The TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 watch hands-on
Smartwatches set off on the back foot, and in many cases the big luxury brands initially snubbed and underestimated this phenomenon altogether. The major leading groups in the world of digital consumer products (like Samsung, Apple and Google), thanks to their digital technology skills and their exceptional investment capability, were the first to enter this market by breaking the boundaries that used to separate a smartphone from a watch. Immediately afterwards, as in an ever-expanding universe, the large luxury groups saw the business opportunities this new sector could offer and came up with their very own proposals. Among the brands that have the deepest roots in the world of classic watch-making, TAG Heuer was the first manufacturer to enter this new market with its own product and the first company to release a luxury smartwatch. All the different phases of this process fully adhered to that Swiss avant-garde spirit that has characterized this brand since 1860.
That step was a risk that TAG Heuer had to take and the manufacturer has already presented the second version of its Connected Watch with new interesting hardware features (in my opinion it kind of sound odd when you associate the word “hardware” to a Swiss watch!) rather than accessories; one of the aspects the digital product breaks itself off the classic product. There is also the modularity side; each customer can choose between different case sizes for his/her TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45, various straps and lugs options with a mixture of choices that includes over 500 different combinations.
The solution adopted for the strap of the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 is quite interesting because the lugs are actually part of the strap itself, thus allowing it to be interchangeable; it is also quick and well-designed; you simply need to press a button and slightly pull the strap to separate it from the case. The core has been developed in collaboration with Intel, while the entire crafting of the case and the watch's components are manufactured in TAG Heuer’s headquarter according to the criteria and unique requirements of the “Swiss made” seal. This is a non-secondary manufacturing sign and a trademark of distinction that moves the smartwatch technology to Switzerland as opposed to a particular brand – Apple - that opted for the "Silicon Valley" instead.
It is a commercial and strategic war that is not so different from that war that we witnessed in the 1970s between Switzerland and Japan; the only difference, in this case, is that the new contender is American (and Korean in other cases). If you consider the amount of technology Japan has at its disposal, you can well say that the country missed out on a good opportunity. Intel made its technology available through the Z34XX series Intel Atom processor, a benchmark when it comes to performances and low energy consumption. If you take a look at the numbers and the technical features, you will notice that you are offered 512 MB of RAM and 4GB of storage, accelerometer, GPS, gyroscope, NFC, microphone, haptic feedback, WI-FI and 4.0 Bluetooth; all these features are hosted within a 45mm case with a 34.5mm AMOLED display and 287ppi of pixel density.
And if you are wondering how to deal with the inevitable obsolescence of this smartwatch after a few years of usage, TAG Heuer has already thought about a TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45's replacement; you can opt for a Carrera Caliber 5 with three hands and with date or the Heuer-02T tourbillon caliber, in replacement of the central module. I found this solution quite impressive, especially because it makes me think that the manufacturer probably considers this technology useful to win the favour of young people and fans of digital technology alike; a target audience that will soon convert to a mechanic Carrera timepiece. All this at an entry price of 1400 euro.
The software side was completed by Google with its Android 2.0; a versatile solution that is also compatible with iOS thanks to a dedicated app. This version of Android is also stand-alone, that it to say that it does not need a phone to work – although when the phone is connected horizons widen and allow you, for instance, to make phone calls. TAG Heuer has thoroughly developed and customized the software side of things, with screens that mirror some of its currently available models and give the customer the option to customize the color and style of the dial (about 4,000 dials are available), thus making every watch quite unique and bespoke.
The versatility of the Android 2.0 adds to the crafting quality that distinguishes TAG Heuer and, in general, Swiss watch-making; a great combination, especially when it comes to all those business men that want to stay connected to the world without having to give up prestige and style (something that Apple, in my opinion, hasn’t achieved just yet). From a technical point of view, it is a pity that we had to give up the heartbeat sensor; a feature that, as an avid runner, I consider very useful. You might argue about whether or not you would need a digital TAG Heuer but, on reflection, the digital world is no stranger to this Swiss brand; a leader when it comes to digital timing and I am talking about the brand’s sector that deals with the timing of sporting events or even to a Microtimer.
The manufacturer definitely showed that it has a broad vision when it decided to be one of the first players to enter a sector with one of the biggest room for development (the IOT); it actually foresaw a phenomenon that has now involved the Louis Vuitton luxury brand within the same group and traditional competitors like Montblanc.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Matteo Bulla @Horbiter®