Following the success of the first Connected Smartwatch, it should be no surprise that TAG Heuer has updated the watch for 2017 with a new series called the Connected Modular 45. While the 45 refers to the case size in millimetres, the important word here is modular. You’d expect to be able to customise the digital face of your smartwatch, but the Connected Modular takes this further. Lugs (Rose Gold, Titanium or Ceramic) and straps can be easily changed, and for those days when you want to live an analogue life, you can swap out the smartwatch module for an automatic watch module. And if that’s not enough, for those days when you are in a haute horlogerie state of mine, you can also add in a tourbillon module.
A tourbillon module? Yes, you can add a Heuer-02T Chronograph to your smartwatch, which would be just the watch to wear should you ever get a chance to meet Philippe Stern, the Patek Philippe CEO, who was already irritated by TAG Heuer’s ingenuity in building the Carrera Heuer-02t for less than CHF15,000. Now, it’s something you can just add to your smartwatch.
All up, there are 56 different versions available at launch- 11 of which form the standard collection, and the other 45 which will be available to order
And one of the features that TAG Heuer is most proud of is the small text at the bottom of the Connected case- “Swiss Made”- the first Smartwatch to carry the Swiss made name, with the watch being designed, developed, and assembled at TAG Heuer HQ in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The 2017 Connected Modular 45 is essentially a refined version of the original Connected- it’s fractionally smaller (45mm vs. 46mm) and has a symmetrical extended black bezel (which TAG Heuer call a “Wing”) on both top and bottom of the case, while Connected I only has the black bezel on the bottom.
While Connected I has a black titanium-carbide bezel, there are a variety of options for the Connected Modular- the example shown here has an uncoated titanium bezel, but as you’ll see later in this review, there are many, many other options.
With the automatic Calibre 5 module inserted (we’ll show you how to do this shortly), the watch looks just as good, with a simple 3-hand watch design matched with a glossy ceramic bezel.
While the original Connected was principally assembled by outside suppliers, TAG Heuer has gradually been bringing in-house more of the production.
The Intel chip itself is obviously not produced by TAG Heuer, but the motherboard is produced in Switzerland, with the final assembly step and testing are completed in TAG Heuer’s own workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
- the movement must be assembled in Switzerland;
- the movement must be inspected by the manufacturer in Switzerland and;
- the components of Swiss manufacture account for at least 50 percent of the total value, without taking into account the cost of assembly.
Given this is a watch website, we’re not going to linger too long on the technical specs of the new Connected, but here are the highlights. At its core, the Connected Modular continues the partnership with both Intel and Google- the former contributing its Atom Z34XX series processor, while Google provides the Android Wear 2.0 operating system. The upgraded Android system is an important enhancement for iPhone users who can now access the 4000-app strong Android Play store. Other key specs include:
- NFC sensor for payments
- AMOLED screen
- 4GB memory
- Microphone to enable access to Google Voice control
- 50m water resistance
WiFi is an important change, allowing the watch to continue access information from the cloud even when your phone if off- and of course, the basic watch features, such as music, timer, alarm, and pedometer) will work without any form of internet connection.
The battery is what TAG Heuer claims as “the latest generation lithium battery” and provides over 24 “active hours” of power. In using the watch for the last week I rarely got any more than a single’s day use, although to be fair I was playing around with many of the functions and features to test them out.
Out of the box, the watch is very easy to set up. If you’re an iPhone user like me, simply download the latest Android Wear app from the App store and you’re ready to press the crown and get going. TAG Heuer do note that a dedicated TAG Heuer Connected app for iOS is on its way.
The Android Wear app opens to a TAG Heuer interface, and once your phone is paired, its main purpose is to customise the watch faces (you can also do this from the watch itself) and to set up the Google accounts that you’d like to sync with your watch.
