Saturday, March 7, 2015

Review of Tag Heuer Aquaracer 500 Automatic in Black


Model # WAK2180.FT6027

Brand/Model:  Tag Heuer Aquaracer 500 Automatic
Movement:   Swiss automatic
Material:  black titanium carbide coated titanium case and rubber strap with stainless steel deployant
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP $3,400 USD


Plenty of photos follow the review. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Tag Heuer continues to impress me.  I feel their watches are too quickly written off by some people as a ‘fashion’ brand or something not to be taken seriously amongst watch collectors.  I’ve always been satisfied with the quality and feel of their watches and the sportiness of many of their designs.

Tag Heuer has quite a wide variety of Aquaracer models in both 300 meter and 500 meter water resistance ratings.  The series celebrates Tag’s partnership with Oracle Team USA in the 34th America’s Cup.

The Aquaracer 500 reviewed here has understated elegance while retaining a definite sporting edge. Due to its black case, bezel and strap, some may find it too dark as all black watches can be a love or hate proposition, but in this case, the color works great on this model.  This was also a difficult watch to photograph, so I apologize if the photos aren’t up to their usual quality.

Many online descriptions of this particular Aquaracer model list the case as being made of stainless steel.  The case is in fact Grade 2 titanium with a black titanium carbide coating as confirmed on Tag Heuer’s official web site.  For some odd reason, the caseback does not indicate what material the watch is made from, which is a bit strange, but rest assured, the case is titanium.

This Aquaracer 500 automatic starts with the aforementioned titanium case with titanium carbide coating that measures 41mm without the signed, screwdown crown and 46.3mm with the crown included.  The crown screws down with a satisfying minimum of three complete turns and has a smooth and positive action.

An automatic helium escape valve (HEV) is located on the left side of the case at the 10 o’clock position.  It would be nice if the HEV was black carbide coated as is the rest of the case, as the silver tone of the HEV makes it stand out unnecessarily against the rest of the watch case.  Small demerits here.

The caseback is nicely embossed with a diver helmet logo and of course, is a screwdown type.  At least the caseback is black, as some watches with black cases still have a silver tone caseback.

Case thickness is 12.2mm and lug width is a manageable 20mm, which makes it easy to find a wide variety of aftermarket straps if you so choose.  It’s nice that this watch has a high water resistance rating but is not overly bulky as some deep divers can be.

The Aquaracer 500 is factory-rated at 500 meters of water resistance.  Overall fit and finish on this watch is first-rate and the black titanium carbide coating is evenly applied and appears to be very durable.

The dial on this Aquaracer 500 has horizontal ridges (Tag calls them a ‘horizontal streak effect’) that lend a unique and subtle texture to the watch face.  The hands are silver with inset lume and the seconds hand is a simple silver stick with a yellow pointer tip with infilled lume.  Lume quality is excellent.

There are rectangular lume filled markers at each five minute mark on the dial.  The quickset date window is framed in white at the three position.  The date wheel is white on black and alignment is the window is perfect.  A white chapter ring is printed on the outer-most edge of the dial with minute marks for the entire hour.

What I especially like about this dial is the clean, legible layout.  The hands are easy to see, the yellow tip on the seconds hand is a nice touch and the texturing of the dial adds interest without being distracting.

Below the 12 marker is the Tag Heuer logo and ‘Aquaracer’ below the logo.  Above the six marker is ‘Calibre 5’, ‘Automatic’ and ‘500 M / 1650 ft’.  All the nomenclature is in white and is not distracting and doesn’t clutter up the dial.  Again, nicely done.

The dial is capped with a flat sapphire crystal, most likely with anti-reflective coating.  I say this only because Tag does not definitively say whether the crystal on the Aquaracer 500 has A/R coating on it. 

The bezel is a 120-click unidirectional type that rotates easily with no backlash.  The bezel has a coin-edge with grippers plus a black ceramic insert with a lume pip at the 12 position.  Arabics mark every 10 minutes on the bezel, with hash marks for the five minute positions.  It’s a very symmetrical bezel layout and again, is not overdone in anyway.  It’s a no-nonsense bezel that functions like it should.  

Inside the Aquaracer is Tag Heuer’s Calibre 5 automatic movement.  This engine starts as a base Swiss ETA 2824-2 with either 25 or 26 jewels (again, Tag doesn’t say exactly which) and is tweaked and decorated by Tag.  It beats at 28,800 vph, hacks, manually winds and does everything a quality Swiss watch movement is supposed to do.

Accuracy, as with all Tag Heuer watches I have owned, is superb, despite not being COSC certified.  Timekeeping in the crown-up position has been a fine +3 seconds over 24 hours with the expected 41-1/4 hour power reserve this movement should deliver. 

Crown action, winding, setting and date quick-setting function perfectly, so no complaints whatsoever in the movement department.

The rubber strap on the Aquaracer 500 is signed somewhat garishly with the Tag Heuer name.  At least it isn’t painted white or something, but rather molded into the strap in black.  The strap is also scented with vanilla, which I really don’t care for.  The smell is rather strong, but after awhile, you tend not to notice it so much, but I would really prefer an unscented strap.

The strap measures 20mm at the lugs and tapers to 17.9mm at the clasp.  The strap is the type where the loose end tucks under the opposite strap edge, so it wears like a bracelet with no strap end to flap around.  Another nice feature of this design is that the strap adjustment is infinite, as there are no holes in the strap.  You also do not have to cut or trim the strap to get a proper fit.  Very nice! 

The strap also has ridges on the inside to improve grip on the wrist and overall is a comfortable piece.

The pushbutton clasp is signed with the Tag Heuer logo and is satin finished stainless steel with a machined deployant.  I do wish the clasp was black to match the strap and the rest of the watch and also made of titanium to match the material of the case.  Small nitpicks, but important.

Presentation is standard Tag, with a white cardboard overwrap, a black cardboard two-piece outer box and a black padded inner box with a separate leatherette holder for the documentation.  Totally acceptable for this watch.

The Tag Heuer Aquaracer series is a fine choice for anyone looking for a quality ‘tool’ watch whether or not you are a diver.  The Aquaracer 500 series turns everything up a notch, and the model reviewed here is a superb timepiece, with an excellent feature set, high quality and a clean, functional design that works on land, sea, air or even in a cave, if you are a spelunker.  A very well done design by Tag Heuer.

Pros:  titanium case with black titanium carbide coating, legible dial, great Swiss engine, high water resistance, comfortable and practical strap design, quality all the way through

Cons: HEV valve should be black to match rest of watch, clasp should be black and made of titanium to match rest of watch, scented rubber strap is too smelly

Verdict: the black titanium Aquaracer 500 is a fine tool watch that delivers on almost all points and is a superb piece you can enjoy anywhere because of its fine style, rugged design and high quality
 
Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.

Excelsior!


-Marc


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