Sleeker, more premium, upgraded hardware and software and a streamlined selection of straps and bracelets. Those are the headlines of the 2020 TAG Heuer Connected story. This is the third generation of smart watch developed by TAG Heuer since 2015 and confirms TAG Heuer’s commitment to the smart watch sector of the market. And given that analysts estimate Apple shipped almost 31 million watches in 2019, you can see why that commitment makes sense.
But rather than trying to replicate the Apple Watch, the new Connected is positioned further away from its tech-first rivals by emphasising TAG Heuer’s watchmaking heritage. The new watch is far more, well, of a watch, than the Connected Series I and II, with an integrated case and lug design replacing the modular approach of the previous series. You’ll notice the polished surfaces and “chronograph” pushers- just like the TAG Heuers you know and love.
The Series III also marks the end of the interesting-but-complex mechanical modules and upgrade programme that were a feature of the Connected 41 and 45 Modular series. Those modules are not compatible with the new Connected.
There’s also been a change in the technical team that sits behind the watch, with original Connected chip partner Intel being replaced by Qualcomm. This is no surprise given that Intel began winding down its New Devices Group in 2018. Intel’s move out of the consumer smart watch segment opened the door for Google and Qualcomm to work more closely together on the development of Google’s Wear OS mobile platform, with Qualcomm now dominating the consumer market.
And while this article brings you the first photos of the new Connected, it comes with a large caveat: in our experiences with Smart Watches, it’s essential to review them in person before coming to any firm conclusions. Only then can the intuitiveness and responsiveness of the OS be assessed, and the quality and vibrancy of the screen be truly apparent.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be conducting a hands-on review of the Connected to confirm these critical questions, as well as testing out the all-important battery life.
History of the Connected
It’s often forgotten that TAG Heuer offered a range of high-end mobile phones back in the early-mid 2000s, the experience of which eventually paved the way into smartphones and then eventually into smart watches. Noises began in 2014 that a significant play was coming, with then-new CEO Jean-Claude Biver championing the smart watch as one of his first big strategic moves.
Connected Series I
Launched in 2015, the Connected was a 46mm titanium watch, with its design inspired by the then-new Carrera Heuer 01 skeleton watch. The watch was announced in a blaze of publicity, with TAG Heuer teaming up with Google and Intel for TAG Heuer’s first foray into smartwatches.
Connected Series II
In 2017, the second series Connected introduced two bold new concepts: modular case construction (allowing different materials on the lugs to be easily fitted) and the option of fitting mechanical watch modules, including a tourbillon. The 45mm model was the first Series II watch, with the smaller 41mm following a year later.
Connected Series III Design
The new Connected uses a traditional watch case, with the lugs more closely resembling the classic Carrera style than the modern Heuer 01 Carrera lugs of the original Connected. The result is a smartwatch that looks much more like a classic watch than previous models, which allows a very different positioning to the Apple Watch. At this stage, there is a single 45mm case size, which is 13.5mm thick. To put that into context, the conventional Calibre 16 Carreras are closer to 16mm thick.
While the watch is no longer modular, the straps do feature the same quick release system as found on the Calibre 5 Autavia, as you can see below.
We see the move back to steel as a positive- again, more in keeping with TAG Heuer’s traditional watches and with a satisfying weight that you won’t see on the “tech-first” smart watches.
You’ll also notice two buttons on the side of the case, designed to mimic traditional Chronograph pushers. There are now three buttons that can be used to control the watch:
- Top button: launch Sports app
- Middle button/crown: Google navigation
- Lower button: stopwatch
Connected Series III Models
At launch, you can choose between two 45mm cases- steel or DLC black titanium (Ti2)- with a black ceramic bezel standard on the titanium watch, while the steel case can be selected with either a steel or ceramic bezel.
Steel Case/ Black Ceramic Bezel- Ref. SBG8A10
We suspect that this will be the most popular model- the simple black ceramic bezel and steel case combination. The steel case models are the only Connected watches that can be chosen with the steel bracelet that you see below.
