TAG Heuer’s long-awaited Smartwatch has arrived, with the Carrera Connected launched today in New York. It marks a new digital adventure for the brand and one that sees TAG Heuer taking a different approach to the smartwatch space to its traditional rivals: Here is a Smartwatch that looks like, well, a watch. The challenge for the Swiss luxury brands has been how do you deal with the clash of values between the timeless and forever nature of the mechanical watch and the inevitable obsolescence of a smartwatch- TAG Heuer’s approach is to offer a unique mechanical watch to Connected owners after two years at a changeover priced fixed today.
The project has come together quickly, with the first noises about TAG Heuer entering this space starting mid-way through last year. The project gathered steam with the appointment of Jean-Claude Biver as CEO late last year, which saw a partnership with Intel and Google sealed in March.
To date there have been two paths taken in Smartwatch development. We’ve had the electronic manufacturers entering the watch market and we’ve had some of the venerable Swiss watch brand try and develop their own technology- but TAG Heuer has taken a third path by partnering directly with two of the largest technology players in Google and Intel.
Look carefully at the Connected as you’ll see the words “Engineered in Switzerland”, an important choice of phrase, because the Connected doesn’t comply with the “Swiss Made” regulations. But don’t let this be a surprise, because we’ve been here before with Heuer’s first exploration of “electronic” watches, the Chronosplit of 1975. Developed in partnership with US technology firms and, at least initially, assembled in the US, the Chronosplit didn’t carry the “Swiss Made” tag of other Heuers.
The story below from Jack Heuer’s autobiography is telling for the parallels we see in today’s announcement, some 44 years later.
“Following my brief spell at INSEAD I was determined to see first-hand what Silicon Valley was all about and to understand what developments in solid-state electronics were going to mean for the future, especially the future of watches and chronometers….I decided to spend the 1971 autumn holidays not with my family but on a fact-finding tour of Silicon Valley in California.“
“I was also somewhat disoriented with regard to my main business because there were dozens – if not hundreds – of small startup companies, each specialising in some aspect of this new solid-state technology. Before leaving Switzerland, however, I had read an article about Silicon Valley in Business Week, and the journalist had mentioned a few typical companies so I had some names to start with.“
“One small startup company I called on was one by the name of “Intel”. One of its founders, Robert “Bob” Noyce, drove a Ferrari and knew of Heuer. When he heard that I wanted to visit his company he offered to give me a personal tour of the shop floor, which then had a single silicon wafer production line and fewer than 200 employees…This visit really opened my eyes to what was going on and I could see the incredible potential of the industry.”
“I returned home not just profoundly impressed by what I had seen but also quite concerned that Switzerland would not latch on to this new technology fast enough and that the watch industry might suffer tremendously as a consequence.”
The Connected (Reference SAR8A80) is based on the design of the Carrera Heuer-01 and uses a 46mm Grade 2 Titanium case. As you can see above, there is a myriad of colourful rubber strap options, the same options as with its mechanical Carrera brother.
At launch there are three main dial options for the Connected- Watch, Chronograph or Twin-Time and each of these in turn has three colour options- Deep Blue, Pearl White and Black. A lot of effort has gone into making the dial look as close as possible to the “real thing”, including adding a shadow-effect under the hands. The watch dial is visible at all times, even in ambient energy-saving mode.
You can expect additional customisable watch dials to be added over time, accessible through the TAG Heuer app in the Google Play store. Expect TAG Heuer’s army of ambassadors to design their own signature dials for download.
A lot of effort has gone in making sure that the Connected looks as much like a watch as possible, for example there is no “flat tyre” at the bottom of the screen as you’ll see on many other Android-powered Smartwatches.
The TAG Heuer Connected will works with both iPhone and Android powered phones, a crucial feature given the variety of handsets now in circulation. The dial has a sapphire crystal and a touch-screen, which is used in conjunction with the digital crown to control the functions on the watch.
The Connected is charged using a contact charger that slips around the back of the watch. Speaking of charging, we’re told to expect all-day battery life.
Many of the functions are controlled by the intuitive touch-screen, for example in chronograph mode timing is started and stopped by simply tapping the screen, with a double-tap to re-set.
At launch, there are three custom TAG Heuer Apps:
- Golfshot Pro (Golf)
- RaceChrono Pro (Motor Racing)
- Viewrangers (Trailing/ Hiking)
You can see more about the functions at this video
The Question of Obsolescence
Owners of the Connected will have the option after two years to swap their Connected watch for a traditional mechanical TAG Heuer of a “similar design” and also made from Grade 2 Titanium. Prices for this watch (a unique design we are told, rather than an existing model) will be the same as the TAG Heuer Connected launch price. It remains to be seen how attractive that offer will prove to be, as while $1500 (US) may be a low price for a mechanical TAG Heuer Carrera, it’s still a significant sum.
Below you see the Connected on the left and its mechanical “replacement” the Calibre 5 Mechanical watch on the right
While TAG Heuer insist that the true rivals for the Connected aren’t the gaggle of Smartwatches developed by technology companies, the reality is that the new watch has to be able to compete with its tech. The biggest difference is the choice of Intel to power the watch, because why Intel may be the default choice in PCs, they are chasing hard in the smartwatch market the likes of Qualcomm.
Below is an overview of how the Connected stacks up, with a note that the full technical specs of the Connected are still to be confirmed, so expect we’ll add to the Features box as more information comes to hand.
|TAG Heuer Connected||Moto 360 2||LG Urbane 2||Apple Watch (42mm)||Huwei Watch|
|Display||1.5 in. transflective LTPS LCD||1.37 inch/ LCD||1.38 inch/ POLED||1.5 inch/ AMOLED||1.4 inch A-MOLED|
|Screen||360×360/ 240 ppi||360P/ 223 ppi||480P/ 348 ppi||319×390/ 290 ppi||400×400 286ppi|
|CPU||Intel Atom Z34XX/ 1.6GHz||Qualcomm Snapdragon 400/ 1.2GHz||Qualcomm Snapdragon 400/ 1.2GHz||Apple S1||Qualcomm Snapdragon 400/ 1.2GHz|
|Features||Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, built-in microphone, Gyroscope, tilt-detection sensor, haptic engine||Accelerometer, Ambient light sensor, Gyroscope, Vibrations/ Haptics||Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, Gyroscope, Compass, Barometer, Accelerometer, GPS, Heart-rate sensor||Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Haptics||Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, heart rate monitor, built-in microphone|
|OS||Android Wear||Android Wear||Android Wear||Apple iOS||Android Wear|
Price and Availability- TAG Heuer Connected Smartwatch Ref SAR8A80
You won’t have long to wait for the new TAG Heuer Connected, because the watch goes on sale today globally across 100 TAG Heuer Boutiques and 150 retail partners.The price is as follows:
- AUD2,000 (Australia)