Since the first smart watches hit the market, the common accusation levelled at them is that they are too focused on the technology inside them at the expense of the user experience. Most devices that have thus far been released have been conceived as wearable smartphones – and it has told in the design.
Most luxury watch manufacturers, meanwhile, have shied away from creating their own connected watches, due to not wanting to release a product that might cheapen their brand value. This has led to a peculiar stand-off where no one seems willing – or able – to bridge the gap between historical excellence and modern functionality.
As one of the first premium manufacturers to break ranks and embrace smart technology, Tag Heuer has managed to establish a sensible compromise between increased usability and preservation of the polished feel the brand is known for. The Connected model retains the brooding presence of a Tag, with a grade-two titanium build incorporating a 1.5-inch LCD touch display that can be read in direct sunlight and that – from a distance – could be mistaken for one of its mechanical watch interfaces.
By preserving elements of its history within the interface, the Tag Heuer Connected manages to largely elevate itself beyond its rival Android Wear devices. Users can choose from three faces inspired by legacy models, each of which subtly incorporate functions such as alarms, stopwatches and timers without distorting the company’s design ethos. A battery charge will easily last a whole day and an IP67 water resistance rating both add a premium experience that many smart watches lack. It is also impressive inside the casing, with the interface powered by an Intel Atom processor.
Despite the many positives, it’s not the most powerful smart watch on the market, nor does it have the best screen resolution out there. Additionally, only a handful of premium partner apps have been tailored specifically for the watch. Other Android Wear apps are supported, but switching out to a generic interface when accessing these means that the device’s prestigious look and feel occasionally lapses into the prosaic.
Tag Heuer itself is taking an each-way bet on its new innovation: customers who invest in the Connected watch will be eligible to receive a mechanical version of its watch after the two-year warranty period expires.
The Tag Heuer Connected is not for everyone: retailing at £1,100 and available in-store only, it has not been crafted with the everyman in mind. Like its analogue watch portfolio, Tag Heuer remains geared firmly towards a premium audience.