(Pocket-lint) - The Tag Heuer Connected was described as a marriage of Watch Valley and Silicon Valley at the launch, with the larger-then-life CEO of the Swiss watch company, Jean-Claude Biver, introducing this forward-looking device from a traditional watch company.
It's the first of a new breed of Android Wear devices, breaking away from the technology companies that have pushed devices so far, bringing a big brand to the smartwatch table.
It's divisive. It challenges opposing sides of the watch world. But the Tag Heuer Connected is also an important device, because it's easily the best Android Wear device yet.
Tag Heuer Connected review: Design
The Tag Heuer Connected is based on Tag's Carrera family of sporty watches. You'll find a vulcanised rubber strap like the Heuer 01, pared with a dial that has hints of the Calibre 1887 Chronograph. The watch faces that Tag supply mimic these designs also.
Visually, that gives the Connected at-a-glance recognisability, especially if you're a watch fan. The Tag shield motif emblazoned on the button is perhaps the most overt part of the branding. It isn't gregarious or offensive, and even when the Tag watch face is illuminated, you're not staring at something that's too brash in pushing the brand.
Of course, some might say that with a 46mm diameter, there's no additional need for adornment, it's a watch you'll notice anyway. That's true, this is a big watch, but the Tag Heuer Connected succeeds where other Android Wear watches have failed: you'll want to wear it.
We've been critical of Android Wear smartwatch design on a number of levels. There's been a genericism to many devices, failing to design something that carried with it real desirability. The Tag Heuer Connected rights that, and as we've worn the watch out and about, it's caught the eye of many.
The size it is, those with smaller wrists might find it doesn't suit them. It's a masculine design for sure, but even though it has a face that's bigger than, say, the LG Watch Urbane, it sits much better on the wrist. That comes down to savvy watch design. The real design differences are in the details: the angle of the lugs, the way the strap attaches, how it's all balanced with the circular face. The result is that the Tag Heuer Connected is a watch that wears like a Swiss watch and that's very welcome.
Let's also not overlook that this is a luxury brand and you're treated to luxury materials too. The body is grade 2 titanium, sandblasted and brushed, with black carbide coating on the button and bezel. The 1.5-inch display is covered with sapphire crystal for scratch resistance. It is IP67 water resistant. That makes for solid build that's going to withstand regular use and maintain its good looks.
If we had one criticism of the Connected design, it's that the watch feels too light. Sure, that partly comes down to using titanium over steel, and partly comes down to lighter internals as there's no need for a weight to drive a clock mechanism like its manual counterparts, but we want a little more heft from a watch. We're also not completely sold on the plastic back, given the rest of the body is titanium, but once in place it feels nice enough.
But then you have the great substantive chunk of the rubber strap and easy size adjustment from that titanium clasp. We've found it a comfortable watch to wear. It looks serious and its looks bring with it a gravitas you don't get with other Android Wear devices. Tag Heuer has made a smartwatch that's we want and that's no mean feat.
Tag Heuer Connected review: Hardware, battery and display
For Android Wear devices you'll often find that the hardware story is very much the same. Things aren't too different in the Connected, the biggest difference being that this is an Intel-powered watch rather than Qualcomm.
There's a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z34XX processor inside with 1GB RAM and 4GB of storage. Does that make a difference? Not really. We've found the performance of the Tag Heuer Connected to be very close to other recent Android Wear devices. It's snappy and responsive.
It's loaded with a range of sensors for motion, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but it doesn't offer a heart rate sensor or GPS, which some rival devices do. Is this a loss to the experience? No, it isn't.
This connected watch knows what it wants to achieve. It isn't hitting every point on the spec sheet wanting to be a jack-of-all-trades, and we think it's a more cohesive offering as a result. Because - let's face it - you're not going to seriously want to use your Tag as a running watch, you'll just buy a dedicated device and revel in the more complete experience elsewhere.
