As watch geeks, we’ve spent a lot of time pondering smartwatches. Here’s one we didn’t anticipate, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer 72. TAG partnered with Oracle Team USA to create a single-purpose smart watch for the sailors in the America’s Cup 2013, and the results are fascinating. Let’s take a closer look.
The boats in the 2013 America’s Cup are high-tech marvels, with ship-to-shore broadband, streaming hi-definition video, all sorts of data acquisition (to the tune of 30,000 samples per second total), and an on-board WiFi network. The boats and the race are about as tuned and competitive as you can get, with every component carrying the maximum load and the minimum material to do so. The eleven sailors all have very specific jobs to do, and each sailor needs a few bits of information to perform well.
TAG Heuer is one of many brands who currently do, or in the past have sponsored a yacht racing team. In addition to having the brand’s name on the boats themselves, the crew often all wear watches from the brand. Often times these are high-end mechanical watches. While it makes sense for the crew to wear these watches while meeting with the press, etc…, few of these watches are what they would actually wear during a race. Sailors often want precise digital watches that offer a range of details that no mechanical watch could ever hope to offer – such as a reading of wind speed. Yacht racing is all about using environmental information to make quick decisions about how to best control the boat.
In this environment, a smartwatch is an excellent solution for a yacht racing crew. Smartwatches offer information that is easy to see, and you don’t have to hold other special instruments. So TAG Heuer specially developed the Aquaracer 72 smartwatch for the crew to use. How is it a smartwatch? According to TAG Heuer, the watches run on custom software and includes WiFi. The watches are designed to connect with an on-board WiFi network on the boat. Also connected to the network are a series of instruments and sensors. The Aquaracer 72 watch is thus able to display a lot of real-time information from all over the ship at a glance. Further, TAG Heuer customized each of the watches for each member of the crew – as their individual data needs vary.
Working in secrecy, TAG Heuer collaborated with the Oracle team, in particular Gilberto Nobili, to create the Aquaracer 72 and the arm-mounted PDAs you see in the next picture. These run the same software but are configured to display more data, and are used by the captain and tactician, each of whom need more information to do their jobs.
What types of information may an Aquaracer 72 watch display? The dial looks as though it is setup to display four pieces of information at once. Though it is possible that the dividers between the information areas can be further reconfigured. The pictured example of the Aquaracer 72 displays the true wind speed (TWS), true wind direction (TWD), boat speed (BS), and true wind angle (TWA)… more »