First look: next-gen TAG Heuer Connected smart watch

A full-body makeover positions the Connected as the best-executed Swiss smartwatch on the market.

By Felix Scholz, March 13 2020
First look: next-gen TAG Heuer Connected smart watch

TAG Heuer’s first smartwatch, dubbed Connected, has had a sophisticated makeover, the details of which have been revealed today. Before delving into the details, it’s worth taking a quick trip down memory lane to look at the troubled history of the Swiss smartwatch.

Cupertino takes on Switzerland

In 2014 the Swiss watch industry was seriously spooked. Business was slow, with shaky global financial markets pushing the purchase of a pricey luxury watch down the priority list for many traditional customers. Rather than lean into their usual business, watch industry sales managers and executives were busy looking over their shoulders, and not without cause.

The Swiss were being stalked by a 10,000-pound gorilla called Apple. For years, speculation had swirled that the computer giant was expanding into wearables – namely, a watch. It had poached TAG Heuer’s VP of global sales to spearhead a special team, bringing some luxury credibility to the table.

Then, on 9th September, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company’s most personal device ever: the Apple Watch. It was sleek and shiny, and the Apple hype machine went into overdrive.

Apple set off a seismic shift in the Swiss watch industry.
Apple set off a seismic shift in the Swiss watch industry.

The Swiss reaction was, to put it plainly, all over the shop. Some brands played it straight, sticking to their guns that a consumer tech company would never compete with their exquisitely crafted, highly prized timepieces.

Others quickly rushed out half-baked countermeasures in the form of an "intelligent tool” affixed to otherwise unconnected watches, and even an 'e-Strap'.

All knee-jerk reactions, and all understandable. The last new technology to threaten like this was the humble quartz watch, and it brought the traditional watch industry to its knees.

Switzerland fights back

One brand had a clear vision and direction amid the chaos: TAG Heuer. CEO Jean-Claude Biver stood on a stage next to executives from Intel and Google and announced they would make a connected watch by the end of the year. It was a united front and a clear line in the sand between Switzerland and California.

TAG's original Connected device was conceived with the goal of making it "look like a watch" rather than a smartwatch.
TAG's original Connected device was conceived with the goal of making it "look like a watch" rather than a smartwatch.

TAG Heuer’s approach was that strong offence is good defence. Biver was (rightfully) worried that Apple’s watch, which was roughly half the price of TAG Heuer’s most affordable offering, would hurt his bottom line.

He also saw that by making a smartwatch of his own, he could win over a new generation to his marquee brand. A few months later, the first-gen TAG Heuer Connected launched in New York City.

Connected proves its smarts

Fast-forward to last night, when TAG Heuer launched the latest generation of the Connected watch.

It received the sort of incremental tech improvements you’d expect – such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 processor, all-day battery (20 hours of standard use plus one-hour workout, according to TAG Heuer), NFC, heart rate monitor, and a 35mm OLED display, among other features.

On the software side, the big story is a custom sports app geared towards runners, cyclists and golfers; but it’s the physical form factor that has had the most significant upgrade.

The new TAG Heuer Connected includes a custom sports app to appeal to health-conscious users.
The new TAG Heuer Connected includes a custom sports app to appeal to health-conscious users.

The case is 45mm across, offered in steel or titanium with a black DLC coating, with a fixed bezel in scratch-resistant ceramic.

There is a range of easily changeable (as well as brightly coloured) straps and, for the first time, a steel bracelet option. But what makes the greatest difference is the design upgrades. Thinner and less blocky, the case has angles and finishes in keeping with a luxury product.

For the first time, the Connected adopts an interface of a crown flanked by two buttons, much like a traditional chronograph.

New pushers are beautifully designed and more in keeping with what you expect from a prestige Swiss brand.
New pushers are beautifully designed and more in keeping with what you expect from a prestige Swiss brand.

The upper button launches the sports app, the central one opens Google navigation, and the lower one is a stopwatch. Additionally, these sporty, faceted buttons look (and, more importantly, feel) premium. If you’re inclined to spend upwards of $2600 on a smartwatch, this is what you want it to look and feel like.

There’s at least one major omission. This watch still charges using the older-style pin connection cradle, offering neither true fast charging nor the convenience of wireless charging. The latter would have certainly added to the premium feel of the device.

There is a range of easily interchangeable straps.
There is a range of easily interchangeable straps.

Which brings us to whom (and what) this watch is for. The first iterations of TAG Heuer’s Connected watch, and indeed all smartwatches, were characterised by a range of functionalities — kind of like miniaturised smartphones, but not as powerful or convenient.

These days, though, they’re much more targeted in their purpose, which is to be powerful and sophisticated health and activity trackers.

But that’s not really what this watch is about. As a sports-oriented model that looks and feels like a high-quality timepiece. It will be at home whether paired with Rapha lycra or a Ralph Lauren knit.

This broad cross-purpose appeal, plus improvements to the look, feel and functionality, signal a big step forward for the latest TAG Heuer Connected.

Felix Scholz

Felix Scholz is Executive Traveller’s watch editor, and one of Australia’s most respected authorities on the subject. As you might expect, he travels to Switzerland quite a lot.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Feb 2017

Total posts 19

got one on sunday, battery life isn't great

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Feb 2017

Total posts 19

The battery life is terrible. regularly goes into a battery saving mode where all it does is show the time, with a less detailed screen around 5pm. useless.

05 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

I've had no battery life issues but I have reverted to my Apple Watch for exercise tracking as it's more versatile. I wear the Connected to work with the stainless steel strap and love the look/feel of it (despite it being quite big on my fairly skinny wrists).


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