A smartwatch tsunami hit the watch industry in the months that followed the launch of Apple’s first wearable device in 2015. The most prominent riposte from the steeped in tradition Swiss watch industry came from TAG Heuer with its Connected watch in November 2015. Powered by 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z34XX chip, flanked by 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage, it featured a massive 46 mm grade 2 titanium case and ran on the Android Wear platform.
This year, the Swiss brand unveiled the second generation Connected Modular 45, a smartwatch with a modular concept that allowed users to swap the smartwatch with a mechanical module and customize it with a choice of straps, lugs and bezels. And later this summer, TAG Heuer launched a limited edition version of this smartwatch designed in collaboration with Dubai Department of Tourism & Marketing (Dubai Tourism).
Now encased in 45 mm grade 5 titanium, the watch is depth-rated to 50 meters and comes with an engraving of the Dubai logo on the caseback. A 45 mm case is still big, even by modern standards, but the fact that the angular case is made from titanium ensures that it sits comfortably on the wrist.
The watch is powered by Android Wear 2.0. and setting it up was no trouble. The Dubai edition features three exclusive watch faces. According to TAG Heuer, the first one is a hat-tip to the “City That Never Sleeps” and features a metallic finish and with numerals in a shade of blue specific to the Dubai branding. The second watch face “The Land of Desert and Sea” suggests an ocean or desert-like vibe and changes slightly through the day. The third “Your Time, Our Essence”, focuses on symbols that represent Dubai and its culture. A unique icon such as the Burj Khalifa or Burj Al Arab will appear on the dial for each hour.
In addition to this, a TAG Heuer studio app lets users create their own dials that riff on existing models in the brand’s mechanical line. The level of customization is noteworthy and there are plenty of options to choose from (the brand claims 4,560 possible combinations). I sometimes went through a few watch faces a day – from the new-age Heuer 01 Carrera to a classic panda dial, from a GMT to the vintage Dato 45.
The watch’s battery lasts about a day and a little more depending on usage, which is more or less what you get on the Apple Watch Series 2 as well. It comes equipped with a built-in GPS, NFC (for Android Pay) and motion sensors, as well as a microphone and ambient light sensors. The Dubai edition is paired with a vulcanized rubber sports strap in that Dubai blue again and is supplied with an additional tan calf leather strap with a rubber lining. Both are quality options and befitting of a luxury brand.
Alright, so what did I love about this smartwatch? The fact that you can dress it up or down – swap straps to go from a sporty weekend to a slightly more work-casual mode the next day. In that aspect, it feels more like a regular watch than a smartwatch. The always-on display is great too, but I suspect this is going to drain the battery. Interestingly, it got the attention of friends who’ve never been enthused about wearing a smartwatch.
What could be better? The case size is still way too big. It’s better than the first generation, but I’m certain a 42 mm case size would find a lot more takers, considering this is meant to be an everyday watch. Swapping straps and lugs is still tricky and though it becomes easier the longer you own it. One of the downsides of being able to change lugs and straps is that there is some play between the lugs and body and I am not sure how these components will wear over time.
An additional mechanical module featuring the Caliber 5 automatic movement can be purchased for AED6,760. The TAG Heuer Connected 45 Dubai edition is limited to just 200 pieces and is priced at AED7,860. By smartwatch standards, that is expensive. But then many will say the same about the city that inspired the watch.