Bright and early on Monday and there’s a long line waiting outside the LVMH Tower in New York, to get into its “Magic Room”, where typically fashion shows and parties are held, so one an get a complete view of all of New York at the cap of the tower.
We’re all waiting to observe a little piece of history, as CEO of TAG Heuer and Hublot Jean-Claude Biver expresses. The 66 year-old marketing and management legend of the watchmaking industry has kept the watch industry waiting for months for its first, fully-fledged smart watch, a partnership that he announced earlier in the BaselWorld watch and jewellery fair this year with Google and Intel. As he stated in a short speech last night, “it’s the first time a Swiss watch maker will be presenting a smart watch, and a first for TAG Heuer as well. It’s also the first time a Swiss watch label will be presenting a watch at stores an hour after the press conference is completed.”
Mr Jean-Claude Biver, courtesy of TAG Heuer
The Connected Watch will be available for sale across 20 stores in the U.S. as of noon time (1am on the 10th November in Singapore), and will shortly enter Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. It doesn’t bear a “Swiss Made’ label, but instead it bears a “Swiss Engineered” label on the case.
It works like a smart watch, but is styled like the Carrera case, specifically the Carrera Heuer 01 timepiece. It’s in fact the same case, except without the chronograph pushers, and there’s a reason for this. Mr Biver explains that in the years to come when the internals of your smart watch no longer do acceptable performance, you can swop out the Intel internals for a TAG Heuer made movement, at a very fair price of 1,350 euros. That’s a smart move for a company that has consistently prided itself on innovation: this is certainly a new way of retail. In fact, if it wasn’t for the “TAG Heuer Connected” indication between the ‘0’ and ’10’ indices on the bezel, you might not realise at all that it’s a Connected Watch.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 timepiece
The Connected Watch is a titanium case that’s retailing at 1,350 euros, not a supposed US$15,000 as some sites have mistakenly informed. That’s already a good enough reason to retail it, to be honest. After all, there aren’t too many companies making a titanium watch at this price point. It’s a 46mm case and relatively thick, but extremely light at just 32 grams. It’s big on my wrist, but it really doesn’t feel too uncomfortable. If you were the sort to wear a cuffed shirt, that could be an issue as I don’t imagine it will easily fit under the sleeve, but since I never button my sleeves, it doesn’t really affect me. Instead of typically fragile LCD, they use sapphire crystal with a touch sensitive display, so it’s just as durable as any proper TAG Heuer watch.
The battery is designed to last 40 hours under medium to heavy use, so you’ll need to charge it every night. It will be retailed at TAG Heuer boutiques and a select range of retailers (we’ll be updating this as we get more detailed information), and roll out will be in four countries first, then other parts of Europe and Asia. The plan is for a complete roll out by the end of the year.
It has a contact charging point at the back of the watch case for the battery point, but what’s impressive is that the watch has an IP67 rating, just like the Sony Z phones. That’s excellent, and fits the sporty profile of TAG Heuer. Don’t take it swimming, but it’s fine at the sink. However, CEO of Intel Bryan Krzanich said in the press conference that he’s “worn it running, swimming and showering and it’s been great”, so it’s up to you to give it a shot.
It also has a few other smart enhancements: Wi-Fi connectivity to the cloud that maintains its content monitoring even if it’s not with your phone all the time, 4Gb of memory, plenty to keep going and compatibility with Android Wear OS apps. It’s also compatible with iOS phones. It’s very responsive, we have to admit, and the voice recognition is excellent.
There’s also three key dial designs from TAG Heuer: three-hand, chronograph and GMT. It’s like you get three timepieces in one. More dial displays are on the way, including those designed by TAG Heuer’s ambassadors such as Cara Delevingne and Tom Brady. The dials continue to show even if the watch is on energy-saving mode, because it’s a watch first, as Mr Biver has pointed out. New dials will be available on Android via the TAG Heuer app.
David Singleton of Google explains why the smartwatch is a logical progression: “It’s information that’s glanceable, actionable and effortless”.
Our verdict: If you’re simply looking for a standard smart watch, then there are plenty of other less expensive options out there for you. Many of them look very stylish as well. But if you’re looking for a smart watch that can do all the needed functions of one, but doesn’t really look like a smartwatch, this is the one for you.
It’s not cheap, to be fair, but you do get plenty of bang for your buck: grade 2 titanium case, outstanding internal hardware, sapphire crystal, decent battery life. We also really like that it stays connected to the phone via either bluetooth or Wi-Fi. That’s practical. And we like that it has the option to go mechanical in the future, although we’d prefer if we could simply swop it out for upgraded hardware in the future and keep the smartwatch going. It’s available for sale online at the TAG Heuer website right now.
Check out the #ConnectedtoEternity hashtag on social media for more photos of the watch. Also, watch this article for additional updates – videos, photos, etc of the timepiece.
UPDATE: Mr Biver explains that the watch, thanks to its 4Gb of memory, can in fact function as a standalone. “You could put music into your Connected Watch, and leave your phone at home, go running and connect it to your Bluetooth headset and enjoy your music.”
Bryan Krzanich explains that his average use of the watch is relatively heavy, (5am to 11pm or so each day) and the watch still has an average of 30% battery life at the end of the day.
UPDATE 2: Check out the watch demo below. Incidentally, the crown acts as an on/off button, and a double press on the crown sets it to “Theatre” mode, where updates don’t flash on the screen lit, for privacy and so as not to disturb anyone.
There’s apparently been a queue outside the TAG Heuer store in New York, as people are waiting to get their hands on the Connected Watch. It bodes well for the brand.
UPDATE 3: Singapore will be retailing the watch in 2 weeks time specifically on the 27th November 2015, available at TAG Heuer boutiques. The retail price of the watch will be S$2,100.
We’ve added in the entire press conference here for your viewing, at your leisure.