One of the main attractions of a Smartwatch is the ability to change the look of the dial. And while the original Connected did offer several dial options, many collectors sought out home-built solutions to combine heritage Heuer dials and the latest TAG Heuer smartwatch. The number of face options has been extended significantly with the new Connected Modular, and there is also the option to create your own custom dial from the templates.
Just as with the original Connected, your can set the dial to be “always on”, which means you get the dial you see below after about 2 seconds on inactive use. Raise your wrist and the watch comes to life displaying the face in full colour.
This is one feature where I felt the software didn’t offer the same responsiveness as Apple’s WatchOS, which flicks on instantly…there seemed to have a “half beat” delay in the watch waking up from sleep.
TAG Heuer Studio
Swiping right takes you through the various options- for example, here the are some of the dial colour options for the 1-counter chronograph
Automatic Movement Modules
While the original Connected solved the problem of inevitable technical obsolescence by allowing owners to trade in their Connected for a Calibre 5 watch after two years, the Connected Modular takes a cleverer solution by simply allowing you to swap out the smartwatch module for a mechanical watch module. At launch there are two options- a 3-hand Carrera Calibre 5 and a Carrera Chronograph powered by a COSC Heuer-02t Tourbillon movement.
The Calibre 5 Carrera closely follows the design of the watch offered with a trade in for the original Connected. It’s a simple design with large hour markers and a date at 3 o’clock. It’s a good-looking design, although at 45mm is quite large- most of TAG Heuer’s 3-hand watch range is either 41 or 43mm. That wasn’t an option here given the need for the module to be interchangeable with the 45mm smartwatch.
Heuer-02t Tourbillon Module
The Tourbillon module looks fantastic- essentially the same look as the Carrera Heuer-02t. If you’re going to go for a high-end smartwatch, this feels like a much better buy than a solid gold Apple Watch (now discontinued), although we’ll be interested to see whether would-be Tourbillon owners simply buy a Carrera Heuer-02t and a Connected watch, rather than the Connected watch with a tourbillon module.
Changing out the modules is very easy- the components that can be changed are the lugs, the strap and the movement. Starting with the Calibre 5 module, you note that it’s not the same shape as a normal watch head.
My concern with this system was how solidly the lugs felt tethered to the case. A poorly engineered solution wouldn’t fit securely and would not only squeak, but leave open the possibility that the system would fail and leave your expensive module lying on the street. But I’m pleased to say that it works well, and did on each of the four models that I reviewed. Even pulling both ends of the strap tightly fails to shake the confidence in the connection. It doesn’t wobble or move around on your wrist one bit.
On the Wrist
Irrespective of which module you have in place, there is no getting around the fact that this a big watch- and positively enormous compared to an Apple Watch. But importantly, it does feels like a big watch…and not like a small computer strapped to your wrist.
This sense of size is not only due to the 45mm diameter, but also to the depth of the case, as you can see in the photo above. As someone who regularly wears a watch 41mm or below, perhaps I am not best to judge on this one. It’s likely that anyone used to a 45mm Carrera Heuer-01 will find the transition a lot smoother. And thanks to the titanium case, it never feels overly heavy.
Connected Modular 45 Range
The new Connected Modular 45 range is expansive, with a dizzying range of bezels, straps, colours and case materials. TAG Heuer say that there are 18 different straps, in rubber, leather, titanium or ceramic. Here is an overview of the range as it stands today.
Connected Modular 45 Steel Bezel
Kicking off the range is reference SBF8A8014, which offers a titanium case and a steel bezel- you can mix and match straps, but this is the entry level Connected Modular, albeit with exactly the same smartwatch specifications.
