The popularity of smartwatches has grown rapidly since the introduction of the Apple Watch, to the point where numerous manufacturers are competing for market dominance. Each model tends to take a different approach, with some focusing on multiple innovative features – like the Neptune Pine – and others taking a more aesthetic-centric approach. This development of the smartwatch market has posed a dilemma for the more traditional luxury watchmakers: join the movement, or focus purely on analog design? The Swiss luxury watch brand TAG Heuer opted with the first option and unveiled their latest smartwatch in Spring 2017 – the Connected Modular 45. In this article, we take a look at this luxury smartwatch and discuss its potential impact on Swiss watchmakers and smartwatches in general.
Connected Modular 45 Overview
TAG Heuer’s first smartwatch, the Connected, was released in 2015 and signaled the willingness of the brand to embrace wearable tech. The Connected Modular 45 is the second generation of that line, and it retains the luxurious good looks of the original, while revamping and improving the design and functionality. For instance, it runs on Android Wear 2.0 and the disappointingly low-resolution display has been replaced with a 400 x 400 pixel AMOLED display, which greatly improves the user experience. Plus, it’s powered by an Intel Atom Z34XX processor, has 512MB of RAM and 4GB storage, as well as a 410 mAh battery which is supposed to last at least 24 hours.
However, there are three more noteworthy aspects of the watch, which could be viewed as positive or negative depending on your perspective.
The modularity of the new model is perhaps the most significant change to the Connected line. You might expect this to simply mean exchangeable straps, but in fact, you can customize just about every aspect of the Connected 45 from the buckle and bezel to the entire module – just about anything. You can even replace the AMOLED display for a standard mechanical watch if you like, although it’s unclear why anyone would buy a smartwatch with that intention. Besides the design customizability that this offers prior to purchase, the most obvious benefit to this modular approach is that it makes it easier to upgrade older technology. With other smartwatches, you may be able to keep the strap when you upgrade, but you’ll typically have to buy a whole new watch itself. Not so with the Connected 45; you can simply replace any part you wish, which is a refreshing approach.
That said, its modular design doesn’t make the TAG Heuer Modular 45 impervious to longevity issues. Like virtually most technology, smartwatch technology moves at a rapid pace, which raises justifiable concerns that they will become obsolete in the blink of an eye. Despite being able to replace outdated components on the watch, there isn’t necessarily a guarantee that TAG Heuer will continue to produce new components for the Modular 45 in the years to come. Usually, the brand is renowned for long-lasting, quality watches that can be treasured for decades. With this model, this is less viable; it’s fairly unlikely that they will continue to offer upgrades for it 15 years from now, for example. It would be fair to say that not everyone who’s interested in this smartwatch will be too concerned about this. Perhaps you already own a luxury watch and simply want another timepiece to use for entirely different purposes.
At approximately $1,600, the Connected Modular 45 positions itself somewhere between a standard smartwatch and a luxury timepiece, which TAG Heuer normally specializes in. It’s significantly more expensive than other Android Wear 2.0 models, such as the Huawei Watch 2 or the LG G Watch R, although it’s already possible to find better deals on online marketplace portals like this one. However, it’s less costly than a traditional luxury watch, including many of TAG Heuer’s other models, which will be attractive to those who want a little luxury without having to file for bankruptcy!
Nevertheless, this once again raises the question of who the smartwatch is aimed at. While it does benefit from specialist Swiss watchmaking expertise and is made from quality material such as grade 5 titanium, it nevertheless doesn’t feature the high-grade mechanical construction that normally justifies a luxury watch’s price tag. In this sense, the Connected Modular 45 seems something of a compromise, aimed at those who value technological innovation but also the prestige of luxury brands. Time will tell just how large that demographic is.
Is It Worth It?
In truth, it depends entirely on what you’re looking for from a smartwatch and your attitude towards wearable tech in general. If you’re looking for the most technically sophisticated smartwatch, the Connected 45 isn’t your best bet. Likewise, if you want a luxury quality, traditional timepiece that you can pass on as an heirloom, TAG Heuer’s other models will serve you better. However, if you have a firm interest in smartwatch technology and luxury goods, this model is a great option for you. It’s extremely well-made, accommodates a high degree of customization, and looks stylish to boot.
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