In the massive and high-profile arena of mainstream luxury dive watches, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer has been something of a perennial dark horse. With a more modernist design philosophy and without the lengthy heritage surrounding of some of its rival nameplates, it’s a line that has rarely led discussions surrounding divers or even the brand’s own watches despite a track record of quality and often impressive value. As TAG Heuer shapes its core product lines for the 2020s, however, the marque has heavily reinvented the core Aquaracer series with a design that doubles down on several defining Aquaracer cues while softening others for a more balanced and mature look. The new TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 series sports five distinctive 43mm models, including the vintage inspired limited edition TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 Tribute to Ref. 844, that bring a clean and distinctively angular new ethos to the series.
The 43mm case of the new TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 series is still instantly recognizable as an Aquaracer, but substantially refines the look over previous generations. The overall design is still angular and modern, with traditionally curved forms translated into flat planes and abrupt corners. Where this new case really sets itself apart from its predecessors is through the case sides, where the fully polished flat surface has been changed to a brushed finish with a wide polished chamfer running from lug to lug. This breaks up the case sides visually and creates the illusion of a thinner case profile in images, although the actual case thickness is only marginally reduced by 0.35mm to 12.2mm overall. Like with last year’s revised Carrera Sport Chronograph, many of the geometric changes here are designed to make the large-on-paper 43mm diameter wear more compact than the numbers suggest, and a large component of this is the new lug geometry. In addition to the slimming addition of the chamfer, the lugs themselves are markedly shorter than the previous generation, which will likely lead to a more compact footprint on the wrist for most wearers.
The other major visual change for this new generation comes courtesy of the Aquaracer’s signature 12 sided bezel. The bezel itself is now fully coin edged for a simpler look and improved grip, while the inserts in black, blue, or green are now ceramic across the line. This move to ceramic brings the Aquaracer more in line with its modern competition, but together with the new bezel edge reframes much of the design as a much more orthodox affair. The overall impression from the case design is less the yachting-inflected mix of luxury and aggression of previous generations, and more of a low-poly take on classic diver cues. This is charming and charismatic in its own way, like a dive watch rendered with the graphical capability of a PlayStation 2, and should appeal to a wider audience than the idiosyncratic feel of previous models. TAG Heuer itself leans into this angular computer-graphic ethos with its revised caseback, which revamps the Aquaracer’s signature dive helmet engraving with a sharply edged new look. The only curved lines on this new case come through the new cyclops date magnifier on top of the sapphire crystal at 6 o’clock.
While the core three models of the new collection render this new case form in a blend of polished and sporty brushed stainless steel, the green dial variant sets itself apart with a matte bead blasted finish in dark Grade 2 titanium. For the limited edition Aquaracer Professional 300 Tribute to Ref. 844, TAG Heuer keeps a suitably old-school pairing of black bezel and stainless steel case. Regardless of material or finishing, all new models in the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 series are water resistant to a robust 300 meters.
Like the cases, the dials of the new Replica TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 line maintain recognizable Aquaracer cues while evolving the overall design significantly. The sunburst dials in black, blue, green, and bright silver keep the Aquaracer’s trademark horizontal engraved lines, but here the ridged sections are wider and less numerous for a cleaner feel. TAG Heuer unifies the angular design of the case with the dial through its new set of applied diver indices, which replace the classic round markers with octagonal pieces. Combined with the beveled wedge-shaped indices at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and 9 o’clock, these new markers give a touch of unique personality to the line and further sell the funky low-resolution computer generated effect. The handset is also extensively reworked, replacing the complex paddle designs of the previous generation with a classic set of Roman swords. The seconds hand keeps the Aquaracer’s distinctive wedge shaped tip, however, with a punch of vibrant yellow that adds a dramatic visual highlight. TAG Heuer prioritizes easy legibility with its Super-LumiNova lume fill here, as the critical minutes and seconds hands immediately stand out with a blue glow against the green used for the rest of the dial. Balance is a visual priority for these new dials as well, as TAG Heuer moves the date window to 6 o’clock to preserve symmetry.
