Tag Heuer Connected: Apple Watch's biggest challenger arrives

Tag Heuer chose New York rather than Switzerland to launch its first smartwatch on Monday night, in a nod to the role played by its partners in the exercise, Google and Intel.

​Marking the brand's leap into 21st century timekeeping - and the Swiss industry's first major foray into a territory dominated by US-based Apple - the model dubbed Connected replicates the look of a Carrera model. It will retail for $2000 and is available to buy from today.

Tag Heuer was responsible for the design, Intel the technology and Google for the features that come from its Android Wear universe.

Time to fight back

Speaking to the before the launch, Tag Heuer chief executive Jean-Claude Biver said sales of 50,000 units would be the minimum target for the Connected, reputedly representing 1 per cent of the reported sales of the Apple Watch.

"We heard that Apple might be selling 5 million a year. So I say if I can't sell 1 per cent of what Apple is doing - and they are not watchmakers - then I should give up and retire and play golf."

If I can't sell 1 per cent of what Apple is doing ... then I should give up and retire and play golf.

Jean-Claude Biver, Tag Heuer

The collaboration has produced a large watch at 46mm diameter that, while taking its visual cues from the Carrera, is operated via either a touch screen, wrist movement or voice activation.

Choice of three dials

The customisable dial has three display zones, at 6, 9 and 12 o'clock, for applications, activity information and alerts. At the launch, Tag showed three dial options; a chronograph dial, a three-hand dial and a GMT dial, all of which show the date and are available in a choice of three colours: black, deep blue or pearl white.

Other dial options will follow, with Tag planning to release designs in collaboration with its brand ambassadors.

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In the meantime, you can customise the watch via a Tag Heuer app that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.

In a clever touch, the dials look real thanks to simulated shadows under the hands.

The case, back and lugs of the watch made are from grade 5 titanium – handy, given its size - and it is mounted on a textured rubber strap with a deployant buckle. A smaller version of the watch is expected at a later date.

Youthful focus

In keeping with the youthful consumer Tag hopes to attract, straps for the Connected come in vibrant colours with vibey names: stealth black, Arctic white, racing red, bright yellow, neon green, electric blue, and volcanic orange.

The watch is water resistant as far as everyday use goes, meaning it can be worn in the shower, but is hardly recommended for diving.

It has a small microphone so you can communicate with it, but no speaker; its sapphire crystal touchscreen works in conjunction with the crown at 3 o'clock to deliver on your commands.

Get appy

When tapping on apps, the dial and the hands remain, while the pertinent information is displayed inside the three zones at 12, 6 and 9 o'clock. Touching the zone in question then opens the app in full-screen mode.

Tag says it's an easy-to-use system that enables the user to focus on the essential without spoiling the watch's classic appearance.

The following apps are already available on an exclusive basis: My Insiders (lifestyle), GolfShot Pro (golf) and RaceChrono Pro (motor racing), which will be offered with free subscriptions.

Cog blimey

Rather than cogs, powering the Tag Heuer Connected is a miniature computer designed by Intel, running on the Android Wear operating system developed by Google. This combination provides the watch with what is claimed to be unrivalled performance and modularity.

It has 4GB of memory, equivalent to 20 hours of music and more than 25 hours of autonomy thanks to its power source, the latest-generation lithium battery. Recharging is via a contact charger whereby you simply place the watch on top to power it up.

The watch connects to both Android and Apple phones and will continue to calculate, display, and exchange information even with the phone off thanks to its wifi connection. It's designed to remain in contact with a remote server and the Cloud, while on-board applications (music, chronograph, alarm, etc) remain active even when no connection is available.

Android Wear gives the watch access to more than 4000 native applications available for downloading, with Google Fit, Google Translate and "OK Google" voice activation already set up on the watch.

Go back in time

In something of a twist, Tag is offering anyone who purchases the Connected a chance to exchange it for a mechanical watch of identical design at the end of its two-year warranty period. Made from the same grade 5 titanium, the exchange watch has been developed and reserved for owners of connected watches and its dial will bear the motto "Connected to Eternity". The price for the exchange is set at $US1500 ($2128).

first appeared on . Bani McSpedden is the watch editor for the Australian Financial Review.