Thinner, Faster, Stronger: We Look At The Third Generation Of TAG Heuer’s Connected Watch
According to Stephane Bianchi, CEO of TAG Heuer and LVMH’s Watch Division, the future is now.
TAG Heuer has just launched the latest iteration of its Connected Watch. And with an all-new design, and of-the-moment apps, it’s an object that should bring us all closer together.
Watchonista sat down with Stephane Bianchi, CEO of TAG Heuer and LVMH’s Watch Division, to experience this interactive timepiece and how it’s putting the wearable into wearable tech.
TAG Heuer’s first-generation Connected was the first best example by the Swiss brands to truly understand how to make luxury smartwatches. And part of their success comes from anticipating what buyers want in high end, wearable tech.
The first time I wrote about TAG Heuer’s Connected Watch was just after it launched in 2015. The angle of that story was going to Coachella and using it to corral your festival friends (or find new friends via Tinder). Since then, the entire category has undergone a seismic shift.
Now, it’s 2020. While Coachella may have been postponed, travelers still need every tool available to navigate the world.
In this case, that tool is the new TAG Heuer Connected. “We have always said it is a luxury watch that is smart,” said Bianchi. “We are not trying to answer some requirements of what a luxury watch is. We’re trying to anticipate what our customers need.”
And so far, each version of the TAG Heuer Connected has met those needs. As a digital experience, it approaches technology with watchmaking traditions, developing its state-of-the-art, custom-designed apps in-house just as they would a new caliber. And like the finest movements, the innovations are created with peak performance in mind.
Among these is the new TAG Heuer Sports app, which provides detailed tracking for golf, running, cycling, walking, fitness, and other workouts. The watch’s built-in GPS and heart-rate monitors, among other sensors, are supported by Google’s Wear OS and a newly developed companion app that allows for greater personalization (via AI) and better insights into the wearer’s fitness achievements.
At the launch event for the new Connected Watch, the brand displayed several historic timepieces, including pocket watches, stopwatches, and TAG Heuer’s legendary chronograph. They are there, said Bianchi, "to illustrate that, whether digital or mechanical, the company has always been driven to meet their customers’ ever-changing needs."
"Heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking – these are all things people want now,” said Bianchi.
Another way that the TAG Heuer Connected is taking on devices like the Apple Watch is in its smart design.
Everything about it looks premium. The 45mm stainless-steel or titanium cases use the same superior materials and refined finishes as mechanical TAG Heuer chronographs. This includes their signature facetted lugs, polished and brushed details, a graduated ceramic bezel, a central rotating crown, and strap choices in black rubber or steel, both with a folding buckle (although, Bianchi noted that thanks to online pre-orders, the stainless bracelets will likely be sold out within days of the official launch).
There are also some upgrades to this next-gen version. It now has two functional pushers, a super flat, high-resolution screen, and a screw-down caseback. And the antenna isn’t in the lugs anymore.
Overall, it wears comfortably and has an easy elegance. As Bianchi said, “It’s 45mm, but it doesn’t look like a 45.”
Another way the world is changing for the better is that dress codes are becoming more fluid. So, while the TAG Heuer Connected has all the hallmarks of a luxury object, it is quite democratic in its versatility.
Living the luxe life means existing in a state of great comfort. And Bianchi is an excellent example of just how comfortable the Connected can make your life.
When we met with Bianchi, he dressed in an impeccably tailored grey suit and a stainless-steel Connected with a black rubber strap. There are several ultra-lightweight cases with polished and brushed finishes, including three stainless-steel cases, ceramic bezels, and one option with a grade 2 Titanium case in full matte black PVD. There is also a selection of digital dials, and colorful rubber strap options are available for further customization.
“I’ve been wearing the prototype for four months,” said Bianchi, “I wear it to meetings. Ten minutes after I leave the office, it becomes a tool watch, and I can wear it to run in Central Park.”
And although the Connected is a sporty watch, he said, “I’m not ashamed to wear it to a formal dinner. It fulfills all my needs.”
The Connected watch is not only a beautiful timepiece, but it’s also a full-on digital experience.
We won’t get too deep into the interface, except to say that it’s very intuitive. If you had an opportunity to experience 2019’s Connected Modular Golf Edition, you’ll know exactly how easy it is to switch from function to function by tapping or swiping the screen, using the crown, and now, using the pushers. And the same team, led by TAG Heuer’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer Frédéric Arnault, made it incredibly easy to record fitness tracking data and agenda planning to pair it with your phone for maximum performance.
But, Bianchi said, that’s not the only way this timepiece can elevate your everyday experiences. “It connects you to everything, so you don’t need to always be looking at your phone.”
“This is important,” he added. “This is a very good thing because you can disconnect when you need to. For example, when I’m running, I’m just running. But I can make eye contact with the people around me. I can live in the moment.”
“We still make traditional mechanical movements,” Bianchi said. “But we see this technology as complimentary. We are reaching out to new customers who have different needs for a watch.”
For Bianchi, changing technology and shifting societal norms means that there is plenty of space in the luxury world for both mechanical and smartwatches.
“There is no cannibalization,” he added. That is because, for Bianchi, versatility is very important for the watch and the brand.
The new TAG Heuer Connected starts at $1,800 USD and is now available at select retailers, TAG Heuer boutiques, and tagheuer.com.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)