Facets of Innovation: The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Collection

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 Issue of the WatchTime print magazine.

In 2021, the Aquaracer collection received a substantially upgraded design and new materials like ceramic and titanium, and, just one year later, even two new movements. Equally important, the Swiss watchmaker has turned repeatedly to some of its past dive watches for inspiration, like the Ref. 844 from 1978 that became TAG Heuer’s first professional diver, before the team began to work on the current collection — which means the current Aquaracer also represents a “bestof” the brand’s past and present innovations. Frédéric Arnault, TAG Heuer’s CEO, explained, “TAG Heuer has been making bold, high-performance, stylish, luxury tool watches for more than four decades. The Aquaracer Professional 300 picks up a much-loved story and moves it on with the most significant step we’ve taken to develop our Aquaracer collection in many years. Pushing the limits, high functionality, a bold and unmistakable aesthetic, and the promise of going with you, even to the extremes — the Aquaracer Professional 300 is a watch that will take you beyond the edge. This is, after all, the place where we truly find ourselves.”

The (quickly sold-out) Aquaracer Professional 300 “Tribute to Ref. 844” limited edition in titanium (Ref. WBP208C.FT6201) was perhaps the most direct nod to the Swiss avant-garde brand’s past, but two more followed this year: the “Night Diver” (Ref. WBP201D.FT6197) with its distinctive full-lume dial and black (DLC) 43-mm case, and, even more recently, the “Orange Diver” (Ref. WBP201F.BA0632), launched in March 2022.

For Guy Bove, Creative Director of TAG Heuer, creating a link to the brand’s past with a new, contemporary collection of dive watches also meant working with the collection’s six signature features. To begin with, the team turned to the most recognizable element of the Aquaracer’s design — its 12-sided unidirectional rotating bezel, which now comes with an integrated, scratch-resistant ceramic insert across almost the entire collection and fluting on each of the 12 facets, so the bezel is easy to grip and turn. Bove’s team also upgraded the sapphire crystal, integrating a magnifier over the date at 6 o’clock on the inner side, so that the surface remained flat. Inspired by the shape of the bezel, the dial with the horizontal stripes now features eight applied octagonal hour markers, and the movement can be operated with a 12-sided crown. On top of that, the case, crown protection, bezel and metal bracelet have all been slimmed down, without compromising the watch’s water resistance. The lugs are shorter, while the case edge has been chamfered and polished for a more refined finish. In short, the current Aquaracer has a more sophisticated profile, and it is lighter and more ergonomic. At the same time, the Aquaracer manages to offer a contemporary look without ignoring past models and previous generations.

Last but not least, the rejuvenated image of a scaphander diver’s helmet, another hallmark of the 2004-introduced Aquaracer collection, is now engraved onto the 12-sided faceplate of the caseback. Beating behind this two-part caseback (to ensure the outer shell is always aligned with the case) is TAG Heuer’s automatic Caliber 5, with a 28,800-vph frequency, a rapid date-correction function, and a power reserve of 38 hours. The same movement sourced from Sellita can also be found in the WBP201F.BA0632 “Orange Diver” that was introduced during Watches & Wonders. Needless to say, the predecessor of this watch already made a splash because of its vibrant tangerine dial, a color that has made a number of appearances in the TAG Heuer Diving universe over the years. The latest reference with this dial color also integrates the Aquaracer Professional 300’s fine adjustment system on the strap that can extend or reduce the bracelet length by up to 1.5 cm. This allows its wearer to easily resize the bracelet so the watch can be worn on almost any occasion and under a variety of climatic conditions. The same can be said for the watch: thanks to its metallic dial finish and the applied indexes, the dial manages to work quite nicely in various environments.

Watches & Wonders 2022 also saw the introduction of a more extreme addition to the collection. The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver (Ref. WBP5A8A.BF0619) represents not only the most water-resistant Aquaracer to date, it is also the first watch from the brand utilizing the new Caliber TH30-00 — a COSC-certified movement that is produced exclusively for TAG Heuer by Kenissi Manufacture SA. The “Swiss manufacture for high-performance mechanical movements” was founded in 2016 and is based in Le Locle. The initial list of brands benefitting from this new generation of mechanical movements included Tudor and Breitling, followed by Norqain, Fortis, Chanel and, most recently, TAG Heuer.

Needless to say, the new caliber marks an important chapter for the brand that will, according to TAG Heuer, “see significant improvements in terms of reliability and durability” thanks to this “long-term collaboration between TAG Heuer and Kenissi.” TH30-00 comes with 70 hours of power reserve, and an extended international warranty of up to five years.