In order to echo the classic Heuer Ref. 844 diver from 1978, the dial of the limited edition TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 Tribute to Ref. 844 differs sharply from its stablemates. The engraved sunburst dial surface is ditched in favor of a heavily grained matte black here, while the lume fill is a warm khaki fauxtina. The Tribute to Ref. 844 adds an extra splash of color to the look with an internal 24 hour scale in deep red, calling back to the 1978 model while adding some useful function. These changes add up to a markedly different effect from regular production models, creating an intriguing blend of old and new that reads less as a vintage reissue than a retro-modern revival.
All models in the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 line are powered by the ETA based Calibre 5 automatic movement. While a reliable and easily maintained powerplant, this movement may become something of an Achilles heel for the line as most of its competitors currently sport in-house designs. The Caliber 5 is a bit long in the tooth compared to much of the segment, and its performance is in line with its age at a solid but unspectacular 42 hour power reserve with a 28,800 bph beat rate.
TAG Heuer offers the Aquaracer Professional 300 series with a refreshed variant of its three link oyster style bracelet. Compared to the previous version, this new model is more flowing and streamlined, with less emphasis on blocky angular elements and wider central links. The clasp has also been heavily reworked, with a new sliding micro-adjustment system. The core stainless steel models render this new bracelet in fully brushed stainless steel, while the green dial titanium variant naturally opts for a matching matte titanium version. For the Tribute to Ref. 844, TAG Heuer pairs the watch with a modern curved end take on a vintage big hole rubber tropic strap, cleverly integrating the look into the overall design with octagonal holes in place of the original round style.
For Watches & Wonders 2021, TAG Heuer is going back to the roots of the Aquaracer with a brand new lineup that spans four 40mm references, three 36mm references, and one 43mm limited edition that has been directly inspired by a vintage Heuer diver from 1978. Reportedly thinner, lighter, and shorter lug-to-lug, with a bevy of colors and a smattering of titanium (and even diamonds), the new Aquaracer Professional 300 looks streamlined, thoughtful, and as versatile as ever.
Speaking specifically to the standard production models, the 2021 Aquaracer line has been divided into two categories, 43mm (above) and 36mm (below). All seven of the new Aquaracers have a handsome new handset, a simplified dial design, a newly designed ceramic bezel insert, 300 meters water resistance, a screw-down crown, and a solid caseback.
Likewise, all iterations of the new WBP2XX (that’s the reference family) use TAG Heuer’s Caliber 5, an automatic movement based on the ETA 2824-2. With 42 hours of power reserve and a date display that has been placed at six o’clock, the Caliber 5 is an entirely known quantity and offers a lot in terms of reliable performance, timekeeping ability, and eventual service costs.
The general style is consistent across both size options, but you can quickly tell one from the other as the standard 43mm models have yellow text on the dial and a yellow accent at the point of the seconds hand. Additionally, the green-dial version at 43mm has a titanium case and bracelet (WBP208B.BF0631), and the blue 36mm Aquaracer (WBP231B.BA0618) has eight diamond hour markers
While the full and specific dimensions have not yet been disclosed, TAG Heuer has stated that the new Aquaracers are thinner, lighter, and have shorter lugs. Heuer has also fitted a new bracelet with a tool-less micro-adjust system in the clasp. It offers 1.5 cm of extension and can be adjusted without removing the watch from your wrist. This sort of thoughtful bracelet design is not common to the dive-watch scene, and I can’t wait to get a chance to take a look at the mechanism and try it out on my own wrist.
While certainly similar to the previous WAY2XX reference, these new Aquaracers look a lot less fussy. The dial has been simplified with new markers and less text, the hands are less complicated, and the date has been moved to six o’clock and is capped by a cyclops mounted inside the crystal. Likewise, the bezel design has been refined, with a more elegant font for the insert and jimping along the profile for better grip.
