Today, TAG Heuer launches a new Connected watch and we sat down with Frédéric Arnault, TAG Heuer’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, to talk about the new Connected Watch. How does it fit in the entire TAG Heuer line-up and what are the possibilities? One thing seems clear, TAG Heuer is able to use its 160 years of watchmaking experience to create a well-designed, ergonomic and good-looking wristwatch. This time without mechanical content but with state-of-art technical content and the latest software. Frederic is confident that both mechanical and connected can successfully coexist and thrive within one of the most recognized, historic Swiss watch brands.
TAG Heuer introduces the third-generation of its Connected Watch, and since the brand pioneered the luxury connected watch segment back in 2015, it has now accumulated a significant background in this field. This third-generation mixes classic TAG Heuer watchmaking elements and an up-to-date digital experience with more functionalities than any other high-end connected watch.
What is the TAG Heuer Connected Watch exactly? First of all, visually speaking, it is a watch, a TAG watch to be precise that looks very familiar and in line with the rest of the collections, yet with its own identity too. The watch is 45mm in diameter, available in steel or titanium with options for DLC-coating. It also features the signature TAG faceted lugs, polished and brushed details, a graduated ceramic bezel and functional crown and pushers, creating a visual link to the chronograph past of the brand. It can be worn on a steel bracelet or rubber straps, both with folding buckle and an intuitive interchangeable bracelet system.
But then comes the real deal, the connected/digital area. Framed by the ceramic bezel is an OLED touchscreen protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The “dial” can be customized with all-mechanical or digital TAG-inspired backgrounds – including skeleton chronographs or a digitalized Carrera Heuer 01, where different functions can be included in the sub-dials. Of course, modern digital displays are also included.
What can you do with this third-generation TAG Heuer Connected Watch? Powered with Wear OS by Google, it supports multiple functions, not only for sports but also for daily activities: Google Assistant and Google Translate using the microphone located on the left side of the case; e-mail and message notifications; Google Pay; music controls; agenda; weather; maps… But since this is a TAG Heuer first and foremost, it is a sports watch. As such, the new Connected Watch is ready for action with 50m water-resistance to keep up with you while you swim, cycle or go for a run in the rain. It includes a sports session mode using GPS, audio streaming and heart-rate monitoring. The back is fitted with a new non-medical-grade heart-rate sensor, which optimizes tracking of calories burned, while the built-in GPS measures the user’s position during workouts and can calculate different performance metrics. It also includes a compass for direction, as well as an accelerometer and gyroscope.
Finally, there’s the new custom-designed TAG Heuer Sports application, which supports golf, running, cycling, walking, fitness and other activities, with even more on the way. Wearers can track their activities directly through the watch with key metrics such as speed, pace, distance, heart rate, with detailed insights into their performance through the TAG Heuer mobile application, and even synchronize their data with Apple Health or Strava.
Price for this new Connected watch will start at EUR 1,700.
But let’s discover more about this new TAG Heuer Connected Watch with Frédéric Arnault, TAG Heuer’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – TAG Heuer was the first luxury watch brand to embrace this ‘connected’ technology. How does the Connected find its place in the entire TAG Heuer universe?
« One of the key points for us was to make a beautiful watch. »
Frédéric Arnault, TAG Heuer: Great question. We were among the first to enter this market, not only from the Swiss watch brands, and we are still among the only historic Swiss watch brands to be present and invest a lot in the smartwatch category. We call this product the Connected Watch, not a smartwatch like many others, because after all, it is a watch. We took a lot of inspiration from our history and iconic lines, and we had designers and mechanical engineers from our watchmaking team work on this product.
One of the key points for us was to make a beautiful watch. You’ll see the lines and choice of materials and the techniques we invented for the assembly of the ceramic bezel on the steel or titanium case, and so on. This is one of the key points from the DNA of TAG Heuer. Then, on the digital experience, there are two points that are important. The first regards the watch faces and we take inspiration from our traditional dials. Have you seen our most recent products?
Yes, for sure. Some look very good, by the way. Almost disturbingly good.
