The latest Wear OS smartwatch by Tag Heuer boasts a more compact design with upgraded performance, more storage and a higher quality display, but offers little beyond the ‘Swiss Made’ heritage to justify such a high price.
Class-leading design and build quality
Improved display quality
No heart rate monitor
Case is narrower, but still chunky
Very high price
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The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 is a Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatch that blends Google smarts with the design, craftsmanship and price of a luxury Swiss watch. It comes a year after the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 and brings with it a few key improvements.
Firstly, the number in the names of these watches refers to the diameter of the case in millimeters. Thus, the new Modular 41 is 4mm smaller than the Modular 45 (which remains on sale). This makes the new watch more appealing to those with slimmer wrists and potentially opens up Tag Heuer’s smartwatch division to a larger audience than before.
Additionally, the new model gets a higher pixel density, plus a doubling of RAM and a doubling of onboard storage.
The Modular part of the watch’s name means the same as with the 45, in that the strap and lugs can be easily removed and swapped for alternatives depending on your mood and style. You can even swap out the case for a Tag Heuer Calibre 5 mechanical movement, if you fancy a day without Wear OS’s notifications and fitness tracking.
Naturally, a smartwatch costing from $1,200 (£1,000, AU$1,600) isn’t going to be for everyone. You could buy several alternatives for that - or, y’know, a laptop, or an Xbox One X and a 4K TV - but that isn’t really the point. Luxury Swiss watches have done little more than tell the time for decades, yet business on the shores of Lake Geneva is always booming.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 price and release date
- Very expensive for a smartwatch, but relatively good value for a Tag
- Starts at $1,200 / £1,000 / AU$1,600
Just like its bigger brother, the Connected Modular 41 runs Google’s Wear OS operating system, and as such works in the same way as smartwatches like the Huawei Watch 2, LG Watch Style and others from the likes of Fossil, Casio and Michael Kors.
Those examples also take style into account - they aren’t just miniaturized smartphones for your wrist - but the Tag Heuer gets to boast about its name, history and the ‘Swiss Made’ motif to take things to another level.
As such, the $1,200 / £1,000 / AU$1,600 starting price is unlikely to shock those familiar with the rest of the Tag Heuer range, and we suspect those who already own a Tag are the kind of people who see four-digit value in the name and logo on their wrist, as much as what it’s actually capable of.
While the larger Connected Modular 45 offers a wide range of bezel designs (white gold and diamonds, anyone?), the 41 keeps things simple.
Thanks to an online configurator you can choose from titanium or black ceramic for the bezel, then pick from a range of rubber straps, or a titanium bracelet in black or silver. The silver titanium model with a ceramic black bezel ups the cost to $2,100 / £1,700 / AU$2,800.
Design and display
- Same premium design as the larger model, but in a more compact case
- Blends the looks of a luxury watch with the touchscreen of a smartwatch
- Although the case is 4mm narrower, it is almost as thick
Just like its predecessors, the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 neatly blends the design of a luxury Swiss watch with the touchscreen, button, microphone and charging connector of a smartwatch. The Tag’s grade five titanium case looks and feels tough but isn’t overly heavy on the wrist.
What we like about this watch - and its larger sibling - is how it doesn’t shout too loudly about what it is. Those who know their watches will know, of course, but to everyone else the Connected Modular is a sharp looking sports watch which (at first glance) may or may not be a smartwatch.
Unlike the square-screened Apple Watch 3, the Tag takes an approach shared by other Wear OS devices from watchmakers: it looks like a traditional watch.
There is a single button at 3 o’clock, mimicking the crown of a mechanical watch. A press of this wakes the watch up (as does a tap of the screen or raising your wrist), then a second press shows a list of the watch’s applications. Press again and you are taken back to the watch face.
Below the button is the watch’s microphone, which is used for speaking to Google Assistant and dictating for when you want to reply to a message.
The watch gets its name from how the strap and lugs can be removed and replaced with alternatives, thus making it a modular design. There is a button where each strap connects to the case; press this while simultaneously pulling the strap towards the back of the case, and it slides free. It’s a simple but well-engineered mechanism and one we feel can be trusted to keep the watch safely on your wrist.
At 41mm across, the Tag Heuer’s case is about the average size of a men’s wristwatch. Though, this downsizing will be welcomed by anyone who felt the 45mm version was just too big for their wrists. However, the new model is only very slightly less chunky, as the depth of the case is 13.2mm compared to the 45’s 13.75mm.
When you consider the Apple Watch 3 is a skinny 11.4mm, you realize the new Tag - while more accommodating than ever before - isn’t quite as compact as it looks when viewed face-on.
It should still slip beneath the sleeve of all but the tightest of fitted shirts (and the strap tapers to a thinner width than on the 45), but it’s still a chunky timepiece. The Tag’s inherently sporty design helps the chunky dimensions look deliberate, and we feel it just about gets away with the case being as thick as it is.
The circular, 1.2-inch (30.4mm) display sits beneath 2.5mm-thick, scratch resistant sapphire glass. It’s an AMOLED panel which has a resolution of 390 x 390, and while this is 10 pixels fewer than on the larger Connected Modular 45, the smaller size means a pixel density of 326 per inch, up from 287 on the 45.
What all that means is the smaller model actually has the higher-quality display - and it’s a lovely display at that. Watch faces are beautifully crisp, with every digit, number, hand and dial looking sharp. You can still tell it’s a digital display and not a real watch face, of course, but it is very pleasing to the eye and easy to read in most circumstances.
We say ‘most’ because it can be tricky to see at a glance on sunny days. Indoors was never a problem, but outside on a bright day we sometimes wondered if the watch had somehow switched itself off, such was the lack of visibility.
A flick of the wrist, press of the button or tap of the display fixes this, bringing the watch to life and replacing the energy-saving monochrome watch face with a bright, full-color and highly detailed face.
Striking a balance between battery life and offering an always-on display bright enough to see outdoors is something all smartwatch makers are still grappling with, so we can’t single Tag out for this.
Finally, the Tag Heuer 41 is water-resistant to a depth of 50 meters, so you can take it swimming without a problem.
Alistair Charlton is a freelance technology and automotive journalist based in London. His career began with a stint of work experience at TechRadar back in 2010, before gaining a journalism degree and working in the industry ever since. A lifelong car and tech enthusiast, Alistair writes for a wide range of publications across the consumer technology and automotive sectors. As well as reviewing dash cams for TechRadar, he also has bylines at Wired, T3, Forbes, Stuff, The Independent, SlashGear and Grand Designs Magazine, among others.