Intel inside, choices outside
The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 knows its market, and after the (perhaps surprising) success of the original Tag Heuer Connected, who can blame Tag for doubling down on the high end?
The second iteration isn’t just better, faster, stronger, but it’s also much more customisable. The ‘Modular’ bit should give away as much: the lugs, strap and main unit of the new Tag Heuer are now interchangeable. This might seem like an unlikely USP for a watch that will cost you at least $1,600, but Tag has lovingly crafted – and patented – every piece.
Let’s start with how it feels. The Connected is another wrist-beast, measuring 45mm in diameter, which makes it just 1mm smaller than that last. It’s also just as chunky, but nonetheless was perfectly comfortable on my wrist.
That screen is a 400 x 400 AMOLED with a 287ppi, the same as the Asus ZenWatch 3. As I really like Asus’s latest and greatest smartwatch, I could already vouch for how good the Tag’s display would be before trying it. After my demo, I have no complaints about screen quality.
For the modules, you have a range of straps, starting at the cheaper (but not cheap) rubber options and moving up to leather, titanium and ceramic, and there are four lug options and two different buckles. Together this makes up 11 designs, but there are also 45 additional designs you’ll be able to specially order through boutiques or online.
While Android Wear is the main event, Tag also wants to use modularity to bridge its connected and non-connected worlds together, and so it’s also turning two of its classic watches into mechanical modules that will fit with all the other components. There’s the Calibre 5, a classic three-hand, which will cost $1,600, and then the big-$17,000-daddy Heuer-02T Tourbillon.
I played around with some of the different modules to get a feel for the Lego-like design, although it required a bit of fiddling to get the right angles before things slotted into place, especially when attaching the lugs to the cental module. But I’m all for customisation, and by the end had become quite attached to a black and red beauty I’d put together. I think Tag’s idea here is a good one.
The watch is also more durable this time around. Unlike Intel’s other Android Wear partner watch, the New Balance RunIQ, the Tag Heuer isn’t being pitched for running. However the addition of 50 meter water resistance certainly makes this a more rugged smartwatch, and in a presentation video Tag showed it being used out in the surf. The option of rubber straps mean you have something to get a bit sweaty in, and built-in GPS alongside the new Google Fit app means the option to get active is certainly there.
After spending a lot of time with the LG Watch Sport I instinctively went to twist the button on the side as soon as I picked up the Modular 45, but sadly there’s no rotational input. You’ll be navigating Android Wear with your finger on the screen, which is fine, but I like how intuitive the Sport’s rotating side button feels and was hoping Tag might follow suit.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: We have the Intel
Tag has teamed up again with Intel for the guts of its new smartwatch. Speaking to Wareable, Jerry Bautista, VP of Intel’s New Devices Group, explained that the metal body of most high-end smartwatches are bad for radio frequency technology. That’s where Intel came in, making the tech and Swiss design to work in unison. That included sandwiching an antenna cluster between the outer bezel and the metal body, which gives the watch 70% better Wi-Fi performance than the first, according to Intel.
Bautista told me how Intel also minimised the GPS drain on battery, but it will be hard to tell just how much impact GPS has until we can do a full review. Tag says you’ll get around 30 hours of battery with normal use and the always-on, but low power, clock face active.
The customisations don’t stop at the hardware. The new smartwatch also arrives running Android Wear 2.0, where Tag is offering up 30 specially made watch faces, and if that doesn’t satiate your appetite, it also has the Tag Heuer Studio app on both the watch and smartphone where you can play around with hundreds of different options to find your perfect face.
Other than that, you’re getting straight-up Android Wear 2.0, however Intel teased a new piece of software it’s been working on for smart scheduling. As seen in the Oakley Radar Pace, Intel is interested in building smarter AI into wearables, and we interrogated Bautista about what this is going to look like. It sounds really neat – you can read all about it here – and is essentially going to be a much smarter Google Assistant, if Intel can live up to the promise. It will also be launching exclusively on the new Tag, Bautista told us, but there are plans to eventually deploy it more widely.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Initial verdict
Sure, it’s expensive, starting at $1,650 and moving up to $17,500 for the Deluxe Box Set, which comes with the mechanical Heuer-02T module. But you knew that before you started even reading this piece. I think Tag’s modular idea is quite neat, and with Android Wear 2.0 the new smartwatch becomes even more appealing.
It is still a big watch – though Tag says a woman-friendly version is coming. It would also have been nice to see some form of rotational input, either in the bezel or the side button. But there’s no denying Tag has built a beautiful watch here, however you put it together, and it will be interesting to see if it’s received as well – or even better – than the first.