How much is a brand name worth? Marketing people will say lots and consumers will mostly shrug while paying extra for products from a company they know and trust. I pose this question because it is the one you need to ask most loudly when considering the Tag Heuer Connected.
This is a smartwatch which runs the same Android Wear operating system you find on most others, including the Huawei Watch, Motorola Moto 360, Asus ZenWatch, Sony SmartWatch and LG Watch R. But where these cost between £85 and £339, the Tag Heuer Connected costs £1,100.
They all have the same features – some have more than the Tag – and their batteries all last for roughly the same time. They bring notifications to your wrist, take voice commands and show the time on a number of customisable digital faces. So why should you pay this much more for the Tag? Let's find out.
Tag Heuer Connected: Design and Comfort
I've always had a soft spot for Tag Heuer, having lusted after the Monaco and Carrera watches for years. So when Tag said they would be partnering with Intel and Google to produce a luxury smartwatch, I couldn't want to see what the result would be.
As far as Tag's portfolio is concerned, this is a Carrera sports watch. It has a rubber strap and a bulky case which wouldn't look out of place on the wrist of an astronaut. The screen is sharp and bright, with a range of faces designed to mimic the rest of the Carrera range, but the titanium case is too light. I prefer large watches like this to have a certain heft to them, but I suppose circuit boards are lighter than complex watch mechanisms.
The titanium case and buckle might look tough, but they pick up scratches far too easily - disappointing for a watch costing four figures. Until you get used to it, the Tag Connected is also quite uncomfortable to wear. I found the clasp dug into my wrist and it doesn't fit under shirt sleeves.
That said, the Tag Heuer Connected has a certain magnetism to it. Maybe it's just the name, maybe it's the thought of wearing something made by a luxury brand and not just a technology company. I really like the looks – minus those holes in the strap – but the whole point of a smartwatch is that it does more that simply tell the time. The Tag looks smart, but can it also act smart?
Tag Heuer Connected: Software and Performance
The Tag Connected runs Android Wear, Google's smartwatch operating system also found on wearables from LG, Huawei, Asus, Samsung, Sony and others. Unlike the way phone manufacturers modify Android, its Wear sibling remains almost identical on all smartwatches. The only difference here is a set of four Tag designed faces (some with multiple colour options) and custom faces for the stopwatch and timer. In every other way this watch is exactly the same as other Android Wear watches.
Tag tries to make up for this with the inclusion of an Intel processor, but any performance gains are minimal and difficult to spot. The Tag also suffers from my biggest bugbear with smartwatches, in that the screen does not always light up when you want it to. Twisting your arm towards you to see the time rarely activates the backlight; thankfully, the time is permanently displayed dimly, then lights up (and the face becomes more detailed) with an exaggerated flick of the wrist, or a push of the crown.
Performance is good, but given the simplicity of a smartwatch it's hard not to be. However, battery life was a bit disappointing; where some reviewers claim two full days is possible, my Tag was completely dead after 24 hours. For half of this time the screen was on brightness level one out of five (the dimmest) and other than receive Facebook and email notifications, I didn't do much with it at all.
These are problems with smartwatches generally, not just the Tag, and despite its huge price it can't help being burdened with Android Wear's shortcomings. Where your money goes – on the name, design and hardware – the Connected mostly lives up to Tag fans' high expectations.
Notifications on your wrist are generally a good idea and save you digging your phone out, only to find the message it has alerted you to is unimportant. But glancing at your wrist while talking to someone is still a rude gesture, arguably worse than quickly checking your phone. And although messages usually came to my iPhone 6 and watch at the same time, they were sometimes massively delayed on the watch. Occasionally, the Tag would alert me to a WhatsApp message which I had already read and replied to. I suspect the iOS Android Wear app is to blame here.
Tag Heuer Connected: Value
There is simply no way to gloss over the £1,100 price. For a smartwatch (Apple Watch Edition excluded), it is a huge amount of money. But it is still one of the cheapest Tags you can buy. Tag Heuer customers are perfectly fine with paying four figures for a watch, and surely some of them will be interested in trying out the company's first smartwatch.
And then there's the issue of how quickly technology becomes out of date. Tag has addressed this by saying the Connected will be updated in two years' time. If you like the new one, you can buy that too (probably for about £1,100). But if you don't, and already own this original Connected, you can upgrade to a mechanical version with the same design for £1,100.
This watch will look like the Connected, but have a regular Swiss movement in place of the touch screen and Intel processor. Only Connected owners will be given this option, and considering a regular Carrera starts at around £2,000, this isn't such a bad deal.
The Tag Heuer Connected isn't the best smartwatch on sale right now. It is big, often uncomfortable, has average battery life, runs the same software as every other Android watch and the titanium scratches too easily.
And yet...I'm a complete sucker for branding and have always been a Tag Heuer fan. The watch faces on here look great and I enjoyed wearing it more than any other Android smartwatch. Here, it is on equal terms with the Apple Watch. Both have a certain wow factor and both have somehow earned the right to cost much more than they should.
Tag Heuer customers are used to buying £1,000 watches and I have no doubt some will snap up the Connected in a heartbeat. But, as much as I'm willing to let the Connected off for many of its downfalls, I'd rather keep saving and buy a mechanical watch which will last a lifetime, not a gadget with a two year life cycle.
- Design: 8/10 - Carries many of the Tag Heuer hallmarks. Looks more traditional than modern
- Build quality: 7/10 - Feels very sturdy with great strap and clasp, but titanium picks up scratches
- Software: 7/10 - Still the same basic Android Wear as everyone else, but with smart Tag Heuer faces
- Performance: 7/10 - Feels nice and fast, but issues with delayed notifications became annoying. Lack of GPS and heart monitor is a shame, given sport design
- Battery life: 7/10 - No more than 24 hours is okay but not great
- Design and aesthetics are unmistakably Tag Heuer
- Attractive watch faces
- Doesn't look like a smartwatch
- No GPS or heart rate monitor
- Average battery life
- Performance issues