Tag Heuer Connected 2020 first look: Sport tech never looked this good

Hands-on - Tag's latest Wear OS device has some superb craftsmanship
We try the new Tag Heuer Connected watch
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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.

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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 lo 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 it's 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 £1,495, 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.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Premium smarts

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review – side on thickness

However, 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.

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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 45-mm 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.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 review: On wrist shot

We played around popping straps on the new Tag Heuer Connected during a briefing and the ease of switching from a slick looking steel smartwatch, with a classic Tag analog face, to a sporty rubber smartwatch with a clear digital display was apparent.

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.

If it is for you, then there are a wealth of digital Tag Heuer goodies to choose from. You're able to select between 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.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 partner app

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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

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 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.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 heart rate monitor

Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Fitness focus

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 Sports app looks like it's a genuine fitness platform.

The app, which is all controlled on the watch itself, with deeper information available on your smartphone has a minimal, Nike-esque, feel to it

During my briefing I couldn't fully test the sports features - for reasons like it's hard to do squats, or do a GPS-tracked run, while eating canapes and taking pictures of a watch - so you'll have to wait for our full review for that and a more comprehensive verdict in general.

Tag Heuer Connected 2020 box unpacking

For now though, based on initial impressions and a limited time with the watch, it's clear that Tag Heuer has, once again, absolutely nailed the physical aspect and has kept Google's smartwatch OS in the background just enough to make sure the digital design features are front and center.

Whether that heavy burden of Wear OS can be shaken off in terms of the new sports tracking remains to be seen though. Check back soon for our full review.