Is it for every day or Just on occasions? Do you want it to look more dressy or sporty? Finally, you need to think about all the watches that you have worn and consider if most of them are light or heavy. Also, If possible go to a Tag Heuer dealer and try them on. This will give you a better look and feel for what you are looking for. As for myself, I had purchased the rubber strap version with the thought that I can
    always purchase the stainless steel bracelet separately and alternate them as needed. I also purchased the full black titanium version, which I love and wear that one the most now. Hopefully I was able to
    help you some. I’m sure David can give you his own advice and suggestions, but I thought I could help as
    well. Let us know what you decide and good luck.

  • Stephen

    Thanks LHL I appreciate your comments I tried the watch on with the rubber strap as I believed that the strap was more suited to the bezel being rubber and am waiting for stock to arrive in febraury At the moment I wear a link chrono which I just purchased(great buy)there is something about this aqua racer that really has my attention I will let you know if I get one regards SD

  • DC

    LHL, thanks for the detailed reply. Stephen, let us know what you end up doing.


  • Stephen

    Hi guys does anybody know if there will be a replacement for the chrono aqua racer during 2012 (upgrade)

  • DC

    Hi Stephen,

    Some updates for the 500m Watch coming (Ceramic bezel, update dial), but I don't think this covers the Chronograph. Expect the updated 500m watch around September.


  • Stephen

    Hi DC thanks for the info may I ask you to direct me to the blog where you received this info very interesting Once again for your quick response regards

  • Stephen

    Hi DC I received my aqua racer 500 chrono on rubber today and LHL was correct lighter on rubber and comfortable Great buy with excellent design My TAG collection is growing Thanks guys for all your good advise

  • LHL


    Congratulations on your new time piece. Enjoy!

  • DC

    Congrats Stephen- enjoy

  • Ildefonso Castan

    Hi guys. I am new in this blog could some one give me an opinion about the Aquaracer Aquagraph cn211a because I think that its a better watch than the new Aquaracer. Thank you for your help.