So often technical innovations in watchmaking require a large swath of knowledge to truly be appreciated. Take, for instance, a silicon balance wheel, and what someone might think upon hearing those words. A silicon balance wheel? Neat! What’s a balance wheel? Why do I care about silicon? Is it different than silicone?
As someone whose livelihood is tied to the click-click-clicking of watch-curious fingers, I hope that that balance wheel sets someone off on their watch-loving journey. But! It is occasionally fun, thrilling even, in its own sick way, to encounter a watch innovation that almost anyone can appreciate. Enter the new TAG Heuer Aquaracer Solargraph. Last year the watch made its solar-powered debut in the form of a steel, black-DLC-coated bad boy with a majorly lumed-up dial. This year’s version features a new light-as-air grade 2 titanium case and bracelet, and carries over the sunray dial and lumed indices. The material change not only physically lightens the watch up, it turns the whole look of the vibe down a notch, easing up on the EXTREME vibe of the previous release.
I knew I’d be seeing the watch IRL at LVMH watch week and while I was excited to ask a lot of questions, I wasn’t that excited to actually see or feel the watch. An interesting thought exercise, I thought, but not for me. But I was wrong! It is an interesting thought exercise and might actually be for me, or you, or anybody, in a truly surprising way. It is easy, and I think fair, to relegate the environmental impact of one’s watch to the back of the folder in your mind labeled “things to worry about at two am.” They’re small devices that are designed to be kept forever or as close to forever as they can, so yeah, it’s not as pressing a matter as scaling back on your private jet usage. But every little thing matters, so when a technical development is both interesting and impactful, one can’t help but think “maybe I’ll get one of these and create some space in the anxiety folder to wonder about what would happen if my appendix burst during an international flight over the ocean.”
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph 40 and its super long-lasting battery not only offer peace of mind for the deeply anxious, but it’s also interesting and useful, and understandably cool to both watch and non-watch people alike. It is not the first solar-powered watch, in fact, the watch is made in collaboration with La Joux-Perret, which is owned by Citizen, the OG of solar watches. But it is a solar watch in a very TAG Heuer package, bringing with it all the design codes and history the brand is known for. That synthesis is most obvious in the dial design where the horizontal lines are both familiar and useful – they’re semi-transparent to allow the light to power up the TH50-00 movement. Here’s where things get really interesting: 20 hours of charging will power the watch for a whole six months. That’s some real doomsday shit right there. Imagine you need to know the time but don’t want to leave your bunker that often – just pop out for a few hours and you’re set for the next couple of months. The watch never needs a battery change. It’s its own self-sustaining ecosystem, surviving off of the sun’s rays.
But all of that innovation would be pretty useless if the watch was so big and heavy and ugly that no one wanted it on their wrists. Like I said, from the pictures I wasn’t exactly foaming at the mouth for this watch, but when I saw it in person it felt immediately special. The combination of the material and design feels fairly unique, the brushing of the titanium and the weightlessness on the wrist make it feel almost less like a watch and more like a bracelet or even a toy, which is impressive because it is a respectable 40mm. It’s like an air boost sneaker, you know there’s a lot of innovation and research and arch support happening but your first reaction is that it feels like you’re walking on nothing and you also look cool. I’m pretty apathetic when it comes to lume, I’m not a diver or a sportsman and I try not to check the time during the movies, but the fact that there is so much lume on the indices and hands reinforces that this watch is a tool on top of being a feat of watchmaking. We, Hodinkee, talk a lot about how folks come into the world of watches and how we can bring more people in. And I, Nora, tend to try to do so with storytelling and occasionally diamonds. But every once in a while there is a TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph 40 watch that has something about it that is just so cool, and makes me so giddy that I can’t help but shout it from the rooftops. So hey! You! Person who thinks they don’t like watches! Come look at this watch that looks cool and has all the hallmarks of this brand called Tag Heuer that I can tell you about if you want but no pressure that can also literally last forever if you treat it right and gets its power from the sun and actually only needs just a little bit, like two minutes for one full day, and isn’t that neat you’re sort of saving the earth and preparing for the worst case scenario and also it looks kind of streetwear ish at the same time!!!!!! Isn’t life and this watch just Neat!!???