Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41
The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 is a Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatch that blends Google smarts with the design, craftsmanship and price of a luxury Swiss watch. It comes a year after the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 and brings with it a few key improvements.
Firstly, the number in the names of these watches refers to the diameter of the case in millimeters. Thus, the new Modular 41 is 4mm smaller than the Modular 45 (which remains on sale). This makes the new watch more appealing to those with slimmer wrists and potentially opens up Tag Heuer’s smartwatch division to a larger audience than before.
Additionally, the new model gets a higher pixel density, plus a doubling of RAM and a doubling of onboard storage.
The Modular part of the watch’s name means the same as with the 45, in that the strap and lugs can be easily removed and swapped for alternatives depending on your mood and style. You can even swap out the case for a Tag Heuer Calibre 5 mechanical movement, if you fancy a day without Wear OS’s notifications and fitness tracking.
Naturally, a smartwatch costing from $1,200 (£1,000, AU$1,600) isn’t going to be for everyone. You could buy several alternatives for that – or, y’know, a laptop, or an Xbox One X and a 4K TV – but that isn’t really the point. Luxury Swiss watches have done little more than tell the time for decades, yet business on the shores of Lake Geneva is always booming.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 price and release date
- Very expensive for a smartwatch, but relatively good value for a Tag
- Starts at $1,200 / £1,000 / AU$1,600
Just like its bigger brother, the Connected Modular 41 runs Google’s Wear OS operating system, and as such works in the same way as smartwatches like the Huawei Watch 2, LG Watch Style and others from the likes of Fossil, Casio and Michael Kors.
Those examples also take style into account – they aren’t just miniaturized smartphones for your wrist – but the Tag Heuer gets to boast about its name, history and the ‘Swiss Made’ motif to take things to another level.
As such, the $1,200 / £1,000 / AU$1,600 starting price is unlikely to shock those familiar with the rest of the Tag Heuer range, and we suspect those who already own a Tag are the kind of people who see four-digit value in the name and logo on their wrist, as much as what it’s actually capable of.
While the larger Connected Modular 45 offers a wide range of bezel designs (white gold and diamonds, anyone?), the 41 keeps things simple.
Thanks to an online configurator you can choose from titanium or black ceramic for the bezel, then pick from a range of rubber straps, or a titanium bracelet in black or silver. The silver titanium model with a ceramic black bezel ups the cost to $2,100 / £1,700 / AU$2,800.
Design and display
- Same premium design as the larger model, but in a more compact case
- Blends the looks of a luxury watch with the touchscreen of a smartwatch
- Although the case is 4mm narrower, it is almost as thick
Just like its predecessors, the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 neatly blends the design of a luxury Swiss watch with the touchscreen, button, microphone and charging connector of a smartwatch. The Tag’s grade five titanium case looks and feels tough but isn’t overly heavy on the wrist.
What we like about this watch – and its larger sibling – is how it doesn’t shout too loudly about what it is. Those who know their watches will know, of course, but to everyone else the Connected Modular is a sharp looking sports watch which (at first glance) may or may not be a smartwatch.
Unlike the square-screened Apple Watch 3, the Tag takes an approach shared by other Wear OS devices from watchmakers: it looks like a traditional watch.
There is a single button at 3 o’clock, mimicking the crown of a mechanical watch. A press of this wakes the watch up (as does a tap of the screen or raising your wrist), then a second press shows a list of the watch’s applications. Press again and you are taken back to the watch face.
Below the button is the watch’s microphone, which is used for speaking to Google Assistant and dictating for when you want to reply to a message.
The watch gets its name from how the strap and lugs can be removed and replaced with alternatives, thus making it a modular design. There is a button where each strap connects to the case; press this while simultaneously pulling the strap towards the back of the case, and it slides free. It’s a simple but well-engineered mechanism and one we feel can be trusted to keep the watch safely on your wrist.
At 41mm across, the Tag Heuer’s case is about the average size of a men’s wristwatch. Though, this downsizing will be welcomed by anyone who felt the 45mm version was just too big for their wrists. However, the new model is only very slightly less chunky, as the depth of the case is 13.2mm compared to the 45’s 13.75mm.
When you consider the Apple Watch 3 is a skinny 11.4mm, you realize the new Tag – while more accommodating than ever before – isn’t quite as compact as it looks when viewed face-on.
It should still slip beneath the sleeve of all but the tightest of fitted shirts (and the strap tapers to a thinner width than on the 45), but it’s still a chunky timepiece. The Tag’s inherently sporty design helps the chunky dimensions look deliberate, and we feel it just about gets away with the case being as thick as it is.
