The concept of gamification, or breaking everyday tasks and goals down into interactive game elements, has become a major force in recent years in fields as diverse as education, gene sequencing, and gig labor. One of the most prevalent fields for gamification, however, is fitness training. With the rise of smartwatches as workout tracking tools, the use of gamification in smartwatch training programs is a natural next step, and for TAG Heuer’s latest Connected release the brand has taken the next logical step in that line of thinking — even if a collaboration between a Swiss luxury watchmaker and the world’s most famous fictional plumber might seem totally irrational at first glance. The new TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition brings the fun and whimsy of Nintendo’s flagship video game series to the world of high-end smartwatches, adding both a playful new look to the Connected and providing an impressively clever interactive workout partner.

aBlogtoWatch recently spoke with TAG Heuer CEO Frédéric Arnault in an exclusive interview regarding the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition, and Arnault was effusive about the watch itself and its potential to help shape the future of the brand moving forward. Arnault expounded on the Super Mario partnership as a natural extension of the Connected line, stating, “The partnership with Nintendo was intended to bring gamification to the Connected Watch products. Two years ago, we were brainstorming on the Connected Watch features and were thinking of a potential collaboration that would make sense for our product offering. We felt that a partnership with Mario could allow some elements of fun, surprise and especially gamification with a wellness focus at its core. It’s a digital product that lives in the digital space, and we felt like partnering with an iconic brand from this universe could be great. And it’s not just Mario’s international and intergenerational appeal that clinched it. Mario is the ultimate super-active character whose perseverance and tenacity get him out of every situation.” When asked about future partnerships between the brand and Nintendo, Arnault was optimistic but coy, remarking, “We’ve been asked if we see any of our mechanical products teaming up with Nintendo or if this is strictly a Connected offering… my answer is; no door is closed. This is only phase one!”

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The TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition starts with the standard 45mm third-generation Connected case in stainless steel. As with the standard model, the general form of the case draws inspiration from the Carrera series, with its distinctive sharply beveled tapering lugs and broad contrasting polished chamfers. The pushers are also familiar elements here, with a wide-angled design and a contrasting red center stripe, but most of the rest of the case hardware is unique. The crown at 3 o’clock loses the classic TAG Heuer shield emblem, instead featuring the “M” logo from Mario’s distinctive cap rendered in bright red lacquer. Likewise, the narrow black-plated bezel adds some Mario-themed nods, with Super Mario’s iconic mushroom, warp pipe, and star items replacing parts of the minutes scale at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock respectively. Around back, the caseback features a limited edition engraving around the Connected’s central sensor array. Water resistance for the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition stands at a smartwatch-adequate 50 meters.

In addition to the standard Connected’s suite of touchscreen dial design options, the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition adds four exclusive Mario-themed dial designs to the list of options. The first and simplest of these is a modified version of the standard Connected’s retro-digital Timekeeping dial. This new version replaces the simple white graphics with the pixelated brick motif from 1985’s original “Super Mario Bros.,” reskinning various elements as coins, score counters, and powerups and adding a miniature retro-style Mario motif at 2 o’clock. The Connected’s dynamic, minimal, and futuristic Orbital dial design also receives a Mushroom Kingdom-inspired flair here, with the standard model’s moving neural network detail surrounding the bold Arabic numeral digital readout replaced with an ever-shifting pattern of pixelated stars, mushrooms, and green Koopa turtle shells. Lastly, the Carrera Heuer 02-inspired dial design gets two distinct Mario-themed refreshes. The first and more subtle of the pair takes a mostly monochrome black and gray approach, with red highlights for the chronograph subdial hands and a smiling Mario head design adorning the 6 o’clock running seconds subdial. The second takes a brighter, more animated approach, with Mario’s signature red and blue primary colors dominating the design and an animated Mario figure taking up the entirety of the 3 o’clock subdial. While these new dial designs are currently exclusive to this limited edition, TAG Heuer has mentioned the possibility of adding them to the standard Connected at a later date.

By far the most extensive and vibrant change to the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition, however, comes with its new gamified fitness tracking suite, working in tandem with an onboard sensor suite that includes a heart rate monitor, compass, accelerometer, and recorded activity tracker. Once a daily step tracking goal is set, Mario greets the wearer each day as the watch is strapped on with an animated doffing of his hat before the dial transitions to standard display. Once 25 percent of the step goal is reached, another dial animation plays with Mario receiving a Super Mushroom that makes him grow. At 50 percent, the wearer unlocks another animated sequence with Mario descending into an iconic green Warp Pipe, and another plays at 75 percent completion with Mario picking up a Super Star that makes him invincible with a flashing rainbow glow for a short period. Lastly, when the wearer fully completes their daily step goal, Mario emerges for one final animation to climb the Goal Pole that famously ends each level of Super Mario Bros. By adding these playful and familiar gaming elements to daily fitness tracking, the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition potentially offers a much greater sense of wearer anticipation and satisfaction at reaching exercise targets than the more common and sterile “closing rings” approach. In addition to these new features, the Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition’s Google Wear OS operating software allows for a full suite of smartwatch functions, including but not limited to a chronograph, daily weather forecasts, Google Maps, Google Pay integration, voice-activated Google Assistant and Google Translate features, message notifications, email integration, and a full calendar.

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Like the standard model, the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 smartwatch processor. The Snapdragon Wear 3100 offers a rechargeable battery life of 20 hours with normal use, including one hour of dedicated sports tracking app use. This number shortens drastically with prolonged sports app use, however, with TAG Heuer claiming only a six-hour battery life if apps like GPS tracking, the heart rate monitor, or music playback are used continuously. However, a relatively quick full recharge time of 1.5 hours mitigates the battery life issue somewhat. TAG Heuer completes the Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition with two bespoke strap options, including a black leather strap lined with bold red rubber, and a full red rubber strap with rally-style perforations. Both these straps use a quick-release system, and both use a bespoke deployant clasp engraved with Mario’s “M” emblem.

While the partnership may seem unlikely on paper, the new TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition deftly expands and reinforces the gamification concept for fitness-oriented smartwatches while offering a potential bellwether for the changing face of luxury. Beyond this, the new design injects a sense of vibrancy and childlike fun into this generally more youth-oriented segment of TAG Heuer’s line. Only 2,000 examples of the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition will be made and will be available from selected TAG Heuer boutiques starting July 15, 2021. MSRP for the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition stands at $2,150. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.

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