Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Our first take

Tag Heuer's Connected Modular 45 is a Swiss timepiece first, smartwatch second

Astonishing attention to detail, superb build quality, and the latest tech inside: This is a true Swiss smartwatch for the connoisseur

If you want the real deal, by which we mean a smartwatch with true Swiss-made credentials, there is only one choice: the new Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45. It’s the second smartwatch from Tag Heuer, following the Carrera Connected last year, and once again Intel has been heavily involved with the device’s creation. But the partnership goes much deeper than simply stuffing one of Intel’s chips inside a Tag Heuer designed body. The two companies collaborated so closely, the end result combines Intel’s technical know-how and Tag Heuer’s passion for watches in a way that truly makes it stand apart from the rest.

It’s easy to pass Android Wear watches off as the same experience in a slightly different body, but don’t make that mistake with the Connected Modular 45. Intel’s Jerry Bautista, vice president of New Technology, sat down with Digital Trends at the Baselworld 2017 trade show to give us a peek at the watch in detail, share how the relationship between the two companies worked, and the lengths both went to in order to produce it.

Swiss build, Intel tech

The Connected Modular 45 is an evolution of the Carrera Connected. For example, to ensure a round screen was used on the first model — a Tag Heuer requirement — Intel had to build the electronics that were hidden by the flat-tire screen design into the section with the “Swiss Made” inscription on the body. Tag Heuer was opposed at first, but grew to like the look, and has turned it into a design feature on the Connected Modular 45 by mirroring it at the opposite end of the body.

While a plastic rear panel on the Carrera Connected allowed the antennas to work, the new model’s body is made entirely of titanium. The watch still has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, plus the addition of GPS and NFC; but titanium doesn’t play well with antennas, so how do they talk to the world? Look closely at the side of the screen and you’ll see two sections sandwiched together. The lower piece contains all the antennas. It was a huge technical challenge to make this work, but it not only improves the design, but also the efficiency: There’s a 70 percent improvement in Wi-Fi performance because of it. Wondering where the ambient light sensor is? The watch collects light data through the watch face, and channels it down into Intel’s sensor, which adjusts the display accordingly. A clever alternative to an ugly sensor.

The end result combines Intel’s technical know-how and Tag Heuer’s passion.

Tag Heuer wanted to have the same depth to the digital screen that it does on its analog watches. To do this, a 2.5mm thick piece of sapphire crystal is placed over the top of the screen, sinking the display down into the body. This was where Intel began to use its skill. Tag Heuer also wanted to build the connected watch in the same way as its traditional watches, using gaskets clamped together to hold everything in place, rather than glue and screws used in electronics. Hand-built Swiss components like the glass and the body are never the same twice, something Intel needed to change if it was to meet the requirements. So it introduced laser measurements to the process, reducing waste, and making it possible to build the Connected Modular 45 in an identical way to every other Tag Heuer watch.

Wearing the Connected Modular 45

Now we’ve explained why this is a true Swiss smartwatch, let’s talk about what it’s like to wear. We’ll get the size out of the way first. It’s big. The horns extend way over my wrist, and the flat underside of the watch accentuates the overall size, making it quite unsuitable for small wrists. Once it’s on, though, it’s not uncomfortable, and it’ll fit under a loose shirt cuff.

The titanium body keeps it light, and the sapphire crystal over the display looks superb, creating that beautiful 3D look Tag Heuer wanted with the familiar sapphire sheen to catch the eye. The build quality, as you’d expect, is superb. It’s solid as a rock, and obviously made to last. Metal, leather, and rubber straps are all options, and we really liked the blue rubber version with the blue bezel around the screen.

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Hands on
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The design has been refined from the Carrera Connected, and more colors have been added to the range. There’s also now the chance to strip down many of the components to build a custom version, which is where the modular aspect comes in. It’s easy to do — just unclip the horns from the body, using buttons similar to those used to secure the Apple Watch’s strap in place, pull them away from the strap, and that’s it. Tag Heuer will sell you a mechanical Connected Modular 45 body, that uses the same horns and strap, for when you don’t want to wear the digital version. The super rich can even buy a version with a fancy tourbillon movement, which costs $17,000. In total, there are more than 500 possible combinations to personalize the watch using the modular components.