The 1.5-inch display has a 360 x 360 pixel resolution. It's not the sharpest display - the Huawei Watch boasts 400 x 400 pixels for example - but the Tag looks good. It's not as punchy in colours as some, probably due to the use of a transflective LCD display, making it a little more muted. This avoids one of the bugbears of smartwatches which is it beaming out with excessive brightness. We prefer that approach, as it's less brash and when dimmed, more like a regular watch.
There's a 410mAh battery inside and this is good for a day of life. Like most other smartwatches, endurance isn't a huge skill, so you'll need to keep the charging base within easy reach. You'll make it through most days, but what Android Wear really lacks is a sensible Doze state like Android Marshmallow devices: we set the Tag Heuer Connected down for the night with 20 per cent charge, and it was empty by morning, having done nothing.
Conveniently, however, the charging base can be connected to any Micro-USB cable and it then magnetically connects to the rear of the watch, charging you up in an hour and a half.
Tag Heuer Connected review: Software and features
The Tag Heuer Connected runs Android Wear and the experience is very much as you'll find elsewhere. It is compatible with both Android devices and iOS (iPhone) and we're pretty sure that the move by Google to support Apple devices was aimed at watches like this. There will be plenty of iPhone owners who'll fall for the Tag's design and now software isn't a barrier.
Android users get the best experience, however, making it the perfect companion for your Android handset. We've fully reviewed Android Wear previously if you want to take things to a granular level on what it can do. We've also written about the experience on iOS if you're considering partnering it with an iPhone.
Tag has provided a couple of watch faces and as we mentioned, these reflect the design of Carrera models. These are interactive faces in many cases (one of the latest additions to Android Wear's skills), meaning you can tap to start the stopwatch, for example.
There's a more comprehensive alarm/stopwatch/timer experience offered by the "themed" face. Here you tap the different dials to access those additional features. It's very slick and we like this continuation of the Tag Heuer theme deeper into the watch.
Tag has also done various deals with third-parties to give you access to more apps. You'll have to register your watch, but you'll then get access to Insiders, Viewranger and so on, to give you a little more to play with.
Of course you can install other watch faces if you prefer, but Tag has ditched most of the standard Android Wear faces from the watch. We're not sure anyone will mind about that and it helps keep things tidy.
This being Android Wear, it's compatible with all the same apps as the rest of the family. Fire up Spotify and you'll be able to control your music from your watch, or use Citymapper to bring you public transport instructions to your wrist.
There's support for Google Maps too which is great for getting walking directions when you're on the way to a meeting. Like other devices, these apps dim to reduce battery drain, but are still visible at a glance on your watch.
But much of what the Tag Heuer Connect does is about notifications. This is where smartwatches make most of their contribution to your life, and the notifications you'll get on your phone are reflected on your watch. Some will give you immediate actions, like rejecting calls or replying to messages using voice. Or they will let you glance at important emails that have arrived.
Android Wear is what it is and there's little difference between the experience on the Tag Heuer Connected and the other AW devices. There's room for improvement at a platform level, and plenty of space for innovative developer enhancements to existing apps which will come in the future. As it is, Tag's delivery of Android Wear makes it feel more exciting, because of the design package it's wrapped in.
There will be those who see the Tag Heuer Connected as a waste of time, pardon the pun. It offers the same, or fewer, features as watches that cost a fifth of the price. If this is the main criterion to smartwatch ownership, then this certainly isn't the device for you. If the price bothers you, you'll never see past that high figure.
But what Tag Heuer has done is take a category of devices and apply direction and purpose. This isn't floundering around wondering what it should be. It doesn't suffer from a Jekyll and Hyde complex, trying to pair classic formal styling with sports watch functions. It isn't overly complicated trying to do everything it technically could.
This is designed to look and wear like a Tag and it does. It's a connected watch, it's packed with confidence and it works. That makes this the best Android Wear device we've seen so far. Of course brand plays its part, just as you might choose to buy a pair of Levis over a pair of supermarket jeans. It makes no financial sense, but it's the former you'd rather wear.
The Tag Heuer Connected is an expensive luxury gadget, but that's what luxuries are. But it's also the Android Wear device we want to wear. And when it comes to watches, wanting to wear it is the most important thing.