The two-tone, grey-on-tan color scheme is a rare sighting in watches – in fact, it almost has a sort of Bamford Watch Department custom look to it (and I mean that in the nicest way), which just works, though on paper, it probably shouldn’t. There’s a lot of texture and shape in the dial, from the beveled, sandblasted indices and signature ribbed “shutter” texture running across the dial, to the sharp, angular bezel with its smooth ceramic insert and sand-colored engraved numerals framing it all. But like a khaki-colored FJ-Cruiser, all these bold, contrasting elements still feel cohesive. This is largely due to the tasteful color-matching, and the fact that muted, earthy tones and matte-black surfaces generally play well with texture, just as long as said surface isn’t overly large – and with universally wearable measurements of 43mm x 12mm thick, this TAG Heuer Aquaracer most certainly isn’t.

All these cool stealthy tones come at a slight cost though – and it’s the low-light luminosity. Even though the watch gets above-average marks for legibility thanks to a surprisingly generous application of grey luminous paint, it’s still a far cry from green, blue, or even tan Super-LumiNova – the latter of which might also have worked here. So while I still love and respect the design choice to use grey lume, it’s worth mentioning that this TAG Heuer Aquaracer doesn’t pack the lengthy nighttime punch of its compatriots in the WAY series.

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Ultimately, there’s only one thing that genuinely feels out of place here (well, two if you count the odd white contrast stitching on the strap), and it’s the date magnifier. Now, it’s important to note that it’s not the cyclops that bothers me, it’s the context. On any other stainless steel TAG Heuer Aquaracer variant, it would probably get a pass, but here, it looks a little like a monocle grafted on to a pair of combat goggles – painfully awkward, and wholly unnecessary once deployed in the field.

Like the others in the new WAY208 collection, this TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300 comes on a contrast-stitched nylon strap with a rubberized backing, fitted with an ultralight titanium deployant that snaps into place with a confidence-inspiring engagement. As mentioned, the white stitching is a baffling choice, but the strap itself is of very high quality. Serial strap-changers take note, the 43mm variants of the Aquaracer like the WAY208C have 21mm lug widths, which should be a boon to anyone with a healthy supply of 20mm NATO straps or 22mm rubber straps, because the watch looks exceptional on both.

When you strip away all the visual elements, a three-handed dive watch generally doesn’t have a tough job. Tell the time, and keep moisture out, at any realistic depth. Assuming that a dive watch does both of those things, there are really only two other points where a diver can stand out; the user interface, through the bezel and crown. The former must be tactile and rotate with an ease that it can be done quickly, but a firmness that implies it won’t be moved in error. And the latter must thread smoothly, and rotate without any noticeable wobble in any position. I’ve had great luck with both points on several TAG Heuer Aquaracers (including this one), and the Sellita SW200-based Caliber 5 kept great time in and out of the water, hiking, bushwhacking, and finally diving into the secret waterfall zone on Clear Creek that I’d heard so much about.

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In many ways, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer still runs the risk of alienating potential fans, due to its unapologetically bold, oft-polarizing design language. But in a sea of virtually identical divers, the WAY208C manages to stand out in all the right ways without coming on too strong. Its overtly rugged cues sidestep the usual “tactical” tropes, yielding a truly purpose-built diver hearkening the days when “Heuer” was the only name on the chevron, gracing the pages of the catalogs I once panhandled my way through as a kid. However, unlike finding actual gold, this Aquaracer looks better wet and dirty – and there aren’t many watches you can say that about.

Necessary Data
>Brand: TAG Heuer
>Model: Aquaracer 300 Caliber 5 Titanium WAY208C
>Price: US$2,800 at the time of this writing
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Oasis-hunters, anyone who vacations in Cape Town or Namibia, that guy with a a khaki-colored FJ in the driveway.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Grey lume is surprisingly good, but still not great. White stitching on the included strap is oddly mismatched. Though hardy, PVD finish will likely show some signs of long-term wear.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent finishing, striking design aesthetic, very masculine without getting in your face for it.
>If we were the boss: …We’d add a 12-hour bezel option, because let’s be honest, dive watches are the best overland adventure watches too.

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