Put it all together, and this looks like a positive step forward for the Aquaracer, but I can’t help but scratch my head a bit at the sizing. The previous generation (using the same movement) was offered at 43mm and 41mm, so it’s a bit of a miss to offer this new one at 43mm and 36mm, but nothing in the middle. Brands like TAG Heuer must have appealing dive watches for everybody, and it’s hard to argue with the success of 40mm dive watches over, well, just about the entire history of the dive watch.
And while I don’t necessarily think that the 43mm version is going to be way too big (or that the 36mm is too small), I do think that the Aquaracer needs to exist in the 39-40mm range and that the need will only be more pressing in the coming years. That said, who knows, maybe a middle option is already in the works. It may seem like a nitpick – arguing the delta between 40 and 43mm – but think about how much a 2mm change meant to Tudor over the past couple of years.
The TAG Heuer designers worked with the model line’s six signature features to give the Aquaracer a bold, ergonomic new look. The most prominent of them all is the signature 12-faceted unidirectional bezel. The bezel received a ceramic insert upgrade and a reworked internal tooth profile for a smooth rotating mechanism while the form remained. Next, they integrated the magnifier of the date at 6 o’clock into the underside of the crystal. This way, the sapphire crystal’s surface remains flat. Using the shape of the bezel as inspiration, the raised indexes were redesigned to an octagonal shape. To further enhance legibility, the sword hour hand became wider while the minute hand even narrower. Furthermore, TAG Heuer made some changes to the crown guard, which is now less pointy with rounded and beveled edges. The overall watch became thinner and lighter, with the brand slimming down all components.
The company made the lugs shorter to make the new TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300 Professional more “neutral” aside from the changes mentioned above. The chamfers and polished edges give a harmonious look to the timepiece making it easily wearable on most occasions. On the back, TAG placed a redesigned scaphander diving suit helmet. It is now more rectangular to match the overall design of the Aquaracer 300 Professional. The new line consists of eight models. Five of them are 43mm, with one being the Aquaracer Professional 300 Tribute to Ref 844, which is limited to 844 examples. This watch sports a smooth black dial with the red 24-hour scale and beige lume for a vintage look.
Aside from this limited edition, three more watches are coming in steel and one in titanium. Moreover, the steel ones have blue, black, or silver dials with black or blue ceramic bezels. All three of them come with a horizontally engraved dial. Subsequently, the fifth model comes with a green bezel and dial and in a Grade-2 titanium case. This model otherwise looks precisely like the steel Aquaracer. Besides, TAG Heuer created three ladies models as well. Here, the case is steel and 36mm. Just as you’d have it with the larger models, there is a pattern on the dial. However, here it is a subtle wave motif. Although the black and dial silver versions have the same indexes as the 43mm versions, the blue model is fancier. TAG Heuer added eight diamonds to it instead of traditional indexes.
While the new Aquaracer Professional 300 maintains the same silhouette as the previous model, make no mistake that the new watch represents a significant step forward for the Aquaracer line. There’s a re-profiled and polished case, a redesigned caseback, new bracelet and rubber straps, an updated dial, new hands and a revised bezel. It’s a long list. So it’s somehow both familiar, yet all-new at the same time.
Launched today at the Watches & Wonders online watch fair, the Aquaracer Professional 300 Calibre 5 collection are the first new watches in the revised Aquaracer family, which will extend to other models and movements over the coming months. And yes, while the previous watch was the Aquaracer 300m, the new one is the Aquaracer Professional 300– no “m”.
The Aquaracer Professional 300 is the first major redesign of the Aquaracer series since 2014 and brings back the “Professional” name, which was added to the dial of TAG Heuer dive watches during the 1980 and 90s. As we ran through the changes in the spec sheets, there are two key themes that we kept coming back to. Firstly, the new range steps up the quality of materials and finishing to justify a higher price point and secondly, TAG Heuer’s designers have enthusiastically embraced the 12-sided bezel as a key design thematic, with dodecagons and octagons featuring prominently.
Overall, we love the new look, which seems to keep all the strong elements of the previous model, yet also addressing a couple of areas which never quite gelled on the 2014 re-design.