March 26, 2023
by Mike Razak
I am of the mind that TAG Heuer‘s flagship dive watch, the Aquaracer, doesn’t get the love it deserves. In most people’s estimation, it ranks no better than third amongst go-to Swiss divers. When the line got a facelift in 2020, my adoration only grew. But when TAG introduced the Aquaracer Professional 200 series, that’s when I got hopeful that more people would see the light. The unwieldy 43mm case of the 300 had been sized down to a modern and wearable 40mm. The only thing that might have been holding the Aquaracer back was the fact that, unlike many of its competitors, it was still equipped with a stock ETA movement, not something in-house or exclusive to the brand. While TAG introduced its first Aquaracer with a manufacture caliber last year with the Aquaracer Professional 1000, this year at Watches and Wonders 2023, it expands those efforts and brings a new manufacture caliber to the Aquaracer 200 series, introducing the shiny new TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Full Gold models.
The form factor is identical to previous TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 models. 40mm cases are styled with modern angles and an organic silhouette, with polished chamfers running the length of each side between brushed surfaces. The new solid gold models include one in 18k 3N yellow gold and one in 18k 5N rose gold. as well as black-DLC casebacks fitted with sapphire crystals which afford a look at the movement. The case features 200m water resistance (that’s what the “200” is for in the model name) and a black-DLC crown protected by the case’s guards. Finally, they are set with matching dodecagonal unidirectional bezels, though no lume has been applied; along with the lack of a 6 o’clock lume pip, that means these watches won’t cut the ISO mustard for proper certification as dive watches. That said, the watches should be perfectly suitable for almost any excursion, and besides, you aren’t going to wear an $18k watch when you dive the Yongala in Australia. The watches are paired with fitted rubber straps coordinated to their dials, both of which are equipped with black-DLC grade 2 titanium clasps. Unfortunately, you won’t find TAG’s ratcheting extension clasp that’s included on the Professional 300 models—here’s hoping TAG resolves that soon, as the 200s are just as deserving of such a clasp.
Also familiar is the dial on both watches. This is the classic Aquaracer garage-door style dial with horizontal grooves, interrupted only by the logo (in matching golds) and the dial text. The yellow gold model features a gradient blue dial that darkens to almost black at the dial’s edge, while the rose gold model features a grey-to-black gradient. Both feature blocky lumed hands and applied beveled trapezoidal hour markers that also feature lume. The hands and markers are all gold-plated to match their respective cases; in a bit of playful practicality, the minute and seconds hands are made to stand out. This makes them even easier to read in low light, which makes sense, as if you were to actually dive with this, those are the most critical hands. A date window—wouldn’t it be better if it were framed?—is at 6 o’clock,
Through the sapphire caseback, one can see what is arguably the main attraction (don’t be fooled by the warm glow of the gold cases): the manufacture Calibre TH31-00. In 2021, it introduced the manufacture caliber TH30, made for TAG by Kenissi, which is part-owned by and supplies movements for Tudor. With numerous brands starting to choose Kenissi, many using what appeared to be an only slightly modified version of Tudor’s movements, one had to start wondering to what degree the movements really were “manufacture” calibers or whether it was time to start simply calling Kenissi a movement supplier and labeling its movements as such. But I digress — because for the TH31-00, TAG Heuer has partnered with high-end Swiss movement manufacturer AMT, which is Sellita’s arm that offers semi-bespoke movement design and manufacture, and has produced movements for Carl F. Bucherer and Hanhart. The TH31-00 features a very impressive 80-hour power reserve, 30 jewels, and is COSC-certified, running at -4/+6 seconds per day. While AMT is still relatively new, Sellita’s track record is clear, and TAG Heuer has given the calibers five-year warranties, suggesting the brand’s confidence in the new calibers.
It’s not uncommon for brands to roll out new tech in limited or more expensive models, and this is no different. Just like with the Aquaracer 1000, TAG Heuer didn’t want to quietly introduce its newest manufacture caliber, so it opted for two ritzy solid gold models instead. There’s an even bigger picture here, though. By introducing a new manufacture caliber and doing so in its smaller dive platform, the brand is signaling two things. First, it is continuing in force with its shift away from ETA/Sellita and towards in-house and manufacture calibers. Second, it’s committing to more wearable watches than the behemoths that dominated the last 20+ years of watchmaking. To be sure, more exciting than the watches themselves is the trajectory it establishes for the brand, with my hope being that within the next few years, we see manufacture movements rolled out to most of its catalog. The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Full Gold models are not limited and are both priced at $18,450 USD. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.