Software and future updates

Tag Heuer and Intel worked closely with Google to use Android Wear 2.0 on the Connected Modular 45, right down to striking an agreement so the Tag Heuer brand name and logo shows up when you turn the watch on. Intel uses an Atom processor inside the watch, and the software experience is smooth and slick. There are many different official Tag Heuer watch faces included.

Tag Heuer and Intel are working on a very special app that will arrive on the Connected Modular 45 in early summer. It’s a time management app made specially for smartwatches, that despite living on a watch, ironically shifts away from relying on time to set and manage our schedules. Bautista gave us an example of how it will work. Say you want to remember to pick up milk on the way home from work, and set a reminder for 6pm. When the alarm sounds, you’re caught up in a meeting and dismiss it. Normally, that would be the end of it, and the milk would inevitably be forgotten.

Not so with the new app and the watch. It will understand you’re caught up at work and delay the alarm. It’ll also know when you’re travelling home, and where a grocery store is, then alert you when you’re close by. Because the alert will arrive on your watch, it’s easier to spot even when you’re driving. Naturally it requires location access, but the benefits here are substantial.


There’s little doubt the Connected Modular 45 is aimed at a niche audience, but that’s not stopping demand outstripping supply. It’s not the abomination some watchmakers would like to believe it is either. It’s proof watchmakers and technology firms really can collaborate successfully, and produce a timepiece that’s true to the industry and the brand’s own ideals, while appealing to the tech fan with strong features and excellent software. It’s what scares and holds back many traditional watch firms from introducing a smartwatch.

If and when other watches arrive from big-name Swiss firms, they’re going to need partnerships as strong and effective as Tag Heuer’s, Google’s, and Intel’s, if the final product is going to meet the standard set here. Luxury smartwatches are uncharted territory, but when they’re done right, they work. The one thing we want from the next model is a better name. We’d have taken the Carrera Connected 2 over the Connected Modular 45.

While we appreciate the Connected Modular 45 as a groundbreaking piece of wearable technology, it’s not the perfect device. It’s still too big and too thick, the design won’t appeal to everyone, and the $1,600 price is a lot of money to pay out for a smartwatch. However, most premium analog Swiss watches also cost a lot of money, and as we’ve learned, the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 deserves to stand alongside them as a true representation of the breed.


  • Amazing attention to detail
  • Latest Android Wear 2.0 software
  • Time management app is intriguing and useful
  • Stunning build quality and materials


  • Too big
  • Expensive

Buy now from:


Product Review

Mechanical hands might not save the pricey LG Watch W7

LG has a new Wear OS smartwatch, the Watch W7, but it uses a two-year-old Wear 2100 processor, and has no heart rate monitor, no GPS, and no NFC for contactless payments. Is it worth the high $450 price tag? We take a look.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (October 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.

The best Apple Watch deals for October 2018

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for October 2018

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Product Review

Apple's best product isn't the iPhone, it's the Apple Watch

Apple already ruled the smartwatch market with the Apple Watch Series 3, but the Series 4 elevates it to new levels with more screen, a sleeker design, and even an world-first electrocardiogram app that lets you keep tabs on your ticker.
Product Review

Fossil's Q Venture HR packs quality fitness features into stunning, everyday watch

Starting at $255, the Fossil Q Venture HR brings along top-notch health and fitness features without having to sacrifice style for everyday wear. It also includes Google's new Wear OS. Is it the upgrade from Fossil we've been waiting for?

The Fitbit Charge 3 is now available for purchase worldwide

Back in August, Fitbit confirmed its new wearable -- the Fitbit Charge 3. The new fitness tracker features a touchscreen OLED display, smartwatch capabilities, enhanced fitness features and more. Here's everything you need to know about it.
Product Review

Garmin's Fenix 5X Plus is built for fitness freaks who fawn over every feature

With onboard music, full-color topographic maps, and new sport metrics, the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus sets a high bar for GPS smartwatches. Find out how it can help boost your performance in our Fenix 5X Plus review.
Product Review

Withings Steel HR Sport is a fitness tracker you’ll love wearing

Withings jumps back in the wearables game with the new Steel HR Sport, a hybrid smartwatch that is as much a fitness tracker as it is a timepiece. It's so good that it hasn't left our wrist since we pulled it out of the package.

Garmin’s new Instinct GPS watch is built for the sportsman in all of us

The new Garmin Instinct is a GPS multisport watch for people who love to be outdoors. The $300 Instinct takes the best features of the company's popular Fenix watches and packages them into rugged, military-grade package.

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!