TAG Heuer has not been short on opinions about smartwatches over the past 18 months. After the company’s outspoken CEO, Jean-Claude Biver, finally conceded late last year that something interesting could be done in the space, Tag Heuer has launched their first wearable device. Clearly positioned as a luxury item, the $1500 connected watch is based on the company’s iconic Carrera line of watches. The appropriately named Carrera Connected is the result of a partnership with both Intel and Google (the same companies that aided Fossil in the creation of their Q series of wearables).
TAG Heuer calls it the first “connected watch” that looks like a traditional timepiece and it is no surprise that the device has a luxury feel and a handsome, traditional design (if you ignore the rubber watch band). Crafted from titanium with sapphire glass, the Connected looks like a thick version of a traditional watch with a screen instead of a watch face; but I am not sure I would go as far to say that it is visually more like a traditional watch than other devices on the market. There is a key difference though, the TAG Heuer wearable is truly nearly identical to a Carrera; in fact, the electronics can be replaced with a traditional watch mechanics.
According to information presented during the press event, after your 2 year contract is up (NOTE: we have yet to see mention of a contract anywhere else), a user can bring the Connected into a Tag Heuer store and pay $1500 to have the internals replaced with traditional gearings. This service is awkwardly named “Connected To Eternity.” While there were rumors that the electronics would be updatable to allow the device to be functional for years to come, that was only half correct. The “functional for years” part of the rumor was referring to converting the smartwatch to a traditional watch. While a very clever idea, I wonder how many people will pay the hefty $1500 to do the conversion.
The “smart” part of the device is powered by Android Wear. From the initial information available, it seems there are only minor tweaks to the base Google software. TAG Heuer has added 3 watch faces to the standard Android Wear OS and included a few custom apps including a timer, stopwatch, and golf app. The watch faces are based off of Carrera watches and include a standard 3-hand dial, a chronograph, and a world time face available in black, white, and blue. TAG Heuer says additional watch faces will follow including ones designed by brand ambassadors such as Tom Brady (does he know a low about watch design?). With Fossil’s Q Founder also shipping with the stock Android Wear, it is clear that Google is not looking to provide manufacturers the ability to offer a unique Android Wear experience.
Hardware wise, the Connected sports a (huge) 46mm screen that is 360×360 with a 240ppi. It is 12mm thick and rated as IP67 (dust proof and water resistant up to 1m). The watch comes with 1GB of “main memory” and 4GB of storage (the Moto 360 2015 has also has 4GB while the Apple Watch has 8GB). While battery life was not discussed during the presentation, it features a 410mAh battery almost identical in size to the Moto 360 2015’s. I would therefore expect a similar battery life of 1 to 2 days. From a wireless standpoint, the Connected has no cellular option, instead it relies on your cellphone (Bluetooth 4.1) or WiFi (B/G/N) for data. The biggest news from a hardware perspective is probably the exclusion of an optical heart rate monitor and a speaker. While this was likely necessary to allow the internals to be replaced, it sets the Connected behind other much less expensive smartwatches in terms of features. The watch is also lacking an integrated GPS chip.
TAG Heuer has an interesting road ahead of them with the Carrera Connected. With the smartwatch market still emerging and finding its place in the market, how large is the demand for a $1500 device? I am not sure the Connected offers a compelling reason to spend nearly $1000 more than a Moto 360 2015 or an Apple Watch. While the TAG Heuer presentation was filled with hyperbole about the Connected providing a level of, well, connectedness unlike any other watch, there is actually nothing strikingly new. You can purchase practically any other Android Wear device and have an identical experience or better (see: heart rate monitor, speaker, and rubber watch band). Much like the Apple Watch Hermès Edition, the TAG Heuer Connected is simply Android Wear in a nicer package. It is interesting to note that the Swiss watch maker did take a cue from Apple’s playbook and never once called the Carrera Connected a “smartwatch;” throughout the press event, TAG Heuer referred to the wearable as a “connected watch.”
On a side note, if TAG Heuer really wants to be serious about entering the tech industry, the company needs to sort out their press events. It was a cluttered mess that featured no real information, just a lot of old white men who seemed to be talking only to hear their own voice. Almost all the discussion was on how amazing the new device was, how it was industry changing, how amazing the companies involved are, and how important Swiss heritage is. Not once was their a single statement about specs, features, abilities, or <gasp> what makes the Carrera Connected unique in the market. Given the captive audience of a press event, the company didn’t offer an ounce of tangible information about their product. In fact things were so absurd that at one point CEO, Jean-Claude Biver, became overly proud of himself and enthusiastically exclaimed that the Connected was the world’s smallest computer (obviously, not true). And while they are sorting out their press events, it would be amazing if they brought their website up to current standards and included extensive product information (compare the Connected page to the Misfit Shine 2’s).