Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review: Style meets substance at last

Tag's latest Wear OS device is a sporty number with some superb craftsmanship
Tag Heuer Connected 2020
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Few would have thought we'd get to the 3rd generation Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch when the original was released back in 2015, but while rivals have faltered, Tag has stayed loyal to the smartwatch cause.

For the first Tag Heuer Connected, launched way back in 2015, I was flown to New York for the most extravagant (and cheesiest, quite literally) smartwatch launch event I'd ever been to.

The original Apple Watch had only been on sale a few months and the Android Wear (now known as Wear OS) launches until that point had been traditional tech affairs from the likes of LG, Samsung, Sony and Asus(!).

Tag Heuer's first smartwatch didn't just up the ante in terms of putting on a show, it raised the bar - nay, blew it through the roof - with regards to design aesthetics and build quality. Smartwatches no longer had to be scaled down smartphones for the wrist – they could be luxury fashion devices in their own right, with tech features an additional bonus.

The launch of 2017's Tag Heuer Connected 45 took this even further - making customisation and personalisation the main USP of its second-gen smartwatch; with over 56, modular-based, designs to choose from. And the Tag Heuer Connected 41 shrank things down into a more compact package.

For it's third-iteration, newly announced and now on sale starting at $1,800, Tag Heuer has taken its smartwatch in a sportier direction, with the inclusion of a heart rate monitor for the first time. With the Apple Watch Series 5 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 putting wellness and health at the core of their messaging, Tag Heuer needed to respond.

I've had the Tag Heuer Connected 2020 strapped to my wrist for the last couple of weeks, keeping me company in lockdown and, of course, acting as my running partner for my permitted daily exercise.

Here's my comprehensive verdict:

Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Premium smarts

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review – side on thickness

The detail with the latest Connected is still well and truly in the design - you could totally ignore the sporty features should you wish, and instead opt for a model that's much more fashion than fitness focused.

That's because, even though Tag has toned down the amount of customisation on offer compared to the Connected 45, there are still plenty of choices to be made when it comes to physical and digital materials.

The 45mm stainless-steel or titanium cases take their design inspiration from Tag Heuer's mechanical Carrera chronographs with physical buttons resembling chronograph pushers on board a Tag smartwatch for the first time - either side of a signature central rotating crown.

This actually makes the new Connected the easiest Tag smartwatch to navigate so far, with those two pushers adding extra physical controls into the Wear OS mix, as we've seen with the likes of the Suunto 7 and the Michael Kors Access Lexington 2.

In terms of physical customisation there's an interchangeable bracelet system, with a choice of durable rubber straps available in a classic black scale pattern with red stitching, bolder perforated red, orange or khaki. There are also core steel and black options.

Pricing for the latest Tag Heuer Connected starts at $1,800 - that gets you a steel case and a rubber strap version. The top model, with a titanium case is $2,350. You can buy the rubber straps for $100 to $150; a stainless steel band will set you back $490.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Customisation

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For the purposes of this review Tag sent me over both a silver stainless steel strap, and a black rubberised one. During the daytime, when I wanted to impress my family with my impeccable dedication to fashion, I donned the stainless steel strap.

For my exercise, I simply popped the rubber strap on. It really is as simple as sliding a little switch on the underneath of the strap. It's probably the easiest interchangeable strap system I've used.

The ease of switching from a slick looking steel fashion statement to a sporty watch is backed up with the ability to customise the watch face to an incredible level of detail. This is way above what you'd normally get on Wear OS, and from within the Wear OS app.

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The dedicated Tag Heuer Connected app has 28 'base' designs to choose from; across five Tag Heuer watch faces that take inspiration from the brand’s timekeeping heritage.

Digital dial options include a three-hand version of the Heuer 02 manufacture movement skeletonised dial, a digitalised Carrera Heuer 01, a liquid crystal-like display, a unique algorithm-based neural network animation named Orbital, and a tribute to the hexagonal nanotube structure of the brand’s carbon composite hairspring.

Customising the details of your digital watch face is made easy by the updated companion app, so you don't have to fiddle about getting the look you're after on the watch's display - although you can, of course make alterations on the watch's touchscreen.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review

Once you've chosen your base design, you can then make the tweaks. As shown in the example above, I chose one of the Heuer 01C faces and then was able to choose between different colors for the indexes and he hands.

The beauty of this is you can get the look and feel of multiple different Tag watches - for multiple occasions. Yes, the initial outlay is expensive, especially for a Wear OS smartwatch, but Tag Heuer watches are expensive; that's a fact of life. And you're essentially getting multiple Tag Heuer watches for one initial outlay.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Design, build and hardware

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 heart rate monitor

At this point it's important that I point out that this is a heavy, big, smartwatch. It's in no way unisex and, if you're not a fan of big timepieces then it's probably not for you. It's perfectly comfortable though, especially when the rubber strap is in play.

The newest Connected measures in at 13.5mm thick. That's a touch more than the 13.2mm Modular 41 but it is slimmer than its genuine predecessor; the Modular 45 (13.75mm).

That 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 pixel (326ppi) OLED display is, as you'd expect, super clear and seems to almost sit on top of the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal screen. To extend battery life, the display is able to switch between active and ambient modes, with the latter toning down the face to just show the time.

The battery itself is a 430mAh unit, about as big as you're likely to see on a Wear OS watch. This will comfortably get you through a whole day, even with an hour of GPS-tracked activity in the mix as well.

