Ever since the Apple Watch burst onto the scene in April 2015, traditional watch brands have been faced with a dilemma: do they try to compete with the tech giant’s wearable phenomenon or forge ahead with their own classic, beautifully crafted timepieces? For TAG Heuer, the answer was simple: they would do both.
Following an announcement at trade show Baselworld earlier this year, the brand has unveiled the TAG Heuer Connected – a new kind of smartwatch that sees the Swiss watchmaker join forces with computer chip specialist Intel and software giant Google to offer a credible, luxury rival to Apple’s latest game changer.
For all its technological wizardry, the Connected stays true to TAG Heuer’s roots – as its CEO, Jean-Claude Biver, emphasises, “It is, primarily, a proper watch.” And, true to his word, the round, 46mm titanium case bears all the hallmarks of the company’s trademark Carrera watches. But the real innovation can be accessed via the scratch-resistant, sapphire crystal touchscreen, which covers a sophisticated, Intel-engineered micro-computer. Welcome to the future…tagheuerconnected.com
All You Need To Know
- The digital watch faces mimic classic TAG Heuer three-hand and chronograph designs. Blue, black and white options are available at launch, but with the ability to download new and special-edition faces in the future, the possibilities for customisation are endless.
A huge array of apps will be available to download from the Google Play store. The watch has external sensors – useful for fitness and sleep-tracking apps – and the wearer can record voice memos, check weather reports, get calendar reminders, and much more.
- The TAG Heuer Connected will save or download data directly to and from the cloud (via WiFi) or your smartphone (via Bluetooth). Unlike the Apple Watch, the Connected is ‘bilingual’, meaning it can communicate with both Android and iOS devices (although there will be some restrictions to the latter).
Like the Apple Watch, the TAG Heuer Connected uses wireless inductive charging and will reportedly provide up to 40 hours of battery life per charge.
Future proofing - TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver gives the lowdown on Connected…
THE RED BULLETIN: What was the idea behind the TAG Heuer Connected?
Jean-Claude Biver: The idea is in our slogan: ‘Avant-garde since 1860.’ If you’ve been avant-garde since 1860, then obviously you should be avant-garde in 2015, too. It’s an ongoing process. TAG Heuer is about both tradition and innovation. In that sense, the Connected watch fits the bill perfectly.
So how did it come about?
We came up with the Connected watch thanks to Apple. The Swiss watchmaking industry has never been very deeply involved in [smart technology]. We have always thought of it as something peripheral, for sport and outdoor activities. But the Apple Watch really woke us up and gave us a bit of a fright. By the time that happened, Apple was already way out ahead. We understood that we would be entering the arena with a lot of catching-up to do.
You’ve brought some powerful partners on board in Intel and Google…
The only way for those of us who were so far behind to make headway was to team up with partners who were as advanced as Apple. For software, Google and its Android Wear was the only option as it has a 70 per cent market share. As for hardware, Intel is undoubtedly one of the technological market leaders. They’re our strategic partners: Google gives us the chassis and Intel the engine. It was a logical move; linking up with the market leader means you always keep up with the latest developments, whereas if you only buy the technology, there’s the danger that you might end up with something obsolete.
Did TAG Heuer develop the hardware alongside Intel, or did the ideas all come from California?
Intel provided us with multiple suggestions. The last involved using a real computer. In summer 2014, there was still talk of using a microprocessor, as Apple and some of the other companies were doing. But then the head of development turned up with this thing that was just the size of a coin but full of electronic components. When I asked what it was, the answer I got was, “A computer.” I was stunned. They told me that this element was easy to operate with a monitor and keyboard. It was the world’s smallest computer. And I said we should use this technology, as long as it was available in time.
‘Computer’ implies a certain degree of autonomy…
Yes, that is the case – as far as certain basic functions are concerned, the Connected is indeed autonomous. You can listen to music on it or just keep abreast of the time. But, to access the full range of its functions, you will still need a WiFi or Bluetooth connection via your smartphone. The Connected is first and foremost a watch, even if it does contain a microcomputer.
One of the biggest problems with smartphones – and also smartwatches – is that they become out of date so quickly. How does the TAG Heuer Connected measure up in that regard? Will we have to buy a new watch every one or two years?
No, of course that’s not the case. You will be able to install new or improved software, as you can with a smartphone. Naturally, anyone who wants to stay up-to-date with the latest technological advances, such as having a watch with a built-in camera, won’t be able to avoid buying a new one eventually. But it seems to be the case that the people who might potentially buy a smartwatch accept that sort of thing. I admit that we don’t have any experience in the area yet; this is virgin territory for us. We have to learn as we go along.