Introducing the New TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300
Following 2020, the year in which we collectively experienced the greatest seismic upheaval to our lives; the year which everyone describes as generating five years of accelerated change in terms of digitization and e-commerce, all stemming from the resolute understanding that to be complacent is to perish. The question is: What will be the prevailing themes of the post-COVID watch world? Already we’ve seen some major chromatic edification with blue and green sunray effect fumé dials leading the way. As if to say there has never been a more important time to celebrate color and its capacity to uplift us. More importantly, many brands seem to be making a rapid shift towards re-examining the luxury watch supply chain and where they can reduce the consumption represented by virgin material extraction. And this is simply fantastic.
But if you ask me what is the watch trend I know will be a success in the year of our Lord twenty twenty-one? Honestly, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that it will be diving watches. Why? Because as soon as the majority of the population is vaccinated, as soon as safe international travel is once again a reality, as soon as we can finally embrace friends and joyfully gather with the ones we love, each and every one of us is going to want to jump into the water and feel the sun on our faces. This summer plunging into the ocean, a lake, hell, even a swimming pool will be our baptism. It will be our act of renewal which will be repeated millions of times over by people around the planet. And through this we will reconnect with the world we’ve missed so poignantly. This summer from the Maldives to Mustique, from Lago di Como to Capri, from Bali to Boracay, we will, as humankind has always done when it is time to heal, make our way to the water to reestablish our deep immutable bond with this incredible planet that sustains us. And we will want to wear accessible, ergonomic, well-styled and fun diving watches on our wrists. It is my opinion that TAG Heuer has just designed one of the best ones around.
A Streamlined Luxury Tool Watch
To be fair, I can’t really call the Aquaracer Professional 300 a new watch as it has been around since 2004, and in particular the new watch even pays tribute all the way back to 1978 and Heuer’s ref. 844 dive watch. But what I like about it is this: The Aquaracer Professional 300 feels powerful in a totally essential way to me. Meaning that it is devoid of any superfluous design details. Every single element of the watch has both an aesthetic and a functional purpose. And on top of that, in a world where everyone seems determined to make facsimiles of vintage watches, there is a wonderfully modern and original sensibility to the watch. “Bold and yet elegant, high-functioning and yet versatile, it’s a highly robust watch that goes beyond the edge and sets a new high watermark for ergonomic, high-performance mechanical watches. Designed for work and play, and to soak up nature’s harshest challenges, it’s a pure symbol of TAG Heuer’s adventurous, avant-garde spirit,” says Frédéric Arnault, CEO, TAG Heuer.
It is the first design in dive watches where I felt that the brand behind it was unafraid to come up with something totally new. And yes, even though there is an 844-piece tribute limited edition with a retro-themed dial replete with patina-rich “old radium” Super-LumiNova, the other seven watches in the new Aquaracer family are wonderfully rooted in the present — in particular the lovely all-matt grade 2 titanium version with a green ceramic luminous bezel.
I also want to point out that at an entry price of CHF 2950, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 represents one of the very last luxury dive watches that could also be considered a proper tool watch. Says TAG Heuer’s official customizer George Bamford, who collaborated with TAG Heuer on their Internet-breaking version of the outgoing Aquaracer model in grade 2 titanium with a black and orange dial, “This is the beauty of the Aquaracer. The reality is while dive watches from all the major Swiss brands had their start as tool watches, today their prices have risen so high that they can only really be considered luxury watches. I consider them to be the equivalent of all the luxury SUVs in the world. Don’t get me wrong; an Aston Martin or Lamborghini SUV is a beautiful thing, but try going off-road in it. You’ll need a Land Rover Defender on standby to tow you all day. Similarly, there are all these very beautiful shiny, gold or carbon fiber dive watches in the world that cost the equivalent of cars. But would you really strap one on for a two-tank wreck dive? In contrast, the Aquaracer was meant to be the very best all-purpose dive watch that you can strap on and actually use, but still be an incredibly handsome and desirable watch on land. There is something about this authenticity, honesty and accessibility that makes me love the Aquaracer.”
The Creativity of TAG Heuer
If you look at the watches TAG Heuer has launched over the last two years since Frédéric Arnault has taken charge of the brand, you can see a profound sensitivity to detail. You can see this in Silver Carrera and Carrera 160 Years Montreal limited editions from last year and even in the Carrera Chronograph 42mm that won over the hearts of the most stalwart vintage collectors like Jeff Stein and Arno Haslinger. Says Haslinger, “There is a very strong creative spirit coming from TAG Heuer today. One that truly appreciates and understands the vintage watches and their design codes but that is not afraid to be modern and create the future of the brand.”
Says famed journalist and author Nick Foulkes, “What I see articulated at TAG Heuer is a confidence and assuredness that comes from a genuine appreciation of the past but without succumbing to simply replicating it. Instead, it seems Frédéric Arnault’s desire is to innovate, and he has done so with very strong results.” It is clear when approaching the creation of the new Aquaracer that Arnault had tasked his team and in particular his creative director, Guy Bove, to come up with a watch that would not only fill the luxury tool watch gap in the market currently only occupied by Tudor, but to come up with a watch that referenced not just the Aquaracer which was first introduced, but also consider Heuer’s entire history with diving watches which began in 1978. In doing so, Arnault, Bove and TAG Heuer have made a watch that is genuinely original, damnably cool, and still very TAG Heuer while being utterly modern.
