It's no secret that the TAG Heuer Connected is the answer of Switzerland's traditional timepiece manufacturers to the Apple Watch, which Apple has been touting as a luxury fashion accessory more than a tiny computer wrapped around the user's wrist.
Even weeks before TAG Heuer unveiled the Connected smartwatch, CEO Jean-Claude Biver criticized the Apple Watch for a "huge problem," one that makes it obsolete a few years after purchase. And not a lot of people can actually spend $17,000 on a piece of technology that will expire in the next few years.
This is where TAG Heuer hopes to come in. The new smartwatch, it says, is first of all a wristwatch that hinges on the TAG Heuer luxury brand in hopes that the Apple Watch, estimated to have shipped seven million units in the last five months, does not encroach upon its territory. But it also includes technology powered by Intel and Google to provide features and functionality not available in its line of high-end, super-expensive timepieces.
But can the first luxury smartwatch to run on Android Wear match up to the Apple Watch? While the first real reviews of the Connected have yet to pour in, a quick look at the specs will give us a decent idea of how TAG Heuer's first foray into wearable technology compares with the king of Silicon Valley.
As expected, the Connected doesn't stray far from TAG Heuer's traditional aesthetics. Unlike Apple's squarish watch, the Connected has a 1.5-inch circular display with sapphire crystal also found on the Apple Watch. With its 1.81-inch diameter, the Connected is a bit larger than the Apple Watch, which comes in at 1.65 inches for men and 1.10 inches for women. That means, for now, TAG Heuer is targeting solely the male market, which is its market for traditional watches anyway, although it says it is planning to launch a smaller smartwatch for women in the future.
The display looks partly lit, even in energy-saving mode, so that the hands are still visible whenever users need to take a quick look at the time. Surrounding the circular display is a black, sandblasted, carbide-coated titanium bezel with 3D-raised numerals and a brushed titanium button on the side for additional controls without constantly smudging the display with fingerprints. The button looks similar to the digital crown on the Apple Watch for navigating the interface.
To make up for its bulk, the Connected is made from brushed titanium, making it around 6 ounces lighter than the Apple Watch Edition, which weighs 2.4 ounces because of its 18-karat gold case. The band is made from black textured rubber, but similar to the Apple Watch, it also comes with six other colors – white, red, blue, green, yellow and orange – that users can swap depending on their mood. Each strap is sold separately on top of the watch's original price, and though TAG Heuer has yet to mention how much a single strap will cost, we imagine it won't be cheap. Just like the Apple Watch, the Connected is also IP67 water resistant.
Although the Connected is powered by Android Wear, it veers away slightly from the watch face design of other smartwatches running on the same software. In fact, TAG Heuer's own watch faces highly resemble the look of its Carrera timepieces, from the hands, index and counters.
The Connected has three built-in watch faces, the chronograph, three-hand and world time, each one available in black, blue or white. However, users can still download all the other third-party watch faces available for Android Wear from the Google Play Store. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch has several custom watch faces of its own, with the ability to add Complications to allow users to see more information at a glance.
Aside from the usual Google apps, such as Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Fit and Google Search with voice, TAG Heuer has also fitted its smartwatch with apps that provide classic timekeeping functions, such as a timer, alarm and smartwatch. It also includes apps custom-made for the Connected, which appear to be targeted toward TAG Heuer's market of affluent, well-to-do men with an affinity for sports. These apps include RaceChrono Pro, a lap timer for motor racing, and GolfShot Pro for golfers. The Apple Watch, meanwhile, has its own host of native and third-party apps built into the smartwatch and available from the Apple App Store.
While the Connected is compatible with most Android and iOS devices running on the latest versions of their software, the Apple Watch, which runs on watchOS 2, is naturally limited to the newer iPhones. However, both smartwatches can run apps even without being tethered to a smartphone as long as it is connected via Wi-Fi. This feature was introduced on the Apple Watch with the second iteration of its operating system.
TAG Heuer has teamed up with Intel to provide an Intel Atom 1.6 GHz dual-core Z34XX chip, instead of the usual Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm that runs most wearables. This comes with 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. The Apple Watch, on the other hand, uses the S1, a system in package chip with a custom CPU by Broadcom, 512 MB RAM and 8 GB of internal storage.
The battery comes with 410 mAh, which TAG Heuer says can last up to 25 hours on a single charge, while Apple says the Apple Watch can last more or less 18 hours with mixed use. Charging the Connected looks to be much easier than the Apple Watch. Users simply have to place their smartwatch on top of the contact charger to recharge it, although Apple's wire-free inductive charger doesn't look very difficult to use either.
While the TAG Heuer Connected and Apple Watch are both luxury smartwatches, pretty much all of their similarities stop there. On the outside, they could not be more different from each other, with the Connected harking back to the round-faced design characteristic of traditional Swiss-made watches and the Apple Watch sporting Jony Ive's aesthetics. On the inside, they're still very different. The Connected runs on Android Wear and the Apple Watch on watchOS, although both operating systems share plenty of similar functions.
Even when it comes to price, TAG Heuer and Apple take divergent roads. Apple offers several options ranging from the $350 Apple Watch Sport to the $10,000 to $17,000 Apple Watch Edition in 18-karat gold, but TAG Heuer only offers a single $1,500 option. It's clear, though, that the Connected is pitted directly against Apple's more expensive Apple Watch Edition, so for those for whom price is the only criteria, the choice is obvious. Then again, both options are not exactly for the price-conscious.