The circular, 1.2-inch (30.4mm) display sits beneath 2.5mm-thick, scratch resistant sapphire glass. It’s an AMOLED panel which has a resolution of 390 x 390, and while this is 10 pixels fewer than on the larger Connected Modular 45, the smaller size means a pixel density of 326 per inch, up from 287 on the 45.
What all that means is the smaller model actually has the higher-quality display – and it’s a lovely display at that. Watch faces are beautifully crisp, with every digit, number, hand and dial looking sharp. You can still tell it’s a digital display and not a real watch face, of course, but it is very pleasing to the eye and easy to read in most circumstances.
We say ‘most’ because it can be tricky to see at a glance on sunny days. Indoors was never a problem, but outside on a bright day we sometimes wondered if the watch had somehow switched itself off, such was the lack of visibility.
A flick of the wrist, press of the button or tap of the display fixes this, bringing the watch to life and replacing the energy-saving monochrome watch face with a bright, full-color and highly detailed face.
Striking a balance between battery life and offering an always-on display bright enough to see outdoors is something all smartwatch makers are still grappling with, so we can’t single Tag out for this.
Finally, the Tag Heuer 41 is water-resistant to a depth of 50 meters, so you can take it swimming without a problem.
Specs and performance
- Same Intel Atom Z34XX chipset as the Connected Modular 45
- 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage are double that of its predecessor
The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 has the same Intel Atom chipset as the larger Connected Modular 45, but is treated to twice as much RAM and storage, up from 512MB to 1GB, and from 4GB to 8GB respectively.
Where we found the 45 would sometimes slow down when we asked too much of it, we’ve encountered no such issues with the Connected Modular 41. Of course, Wear OS isn’t the most taxing user interface, and we suspect Tag Heuer smartwatches are less likely to be pushed to the limit by their owners than more tech-focused wearables.
You can still dive into the Google Play Store on the watch itself, install games and push the chipset if you so wish, but we question how many people play games on their smartwatch on a regular basis.
NFC means you can make contactless payments through the included Google Pay app. It’s simple enough to set up but requires you to secure the watch with a PIN or pattern. Take the watch off and it will lock, requiring you to enter the PIN or pattern.
To pay (with the Tag on your wrist and unlocked), just open the Google Pay app and hold your wrist close to the card reader. A shortcut here would be nice, like a double-press of the home button, but no such option exists.
Instead, you can press and hold the Google Pay app icon to make it a favorite, then it will appear in the middle of the display when you press the button, saving you from scrolling to find it.
GPS tracking can be used with a range of third-party fitness apps to help log your running more accurately, while a Wi-Fi connection means the watch will stay online if you stray out of Bluetooth range from your phone. Handy if you want to walk around your home or office without your phone but remain connected to the outside world.
- Includes Google Fit, plus access to third-party apps through Play Store
- Has GPS but no heart rate monitor
- Would you take such an expensive watch to the gym?
Google Fit and Fit Workout come pre-installed, letting you track your daily steps and log a range of exercises, from running and cycling to a huge selection of sports, and even meditation.
We were impressed at how, when you tell Google Fit you are doing a ‘strength exercise’, it correctly identified bicep curls and tricep extensions, among other routines, and counted reps accurately for each set.
There are also daily challenges for press-ups, sit-ups and squats, with three difficulty options for each and diagrams explaining how to perform each exercise correctly.
Popular third-party exercise apps like Strava can be installed on the Tag Heuer, and some (like Strava) can show their data on a custom watch face. But, with the watch lacking a heart rate monitor, we get the feeling exercise wasn’t high on Tag’s priorities when designing the Connected Modular range.
The Tag Heuer 41 may look like a sports watch in the traditional sense – especially if you fit a rubber strap and pick one of the more sporty-looking faces – but we have a feeling buyers won’t be taking theirs to the gym all that often.
Compatibility and apps
- Works with smartphones running Android 4.4 or iOS 9 onwards
- Decent range of apps available from the Play Store
Despite the recent rebrand to Wear OS, the Tag 41’s operating system is basically the same as Android Wear 2.0 on the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45. This means an operating system designed for the small, circular touchscreen of a smartwatch, where a watch face is the home screen, and applications are small and simple.
Wear OS comes pre-installed on many Android smartphones, but if you’re using an iPhone you’ll need to download it from the App Store before you can setup the Tag Heuer. The Wear OS app is where you can tinker with the settings of the watch and pick a different face.
