The iconic TAG Heuer Aquaracer family finally gets a handful of new members that have their stainless steel bezels replaced with ceramic ones. Available in black and blue, with plain or blacked-out steel bodies, and featuring a nice choice of available straps, they are still relatively affordable if you take into account a nice combination of attractive styling, reliability and a bullet-proof automatic movement to finish the picture.
Earlier this year, the Swiss watchmaking brand TAG Heuer has updated its famous Aquaracer line of relatively inexpensive divers with a number of new timepieces that feature scratch-proof bezel. While not replacing older models, they somehow manage to significantly refresh and expand the collection with just a couple of light brushes here and there effectively making it a lot more difficult to walk away from the store without blowing a major hole in your budget.
As I have already mentioned, this is just a minor, um, mid-cycle update, so don’t expect this refreshed model to offer much new in the looks department. Besides the obvious scratch-resistant, glossy ceramic bezel, the 2015 Aquaracer line now features slightly revised dial with new hours, minutes, and seconds hands, as well as some minor adjustment to smaller elements, like inscriptions and hour markers.
Still, on a more subjective note, I must admit that the face-lifted model looks a lot more interesting than the one that features a more, um, plain steel bezel. There seems to be more energy in it and it clearly projects a lot stronger mojo.
Case & Strap
The really good thing is that the watch still comes in two sizes: there is a smaller one -40.5 millimeters in diameter- that looks more unisex, and there is a larger one that still measures 43 millimeters and seems to be designed exclusively with men in mind.
Offering the same satin-finished body that is nicely accented with glossy black ceramic bezel, the new timekeeper still looks very tool-like, there is nothing ‘subtle’ about this deliberately rough model.
Its shape not only allows the timepiece to sit quite comfortably on a normal wrist but also makes it look a bit more slender than an average diving watch of this size. The unidirectional bezel, with its signature six studs and (again, deliberately) thick profile not only gives this time measuring device even more energetic appearance but also makes it more comfortable to set the diving timer even while wearing thick gloves.
On the other hand (at least, when it comes to chronographs), wearing this thing with a business suit may prove problematic, especially if you are not a man of heroic proportions. It may just be too brutal for some.
The refreshed watch is still animated by the same Caliber 16 self-winding movement that the Swiss watchmaker seems to love so much. Based on the decades-old ETA 7750 chronograph movement (it was actually introduced back in 1974, but underwent a series of upgrades increasing, among other things, jewel count and leaving behind the slower sibling that was working at a rather archaic frequency of 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour,) the modified movement offers the level of robustness and accuracy that is at least on par with the base model.
No wonder that at this time TAG Heuer uses this mechanism to power its most best-selling products including some versions of their popular Carrera chronographs and, of course, the Aquaracer line.
Designed to be used with relatively inexpensive models, the mechanism features modest exterior finish, which is basically limited to polished screw-heads and a custom oscillating weight that features the usual Geneva stripes pattern and some minor open-working.
Well, given the fact that the mechanism is hidden from your eyes with a solid case back cover that features the usual engraving of an antique diving helmet, this doesn’t look like a serious problem to me. After all, this is a (rather expensive) tool watch.
As you can see on the photos, the 2015 model now features a magnifying lens on its sapphire dial (not sure about the way it is attached to its surface, I think they simply glued the lens on) and (finally!) has the thin white frame around the date window removed. The change in design not only increased the timekeeper’s legibility but also allowed to make the dial a bit less busy: the rectangular frame really didn’t play well with the dial with its traditional deck-style horizontal pattern.
Visually, the hands and hour markers on the refreshed model seem a bit wider and there is seemingly more luminous substance applied to them so, if you plan to use the watch underwater, its legibility in poor lighting conditions will hopefully be better than that of the older watch. Also, the new parts simply make the new wristwatch bolder and more dynamic than before.
Pricing & Availability
The watch was presented last spring at Baselworld 2015 show and, right now, is available in most parts of the world, although you should probably check at your local authorized dealer whether the timekeeper is actually available in store.
As for the pricing, it is actually not as high as I feared it could have been. At this time, MSRP is $3650 for a version on steel bracelet (refs. CAY211B.BA0927 and CAY211A.BA0927, blue and black dials respectively) and $3500 for the ones on less practical leather strap. The “Full Black” model (ref. CAY218A.FC6361) that features something that looks like DLC-treated stainless steel body, “black gold” hand and hour markers and rugged yet comfortable black textile strap with contrasting yellow stitching is significantly more expensive retailing for impressive $4050. Still (I hope guys from TAG Heuer won’t notice this advice), you can find one at major online retailers for at least 30 percent of list price.
See also: TAG Heuer Aquaracer 500M Calibre 5 Diver
Photos: TAG Heuer
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300M Ceramic Diver specification
Price: $3500 – $4050 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Caliber 16 (base ETA 7750), Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 25
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 48 hours
Movement decoration: Skeletonized oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Case and Crown: Stainless steel
Sizes: 40.50 mm / 43.00 mm
Dial: Black / Blue
Hour markers: Luminous, applied
Water resistance: 300 meters
Strap: Steel bracelet on folding clasp with a double security lock / Textile strap with contrast stitching and diver’s extension clasp
Back: Solid, engraved