A big move for Tag Heuer is handing over processing duties to smartwatch silicone expert Qualcomm. With Intel seemingly now out of the smartwatch game, the 3rd-gen Connected uses a Snapdragon 3100 chip, backed up with 8GB of storage and 1GB RAM. Everything is as zippy and lag-free as you'd expect from a high end smartwatch in 2020.

In terms of sensors, the new Tag Heuer Connected boasts GPS (GLONASS, BeiDou and QZSS), a compass, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a heart rate sensor. Which brings me on nicely to the sports tracking.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Sports and fitness tracking

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review

If the sport-based aspects are what you're interested in with the new Connected, then you'll be please to know that the accompanying new Tag Heuer app is a genuine fitness platform - with a particular focus on running, cycling and golf.

The app, which can be controlled on the watch itself - with deeper information available on your smartphone - has a minimal, Nike-esque, feel to it. It's not super in-depth, as per a Garmin or Polar app, but there's more than enough on board for above-casual runners, riders and golfers.

Especially golfers actually: 39,000 courses+ on offer, check out our Tag Heuer Golf review for an in-depth look at Tag's golf tracking prowess, which is replicated on the new Connected.

You can, of course, choose to use one of Wear OS' other big name workout apps, such as Strava or Endomondo, or use the recently updated Google Fit app; but for the purposes of this review I kept it all in house with Tag.

And, I was pleasantly surprised. Tapping the top right pusher on the watch itself throws you into the Tag Sports app, where you can initiate a run, start a cycle, select a golf course and more. As mentioned, you can just do this all on the watch itself, with clear displays on offer showing your performance metrics and so on.

However, when you tap the Sports section within the Tag Heuer Connected app, that's when you'll get the sort of information you'd expect from a proper sports and fitness platform. All of your activities and sessions are logged and you can tap into them to see your stats, maps and more. You can also sync this information to Strava, Apple Health or Google Fit.

In terms of run accuracy, I ran with the Tag at the same time as both an Apple Watch and a Polar running watch. Over four test runs, ranging from 5km to 10km, the discrepancy between the devices was never more than 230m (and that was on a 10km run). On one 5km run, which is a regular route I use for PB attempts, the Polar and the Tag both came in at exactly 5km, with the Apple Watch at 4.94km.

The short version of the paragraph above is I have no concerns over the GPS accuracy with the Tag Heuer Connected. I also have no major concerns over the heart rate accuracy - from a wrist-based tracking point of view.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review

At Wareable, we'd always recommend getting a chest-based heart rate monitor for the most accurate HRM sessions. However, for people looking to train with reliable, if not super-exact BPM readings, the Tag won't let you down. Again, compared to the wrist-based tracking of the Apple Watch and Polar running watch, I didn't really see any major discrepancies; and the average BPM for sessions was pretty much the same over every test run.

Compared to a chest strap - I used a MyZone MZ-3 - I did see some variations, especially when it came to major spikes. But I also saw these variations on the Apple Watch / Polar watch too.

Across hundreds of sports watch reviews we've often found wrist monitors can have a habit of struggling to keep up with the sudden spikes and drops in heart rate for some high intensity workouts and the Tag is no different. But, in my opinion, it still serves as a reliable heart rate training watch, if your needs are general.

Polar, a genuine sports tracking expert, was the first brand to put its own sports tracking front and center of the Wear OS experience with the M430, back in 2017. Since then, the likes of Suunto and Casio - both brands with established sports pedigree, have also managed to successfully mask the failings of Google's smartwatch OS when it comes to sports tracking.

And now we can add Tag Heuer to that list. If you want to go further with in-depth heart rate monitoring, or you're concerned with VO2 max, recovery periods and the like, then you'll still want to get a dedicated sports watch. But for casual to upper-casual athletes, the Connected will more than suffice.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Yes, it's still Wear OS

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review

Let's just breeze through the Wear OS stuff as quickly as possible. Yes, it's there and yes, the notifications, Google Pay, music control and the like are all pretty useful. But they are really just compliments to Tag Heuer's bespoke software - i.e. the customisation and the sports tracking.

The trouble with Wear OS is it hasn't evolved quickly enough and, as such, has been left miles behind Apple's watchOS. It's even miles behind Samsung's in-house Tizen smartwatch OS and other third-party operating systems we've seen from the likes of Amazfit.

Wear OS isn't unusable, and the new push buttons on the Connected do make things a bit more manageable, but you'll soon get annoyed by something / everything.

Differentiating Wear OS is difficult for all brands, with Google limiting its partners to widget and watch face alterations, and the odd custom app. But Tag Heuer has always been strong in this area and the latest Connected, like its predecessors, feels very much like a Tag Heuer watch first, and a Wear OS smartwatch second.


Tag Heuer Connected 2020
By Tag Heuer
Tag Heuer has, once again, absolutely nailed the physical aspect, with a superb build and design; and has kept Google's smartwatch OS in the background just enough to make sure the digital design features are front and center. Adding a heart rate monitor into the mix, along with a decent sports app, is a great move from the Swiss watch giant - especially given how easy it is to switch between straps and digital faces, making the transformation from fashion statement to fitness tracker a cinch. Yes, it's expensive, but it's a well-built high-end watch from Tag Heuer - what did you expect?

Hit
  • Detailed customisation
  • Easy to switch straps
  • Great sports experience
  • Amazing build quality
Miss
  • Expensive
  • Still Wear OS at heart
  • No LTE option