Innovative Design for the Senses
What do I like best about the looks of the new Aquaracer? I love that there are straight lines in the entire design of the watch. Which is precisely the opposite of every other dive watch in the world that is characterized by a round dial, round indexes, a round bezel, often a lollipop seconds hand and, of course, a round case. Says Frédéric Arnault, “With its striking, instantly recognisable aesthetic, epitomised by the Aquaracer’s signature 12-sided bezel, and high specification, it’s entirely contemporary, and yet it recalls a legacy that TAG Heuer began more than 40 years ago.”
With the Aquaracer Professional 300, with the exception of the crown guards, every other line is straight. You have straight angular bevels on the short stout powerful lugs. You have a 12-sided bezel, a 12-sided crown, eight-sided hour markers, straight lines racing across the dial, sword-shaped hands, and you have a 12-sided caseback with an engraving of a scaphander diving helmet with a 12-sided faceplate that sits on a decoration of hexagons. Incidentally, this dive helmet is always oriented upright thanks to a new two-part bayonet system for the caseback. But let’s go back to the front of the watch. What you get with all these straight lines is a sense of vibrancy and dynamism. These lines when contrasted by the curved crown guards create a wonderful sense of dynamic tension.
But looking at the watch from a distance, it is the faceted silhouette of the case and the 12-sided bezel that stands out so sharply. Says Bove, “When you talk about watch design, you talk about having a watch that people can identify from across the room, and that is alluring in a slightly different way — I think this is the effect that we have created with these strong geometric shapes.” While four of the seven watches measure 43mm in diameter, in reality, they wear incredibly well even on smaller wrists. Says Bove, “It was important that this watch could be worn by different wrist sizes and that it was also incredibly comfortable. That’s why we kept the lugs on the short side and worked on the integration of the bracelet so it was very supple. I think too many dive watches are too thick, and so for us it was important to keep the watch as slim and ergonomic as possible.” If you’re wondering, the Aquaracer Professional 300 measures 12.2mm in thickness.
Regarding the epic-looking hyper aggressive bevel on the lugs which had me thinking of the front air scoop on a Lamborghini, Bove says, “This is one of the most important elements of the watch as it really creates a dynamic separation between the top of the case and the side. But what is really interesting is that in the grade 2 titanium case that you have with the green dial and green ceramic bezel, we could not create a polished bevel because of the limitations of the material. Yet somehow it works really well even with an all-matt sandblasted finish.”
Want another demonstration of how well thought out the new Aquaracer is? The lume on the watch appears white to the eye in sunlight. But place the watch in ambient light or darkness and you’ll see that the minute hand, seconds hand and the inverted triangle on the bezel that represents the start of elapsed dive time glow blue. While all indications related to time (the hour hand and indexes) glow green. So why is it that the seconds hand glows blue? Because it is one of the most important indications in a dive watch is the running indicator, meaning that the watch is under power, which is the seconds hand. So when you are submerged, all the most crucial information glows blue — the elapsed minutes of the dive and the running indicator.
The Aquaracer is water resistant to 300 meters, which is all that a modern dive tool watch needs, and that means the watch doesn’t need to mess about with devices such as helium release valves. I am personally of the opinion that not a single owner of any luxury watch featuring a helium release valve has ever had that function activated at any point in their lives. One pragmatic feature that is extremely useful, however, is a fine adjustment system that allows you to extend the buckle by a full 15mm.
The 2021 Models
The Aquaracer Professional 300 will be made in two sizes: 43mm and 36mm. The 43mm versions come in a steel case with a choice of a blue sunray dial and blue ceramic bezel insert, a black sunray dial and black ceramic bezel insert, and a silver sunray dial with a black ceramic bezel insert. It will also be offered in a fantastic grade 2 titanium sandblasted case with a green sunray dial. And finally, it is offered in an 844-piece tribute limited edition in polished grade 5 titanium on a rubber strap (with octagonal holes to keep the straight line theme) and a dial based on the 1978 ref. 844 that features 24-hour indication in red. In the steel models, the watches have bezels where the inverted triangle glows blue in the darkness. In the titanium watches, the inverted triangle as well as all the elapsed time indexes are Super-LumiNova filled and glow blue.
The Aquaracer Professional 300 is also offered in three steel 36mm versions: one with a blue dial, blue bezel and diamond indexes (round stones that fit in the signature octagonal indexes) as well a silver dial and black bezel, and black dial and black bezel versions. Final details include a date cyclops that has now been mounted under the sapphire crystal with all date windows now at six o’clock as it was with the Carrera Chronograph. All watches with the exception of the 844-piece limited edition will be available from June this year. Says George Bamford, “The Aquaracer really is the perfect diving watch for this summer. It’s beautiful,it functions perfectly and this new model is so well thought, so attractive and just so cool. I can’t wait to get my hands on it to customize it, though, in truth, TAG Heuer has already come up with so many fantastic versions.”
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300
Movement: Self-winding caliber 5; 38-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Case: 43mm or 36mm; stainless steel or grade 2 titanium with ceramic unidirectional bezel; water resistant up to 300m
Strap: Stainless steel or titanium three-row bracelet with folding clasp featuring fine adjustment system
Availability and Price: From June 2021; CHF2950 for stainless steel and CHF4100 for the titanium case
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 “Tribute to Ref. 844” Limited Edition
Movement: Self-winding caliber 5; 38-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and 24-hour indication
Case: 43mm; grade 5 titanium; water resistant up to 300m
Strap: Perforated black rubber with stainless steel folding clasp featuring fine adjustment system
Availability: Limited to 844 pieces; from September 2021; CHF 4250