Connected Modular 45 Titanium Colours
Next we have a series of coloured models- each featuring a 45mm titanium case with a coloured bezel-steel coated in ceramic for the blue bezel and aluminium for other colours. The reference for each of the models you see above is as follows:
- Red bezel- SBF8A8015
- Orange bezel- SBF8A8016
- Yellow bezel- SBF8A8017
- Green bezel- SBF8A8018
- Blue bezel- SBF8A8019
Connected Modular 45 Gold
We’re calling these gold, but both watches actually use a titanium carbide-coated titanium case. The black bezel watch on the left (SBF8A8013) has a black ceramic-coated steel bezel and Rose Gold capped horns, while on the right (SBF8A5000) we have the same capped horns and what TAG Heuer call a “Solid Gold” capped bezel.
Connected Modular 45 Diamonds
There is a single model with diamonds, reference SBF8A8011, shown above with two different strap options. The case here is titanium and the diamond-lined horns are made from steel. In addition, the bezel is surrounded by another strand of diamonds. This one is not for the faint-hearted.
Connected Modular 45 Ceramic
The final option is reference SBF8A8013, which has a ceramic-coated steel bezel, a titanium-carbide coated titanium case and matte ceramic horns. Amongst the myriad of strap options, we like the grey leather lined strap shown above right and the ceramic bracelet shown on the left.
Price and Availability- TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45
- Switzerland- CHF 1650
- USA- US$1650
- Europe- €1600 Euros
- UK-£1400 GBP
- Hong Kong- HKD 13,100
- Australia- A$2300
To give you an idea, the current Connected- which stays on sale- is priced at US$1500.
- Titanium Case with blue ceramic bezel and blue rubber strap (as featured in this review) Ref. SBF8A8012.11FT6077: A$2,350
- Black Matte Ceramic/ Ceramic bracelet (as featured in this review) Ref. SBF8A8013.80BH0933: A$4,350
- Black Ceramic Bezel with Rose Gold horns/ rubber strap (as featured in this review) Ref SBF8A8013.32FT6076: A$4,500
- Calibre 5 Module: A$2,350
The tourbillon is sold as part of a box set including a connected watch (in grade 5 titanium, with titanium lugs and brown natural leather strap), complete with the Heuer-02T tourbillon mechanical module, plus an additional black rubber strap in a presentation case with three drawers, complete with a desktop display stand to hold the watch and its charger. It’s priced as follows:
- Switzerland: CHF17,900
- Europe:€16,650 Euros
- USA: US$17,000 USD
- Australia: A$23,900
As for availability, well they’re in stores right now. Boutiques in most countries received their first shipment ahead of launch, although not all combinations may be available in every location due to demand.
Finally, the Connected and mechanical modules both come with a 2-year warranty, while all accessories (strap, buckle, lugs, charger) are covered by a one-year warranty.
The Connected Smartwatch represents a worthy upgrade to the original Connected, with enhanced features, a much better screen and a more refined design. And if TAG Heuer had stopped here, it would still have been a noticeable improvement. What what transforms the Connected is the incredible range of customisable options, with a range of different materials, straps, bracelets and of course the option of two mechanical movements, including the mighty Heuer-02t Tourbillon. The Heuer-02t is TAG Heuer’s flagship in-house movement and offers your Connected Modular a life span well beyond the next range of Android updates.
Speaking of Android, the only question marks I had on this watch relate to the Android OS. As noted, the display is a big improvement, but the screen is a tick slow to “wake” and you only get a glance at the beautiful custom-designed watch face before the screen turns dark. Yes, battery life is critical, but the faces are so nice that its a shame for them to be on display so fleetingly.
We’d expect that the Connected Modular 45 will be followed by other models in smaller diameter cases- Connected Modular 40 anyone?
- Still the most watch-like Smartwatch
- Ability to change dials offers unlimited flexibility to change designs
- Smooth integration of mechanical modules
- Easy to set up and configure with useful new functionality (e.g. WiFi)
- Improved screen resolution
- Slight screen lag between sleep and wake modes
- 24-hour battery life means you can’t get too far away from your charger
- When we reviewed the original Connected we said that it needed a single “stand out” smartwatch feature that others don’t have- superior battery life? Nano-SIM? Nothing has changed here.