Steel Case/ Steel Bezel- Ref. SBG8A12
The second model simply swaps the fixed Ceramic bezel for a steel bezel, which itself is nicely finished in a combination of polished and brushed surfaces.
Titanium DLC Case/ Black Ceramic Bezel- SGB8A80
The top of the range watch features a sandblasted titanium case, which is blackened with a DLC (“Diamond like Carbon”) coating giving the watch a cool matte “all black” look. As noted earlier, there is no bracelet for the titanium watch.
Connected Hardware and Software
While the original Connected was the product of a partnership between Google, Intel and TAG Heuer, the new Connected replaces the Intel Atom Z34XX series processor with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100. While the 3100 is seen as an important evolution over the 2100 predecessor from 2016, tech analysts expect a significantly upgraded Snapdragon 3300 chipset by the end of 2020- unfortunately too late for the launch of the new Connected.
The only obvious missing tech feature on the new watch is eSIM capability- the Connected must be in range of your mobile phone to make the most of the functions of the watch.
Screen/ Dial Options
There are five “always on” mechanical and digital screens that can be chosen on the menu from the watch itself.
- A three-hand version of the Heuer 02 skeletonised dial
- A digitalised Carrera Heuer 01
- A liquid crystal- like display,
- A unique algorithm-based neural network animation named Orbital
- A tribute to the hexagonal nanotube structure of the carbon composite hairspring (shown above)
These base dials can then be customised further by changing colours or giving prominence to particular functions, for example choosing to highlight the heart-rate monitor on the main dial.
The Connected runs Google’s Wear operating system, and has all the standard Wear OS functions, including Google Assistant, Google Translate, e-mail and message notifications, Google Pay and maps and weather apps.
Given their heritage in the traditional sports/ performance segment, TAG Heuer decided to develop its own TAG Heuer Sports app on the watch. This is no small technical undertaking, with the team based in Switzerland and Paris. The app supports multiple sports (running, golf, cycling, etc.) and allows the user to export their data to other well-being apps, such as Apple Health.
TAG Heuer sees the in-house development of its own Sports app as being the next generation of the company’s timing time-pieces, showing off the Connected with several of the great Heuer stopwatches and timers of the past. We won’t complain about any opportunity to highlight some of the wonderful watches from Heuer’s past!
|Water resistance:||5 ATM|
|Battery||430 mAh all-day battery|
|Battery Life||All-day standard use (20 hours including a 1-hour workout), 6 hours of sports use (using GPS, HR and music)|
|Charging Time||100% in 1.5 hours at temperatures between 15°C and 45°C|
|Sensors||Heart rate, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, NFC, microphone|
|Processors||Qualcommâ Snapdragon Wear 3100|
|Connectivity||BT SMART, WiFi|
|Display||OLED display 1.39″ 454×454 pixels (326 ppi)|
The range of straps has been sensibly rationalised back to six options- three rubber straps (Black, Red, Orange and Khaki), one steel bracelet and one leather/ rubber strap.
Price and Where To Buy
Overall, we feel that on paper, the new Connected Series III is a significant step forwards. The watch is sleeker and more upmarket than previous models, and the spec sheet suggests improvements in battery life and screen quality- two of the more important factors for us. Yes, we would have liked an eSIM and yes, it would have been nice to have the latest Snapdragon chipset, but in the fast-moving world of high-tech, there are always new features and functionality “just” over the horizon.
In line with TAG Heuer’s “see now, buy now” strategy flagged earlier this year, the Connected III goes on sale today globally at tagheuer.com and TAG Heuer authorised dealers. Prices are as follows:
- Steel case & rubber strap CHF 1,750 (Swiss Francs)
- Steel case & steel bracelet CHF 1,900
- TI2 Sandblasted case DLC & black rubber strap CHF 2,300.