A second smartphone app called Tag Heuer Studio lets you create your own watch face design by picking from a range of dials, colors, layouts and highlights; there are thousands of combinations here, so you’re bound to find one that’s perfect for you.
The Tag connects to your smartphone over Bluetooth and displays incoming notifications like calls, texts or WhatsApp messages. You can reply to these by tapping on a suggested reply, dictating a reply into the watch’s microphone, or even tapping out a message on the screen.
This may sound ridiculous, but the Wear OS keyboard is surprisingly accurate and perfectly adequate for typing out a quick message when reaching for your phone is impractical.
Calls cannot be made or received on the Tag, as there is no speaker; instead, you will be notified on the watch, but tapping the green accept icon opens the call on your phone. You can, however, reject incoming calls with a tap of the watch.
Notifications all cause the Modular 41 to vibrate, which caught our attention most of the time – more so than a phone in our pocket would while walking, for example – but the vibration of Wear OS watches isn’t as powerful as the haptic tapping of the Apple Watch 3.
- Has no trouble lasting a full day, but it won’t get through two
- Charging dock connects well, but doesn’t act as a stand
Using the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 reminded us of the early days of the smartwatch, when nightly charging was a necessity. Sure, it will get through an average day without cause for concern, but usually with around 20-30% charge remaining when we went to bed. Forget to charge at night, and it will surely die midway through the next day.
A more intensive day – one involving exercise and the installation of an app or two from the Play Store, for example – will see the battery dip below 20% by mid-evening, then enter battery-saver mode at 15%, shutting down the always-on display and reducing functionality.
As such, there is no sleep-tracking capability – not that we’d want to wear a chunky watch like the Tag in bed anyway.
Charging is done via a magnetic dock which snaps reassuringly into place on the back of the Tag’s case, and is powered by an included micro USB cable and detachable wall plug.
When fitted with a metal bracelet strap, the Tag sits flat on its charger, but with the rubber strap of our review unit the watch has to sit on its side, as shown in the photos.
While this is mostly fine, we thought the manufacturer of a $1,200 / £1,000 smartwatch would try and make charging a little more presentable. A dock which neatly holds the watch so that it can be used as a bedside clock would have been better, like the charger of the Samsung Gear Sport.
We admire Tag Heuer for going all-in on the smartwatch movement, while most of its Swiss rivals remain on the sidelines. This is now the company’s third smartwatch, so clearly the formula is working and enough are being sold to make developing newer models worthwhile.
This is good news for both the smartwatch and traditional watch industries, demonstrating how they can live side-by-side, and even stray successfully onto each other’s turf.
The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 is of course beautifully built and exudes a sense of quality that most other smartwatches lack. From its plush, oversized box to the selection of beautiful watch faces to pick from and customize to your taste, the Connected Modular 41 feels like a quality and well-thought-out product.
But underneath the glamour, it is still just a Wear OS smartwatch like any other. It performs the same tasks, runs the same software, and even falls behind in some key areas, like the absent heart rate monitor.
Who’s this for?
With a starting price of $1,200 / £1,000 / AU$1,600, the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 of course isn’t for everyone. It is for a tiny sliver of the market who want a luxury Swiss watch, but one which can do more than merely tell the time.
Buyers may well have other watches with four-figure price tags in their collection, but fancy dipping a toe into the smartwatch waters to see what all the fuss is about.
Those interested in the Connected Modular 41 will likely see the Apple Watch 3 as too common, too obvious, and may already own other Tag Heuer models, so are fans of the brand.
More specifically, this 41mm version is for those who feel the 45mm is too large but want the same set of features. It just so happens that they get a better display and improved performance too, and for less money.
Should you buy it?
Even if you are in the market for a four-figure watch and fancy something with a touchscreen, Wear OS and everything that entails, we should issue a word of warning. It is unknown if a smartwatch bought today will receive software updates to keep it stable and functioning just a few years down the line.
Where a mechanical watch of this value could be passed down to your children or grandchildren, it is very unlikely that a smartwatch will be of any use by then. Look at how this Tag Heuer does not work with smartphones running versions of Android or iOS that are more than a few years old; one day, this watch will no longer work with your latest smartphone.
Tag or Google may issue a final software update to keep it working as a watch, but the smartness would be gone. Perhaps that will make it an interesting, quirky and rare timepiece years down the line, but you shouldn’t bank on it.
By all means, go ahead and buy this watch if your budget allows – you’ll be getting a true luxury smartwatch – but remember that time is unlikely to be kind to it if you do.
First reviewed: May 2018
About: Review Junkies
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