Yes (laughs) and we have a Carrera Heuer 02 dial that’s inspired by the traditional dial we interpreted in the digital world. We’ve taken some liberty with that by reinterpreting our DNA in the digital space. You can see in the carbon watch face or orbital watch face or even the timekeeping itself that there are things you couldn’t do with a traditional, mechanical dial. But it still takes inspiration from our timekeeping department. On top of that, we come with our own software ecosystem and are launching TAG Heuer Sports. We already have a leading experience in golf that was launched last March (2019). Now we’re coming with additional activities like running, cycling, fitness, walking and a dual experience on the watch with a companion app developed entirely in-house for a great experience for the user.
Very interesting. It also sounds like a watch you can use for anything in your life.
Yes, that’s one of the key points. It’s a watch you can wear for day-to-day life that’s also very beautiful. One you’ll be proud to wear on the wrist. At work, at night and for sports activities to measure your performance. Also, for day-to-day use, we utilize the Wear OS operating system for notifications, applications you can download from the Play Store and the full support from Google with Google Assistant and Google Fit.
So, Google is a significant partner in this project.
Yes, we worked hand-in-hand with Google and they’re opening their operating system more to allow us to customize and deliver a curated experience for our clients and users. We do rely on Google for the operating system. We also have partners helping us on topics like GPS optimization, heart-rate optimization and so on, and we’ve invested a lot in the performance of these sensors. It’s important for us to at least be on par with some of these and better than others on the current market.
The smartwatch or connected watch market is highly competitive. As a traditional watch brand, how can you find your place and deliver this competitively with the right answers?
There are a lot of brands investing in this category, so it’s very crowded. We believe that we have a unique and valuable position in the market. First, it’s a watch really inspired by the world of watchmaking with the materials we use, the lines and design. It looks special on your wrist and different from other smartwatches. Those come more from the tech world as well. We’ve also invested a lot in the user experience. It’s a real watch that lives with you and must be intuitive and easy to live with, and of course, bring value to the user. We also have internal teams of UI designers, product managers and software developers working on this software experience. We believe that a lot of the value we’re bringing is with the software.
Does it also require the highest quality and fastest hardware possible to make the user interface work best for the customer? Coming from an IT background myself, I imagine that the faster and more modern the hardware, the better the software experience. And sometimes the hardware is the limiting factor for the user interface.
The first person recruited on the technical team specialized in the lower layers of the software that links the hardware and software, which is very important for all the optimizations we’re doing. Then it’s our chosen components. We have a high density, bright display that really looks amazing in both indoor and outdoor settings, and the best chip currently available for smartwatches with the Wear OS ecosystem. We also invested in the optimization of some of the key components like the GPS and heart-rate monitors, and also power consumption. So, it’s a never-ending story.
Who do you see as the main competitors for the TAG Heuer Connected? Would it be the Apple Watch? I can’t imagine it would be something like a Fitbit.
Our competition is definitely at the higher end of the market. The key players are Apple and Samsung, and Garmin in a different segment as well as other watches in the sports category. We have a distinctive proposition compared to all of these actors. The design and materials – as we only use steel and titanium – and the beautiful ceramic bezel that looks bright on the wrist. The versatility and customization options with the strap and watch faces that you can curate to your personality, and the fluid and intuitive sports experience, both on the watch and on the phone. We really invested a lot in the full experience.
When TAG Heuer launched the Connected Watch, there was the option of exchanging the digital module for a mechanical one. Can this still be done? And has it ever been an idea to offer both a digital and a mechanical module in one immediate offer?
« A customer is not looking for the same emotion and type of purchase when buying a Connected watch or a mechanical watch. »
We decided to not renew that offer for this watch. We are really investing in the durability of these watches. With the battery, we have the same constraints as any other tech product and our batteries will last between two and three years with daily use. However, we have a screwed back that allows us to replace the battery, which gives additional longevity to the product. We intend to have a product that lasts much longer than people are used to and we’ll also offer a recycling programme when the time comes. On the mechanical side, we do believe there is a link between the two, but the value propositions are also quite different. A customer is not looking for the same emotion and type of purchase when buying a Connected watch or a mechanical watch. The story can be linked, but we don’t want to link it so much as to offer both as a bundle or a discounted bundle. Of course, a customer can purchase both a smartwatch and a mechanical watch at the same time.
Regarding the future of wrist-worn objects, what’s your opinion: mechanical or digital?
For me and what we believe at TAG Heuer, both have a bright future ahead. We are investing a lot in Connected watches and mechanical watches, and we also offer and believe that quartz watches will continue to play a role in the market.