Gadgets rarely age well. Or, to be more precise, they have to get really wrinkly before wrinkles circle back into fashion again. Just look at the Nokia 3310.
The Tag Heuer Connected 45’s gamble is that an Android Wear watch made with no-holds-barred tech and design won’t look too bad in five years. Because who aside from an oil baron is going to spend over six grand on a smartwatch like this if that’s not the case?
Starting at RM6500 this is the priciest Android Wear watch that hasn’t simply been pelted with diamonds and bling. And if your coffers are overflowing, it’s also one of the best smartwatches available.
Design: a man's man's watch
Tag Heuer is one of the few high-end watch brands that clueless types like me have heard of. I’ve owned a few Rotary and Casio watches in my time, but in the last decade almost the only watches I’ve worn are fitness trackers and smartwatches.
Even I can appreciate the Tag Heuer Connected 45’s design, though. On a surface level, it's not dissimilar to the Huawei Watch 2: plain face, numbers on the bezel, nothing too flash. But in the flesh it looks and feels like a serious designer watch, while Huawei’s latest wouldn’t look too out of place in a toy box. Sorry, Huawei.
The Tag Heuer Connected 45 is a big, deliberately bulky thing with the heft of one of Tag’s analogue watches. It’s a masculine look, but a confident one that few others get close to beating.
There’s only one Wear watch I’ve had better reactions to in person, and that’s the Michael Kors Access. It’s cheaper, less macho, but is also a much worse smartwatch. With the Connected modular 45, you get 50M water resistance, which is the best seen in a watch like this.
And because it's modular, you get to choose exactly what it looks like - including an analogue, mechanical chronograph...
The modules: digital or analogue?
Unlike most smartwatches, you can also choose what the Connected 45 is made of. The standard casing is titanium, but buy direct from Tag Heuer and you can pick from a whole army of designs.
Some have a totally different personality, clad in diamonds or cast in bright colours. There are several materials to choose from, including aluminium and stainless steel.
This is where the “modular” bit steps in. Paying more for aluminium than titanium seems a bit weird though: for now we’ll stick with the default version, thanks.
As the watch I’m using has a stainless steel link strap, it costs RM10,650. Prices start at RM6500 with a silicone strap, so we’re talking about various shades of breathtakingly expensive. But this is Tag Heuer, what did you expect?
You can also buy a mechanical module to swap in for those black-tie-on-a-superyacht occasions. Tag Heuer sent us one (which costs RM7400 on its own) to check out. It’s not overflowing with personality but looks fantastic and may be of interest to collectors given this watch will only be available to Connected 45 buyers. It’ll probably still look good in 30 years, forget a mere five.
Changing between the Android Wear unit and the analogue one takes about 30 seconds. You just press down on a button on each side of the underside to release the strap, then click the new main unit into place. Simple.
The screen: even fake watch faces look good
For now at least, the Android Wear Tag Heuer Connected 45 plays the cutting edge card pretty well.
It has a 1.39in, 400x400 pixel screen, as big and sharp as you’ll find on any smartwatch. It doesn’t positively blow away watches like the Samsung Gear S3, but Tag Heuer has to pick from the cast of readily available display panels, just like everyone else. Even if the Connected 45 costs more than six grand.
It’s an OLED screen, delivering perfect contrast, and colours are punchy and vibrant. On a phone I might call them oversaturated, but this is a smartwatch.
And, unlike the Michael Kors Access, there’s no ugly, flat-tire shape at the base of the screen. If it had one at this price, the Connected 45 would be heading straight for the bin (before being carefully removed from the bin and re-boxed for a refund).
This is also the first Android Wear watch to make me actually like fake analogue watch faces. I usually find them tacky and cheap-looking, about as convincing as a watch given away as a free toy in a box of Rice Krispies.
Thanks to a top-quality screen and very matter-of-fact design approach, these faces look right. There’s no weird shading, no unnecessary effects to make them look like an intern let loose on Photoshop designed them.
There’s also a decent Tag Heuer face designer packed into the watch itself. This lets you play around with different faces, backgrounds and colours, straying further from the sober look I prefer. After all, one person’s “classic look” is another’s “boring”. If you want a bright orange or gold look, that’s here too.