To protect the Superdiver’s movement even further, TAG Heuer has added a much more substantial crown protector than is usually found on dive watches. The main role of the guard is to protect the crown, while the orange seal around the tube provides an additional visual indicator that shows the screw-down crown is properly closed. This detail has been passed down from the TAG Heuer Aquagraph, which integrated the system in 2003, while the increased water resistance can be seen as an homage to the Super Professional from 1984. Finally, the crown comes in black DLC to provide a high contrast to the 1,000-meter water-resistant case. The automatic helium valve at 9 o’clock takes a rectangular form and is finished in a black DLC coating, matching the black-finished crown. It is engraved with the letters “He,” which stands for helium in the periodic table. Unsurprisingly, the Superdiver has received ISO 6425:2018 certification for saturation divers’ watches.

The 45-mm TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver is mostly made from grade 5 titanium — the caseback of the watch is made of steel “to keep a good balance and reasonable weight for a professional instrument.” In other words, despite the lightweight metal, the Superdiver still feels substantial on the wrist, both in terms of dimensions and weight. The bezel insert, on the other hand, is forged with black ceramic and a unique composite made of a hybrid material incorporating ceramic with an orange color specifically developed for TAG Heuer.

Identical to the Professional 300, the designers at TAG Heuer chose green Super-LumiNova for the hour hand and hour markers, and blue Super-LumiNova for the minutes hand to increase legibility and provide better orientation for divers. In addition, the bezel markers on the Superdiver are also filled with blue lume, and not just the triangle at 12 o’clock. Another difference between the regular Aquaracers and the new Superdiver: The hour hand is designed as an arrow; the minute and second hands are orange.

The third addition to the Aquaracer range expands the slightly smaller, 40-mm Professional 200 group of Aquaracer watches. The all-black “Solargraph” (Ref. WBP1112.FT6199) is the first watch from the brand that uses the new Caliber TH50-00, which is produced by La Joux- Perret in La Chauxde-Fonds, using the solar dial technology for the first time in a watch made in Switzerland.

The Aquaracer Professional 200 models already offered a larger choice of movements, compared to the 300. In the 40-mm collection, there are two automatic and two quartz references, while at 30 mm, there are two automatics and five quartz options. The Aquaracer Professional 300 is only available with an automatic mechanical movement.

Thanks to the new movement, the Solargraph, like the Superdiver, will benefit from an extended international warranty of up to five years. The movement needs two minutes in full sunlight to keep the watch running for a whole day. When fully charged, after less than 20 hours under the sun, the watch can run for six months (or even 3.5 years when the Power Save mode is activated).

The sun will not only power the movement of the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph, it obviously also charges the Super-LumiNova elements of the watch. The bezel, dial and hands all feature Super-LumiNova. In addition, the Solargraph features a bezel insert made of a blend of carbon and green SuperLumiNova. According to TAG Heuer, “this gives each piece a truly unique effect that is unlike any other, much like the ridges that naturally form on rocks over time.”

For Arnault (who was spotted wearing the Superdiver during Watches & Wonders), the Aquaracer has become every bit as much a TAG Heuer signature as the Carrera or Monaco: “Its codes and the philosophy behind it were defined decades ago and continue to be as relevant and exciting as ever, particularly in this season of new beginnings and new journeys.” And he adds, “The Aquaracer Professional 200 is a companion for a fast-paced, unforgettable life full of adventure and achievement, a life lived beyond the edge.”

Simultaneously, the current Aquaracer also has become a testing ground for new technologies at TAG Heuer, just one year after its relaunch: two significant new movements, a new extreme diver at the top of the collection, a mix of various case materials, better finishes and functions, innovative composite materials and solutions for optimized case constructions — TAG Heuer seems determined to win more than one race with the range.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Collection Specs:

Reference number: WBP1112.FT6199 

Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date 

Movement: TH50-00 (produced by La Joux-Perret), solar-powered, stopseconds mechanism, quick-set date correction, 6-month power reserve (when fully charged) 

Case: Stainless steel with DLC, flat sapphire crystal with anti-glare coating on both sides, screw-down crown, fully threaded stainless-steel caseback with DLC, water resistant to 200 m, carbon unidirectional turning bezel with 60-minute scale 

Bracelet and clasp: Black rubber strap, black DLC steel folding clasp with double safety push-buttons with adjustment link extension 

Variations: With stainless-steel case and bracelet, automatic movement (Caliber 5) and gray “degrade” dial (Ref. WBP2110.BA0627, $2,750); with blue “degradé” dial (Ref. WBP2111.BA0627, $2,750); with quartz movement and black dial (Ref. WBP1110.BA0627, $2,050); with silver dial (Ref. WBP1111.BA0627, $2,050) 

Dimensions: Diameter = 40 mm 

Price: $2,950

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