Here are the first photos and details of the latest update to one of TAG Heuer’s most popular watches- the Aquaracer 500m ceramic watch. The Aquaracer 500m line was launched at Baselworld in 2009 as the “Alpha male” of the Aquaracer range, with the 3-hand watch clocking in at 43mm and the Chronograph at 44mm.
The new Aquaracer sports not only a revised case and dial, but also for the first time on the Aquaracer series, a ceramic bezel. The redesign follows the same approach taken with the 2011 Link and 2012 Formula 1- an evolutionary upgrade with a focus on more classical styling, upgraded materials and “premium” detailing.
In addition to news about the 2012 Aquaracer Ceramic, TAG Heuer also announced last week a special edition of the current Aquaracer 500m series to mark the partnership with the America’s Cup Defender, Oracle Team USA.
At first glance the new Aquaracer 500m (above left) may seem similar to the 2009 model (above right), with the exception of the obviously new bezel- but when you place the two watches side-by-side, the scale of the changes becomes clearer.
Let’s start with the dial, where the vertical streaking has been replaced by horizontal streaking. In addition to this change of direction, the new pattern is more subtle than before, giving the dial a lighter appearance. Also notice that the small inner-circle on the dial has gone.
One of the distinctive features of the Aquaracer 500m watch was that the date sat at the 9 o’clock position and featured a small metal bridge linking the centre-stem to the date window. On the new model, not only has this bridge gone, but the date has returned to the traditional 3 o’clock position. The cyclops over the date has been deleted.
Moving to the case, you’ll notice that the new model has a softer design- less angular and “industrial”. Perhaps the most significant change to the case is the size, with the new model coming in at 41mm, significantly smaller than the 43mm out-going model.
Those selecting the rubber strap option will also notice that the design of the strap has changed and that the square end pieces with the exposed “Screw-Heads” has been dropped for a more conventional finish.
One of the most distinctive features of the 2009 Aquaracer 500m was the rubber bezel, with its radial pattern, applied metal minute indicators and exposed silver screw-heads. The 2012 model abandons each of these elements for a more traditional dive watch bezel- this time made from ceramic.
The main benefit of ceramic versus either aluminum or steel is that it tends to be more scratch- resistant….a benefit that owners of vintage Heuer Autavia’s would understand well. The reason that it’s scratch-resistant is that ceramic is four-times harder than steel and resists fading over time. In addition, ceramic is about 25% lighter than steel, a nice features but one that is less compelling given the relative weight of the bezel to the rest of the watch.
The last point to note is the increased number of highly polished details on the new line- the side of the case, crown, helium valve, alternating bracelet links and bezel-grips all receive the high-polish treatment.
There is no doubt that some of the distinctive elements of the original 2009 model have been lost with the 2012 redesign. The watch is more timeless in design, but also now more similar to other dive watches. So is the new design an improvement?
Clearly, the bezel design is a step forward. We’ve always advocated a move to a ceramic bezel in the traditional style (check the archive of Aquaracer articles here) and the new look is cleaner, more up-market and simply better looking. Likewise, the move to a smaller case makes sense, given the trend away from larger watches.
But as with the new Formula 1 series, some of the design boldness has gone, no better demonstrated than the Aquaracer Full Black, which loses the lurid lime highlights of the original for simple white. It’s also a shame that the date has gone back to the traditional position- it was a small design touch that gave the watch a different character.
Overall, there are more changes that improve the design rather than detract from the look. It’s likely to be a design that appeals to more people, but one that is less fashion-driven.
Aquaracer 500m Models
There are five models in the new Aquaracer 500m range- four of which you see here. The fifth version is for limited release and has a Champagne dial, steel and gold case and a black bezel.
Again keeping with the precedent set by the 2011 Link and 2012 Formula 1, there are fewer dial colours offered at launch, with the standard range available with either a blue or black dial.
Blue Dial/ Blue Ceramic Bezel/ Steel (WAK2111)
Blue & Gold/ Steel (Ref. WAK2120)
The Aquaracer 500m uses the Calibre 5 automatic movement (Sellita’s SW200), the same movement as the current series. For the moment, the Aquaracer 500m Chronograph continues with the existing design, but the Calibre 16 movement will now be a mix of Sellita and ETA movements (the SW500 and 7750 being basically identical).
Last week TAG Heuer celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Aquaracer/ 2000 series with an event in Venice. The event also launched two new Aquaracer models to mark the partnership with Oracle Team USA, a long-term partner of TAG Heuer and the defender of the 34th America’s Cup.
While the 2013 America’s Cup will be held in San Francisco, you can’t argue with the choice of Venice to provide the back-drop to the launch event.
TAG Heuer has a long-term association with the America’s Cup, a history which we explored last year with a look at Heuer and TAG Heuer’s history in Sailing watches, which you can read here.
The first of the sailing watches is the Aquaracer 500m Oracle watch, which is based on the current Aquaracer 500m model. Both the watch and the Chronograph have a choice of two logos- either the “Defender” logo with the Golden Gate Yacht Club Flag (above), or the “Team USA” logo as seen below (Chronograph shown).
The Calibre 16 Chronograph has additional red highlights, with the sub-dial hands. Both Chronograph and Watch versions also have a bright red “cap” on the Helium-valve, a feature only available on the Oracle Team USA watches.
Price and Availability
TAG Heuer Aquaracer 500m Ceramic
These “real world” photos were taken by our friends at Ace Jewelers, a long-time supporter of Calibre 11 who have the full range of Aquaracer models.
The new 500m Ceramic went on sale in late 2012, with a price starting around CHF 2400 for the stainless steel models, CHF 2750 for the Full Black and closer to CHF 3,000 for the Steel and Gold model.
For a detailed review of the new Aquaracer 500m Ceramic, click here.