Introducing the New TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 Date and GMT 

Fresh takes on the brand’s flagship dive watch provide outsized value at under $5,000

June 18, 2024 6:57 am
The face of TAG Heuer's Aquaracer Professional 300 in jade.
The face of TAG Heuer's Aquaracer Professional 300 in jade.
TAG Heuer

For better or worse, certain watch companies are famous for certain types — or specific models — of watches: Rolex for a travel watch that accompanied air crews in during the early days of the Jet Age; Omega for a hand-wound timepiece that went to the Moon; Heuer for chronographs that race car drivers relied upon when burning around the track in the mid-20th century.

But each of these companies has, in turn, risen beyond a singular hero product to a state in which it has a wide range of well-regarded models, each of which has a different design remit. TAG Heuer, while still widely famed as a maker of racing chronographs, has now helped multiple generations of budding watch enthusiasts begin their collecting journeys through models such as the Link, the Formula 1 and the Aquaracer. And while brands such as Rolex, Blancpain, Omega and Panerai might be more readily associated with the higher end of the dive watch market, the Aquaracer, with its sub-$5,000 price tag, is proving a formidable force in the middle tier. 

“It’s clear that when people think about TAG, they often think about motorsports, and especially about car racing, Formula 1,” says Julien Tornare, CEO of TAG Heuer. “However, it’s more about the brand values of performance, of achievement, of pushing the limits. Aquaracer has always been there for activities other than motorsports — and that’s super important for us because we don’t only talk to people who like motorsports.”

The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 in jade. Elevated side view including crown and polished steel case.
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 in jade. Elevated side view including crown and polished steel case.
TAG Heuer

Recently, TAG Heuer introduced new versions of the Aquaracer in both time-and-date and — excitingly — in GMT format. Downsizing the case from 43mm to 42mm, it’s no doubt aiming to capitalize on the trend towards more manageable case sizes, and to capture some market share away from brands that have been performing spectacularly in this price segment such as Tudor and Seiko. With several handsome colorways on offer for each watch type, impressive brand ambassadors in two of the world’s best surfers and an array of compelling features that render them perfect for everyday wear, these new Aquaracer references should be on the radar of any self-respecting watch lover.

With its 300m of water resistance, the Aquaracer 300 series is the brand’s bread-and-butter dive watch — while TAG Heuer has produced pieces that can dive deeper as well as less expensive pieces with shallower water resistance, the 300 is competitive with watches from the likes of Omega and similar marques. Indeed, some may notice the brushed, wave-like sunray pattern on the Aquaracer 300’s dial and its similarity to a certain diver from Omega — but the aesthetic nod to the water is important to the brand, and distinct enough from the Bond-type Seamaster 300 models as to lend the Aquaracer its own character. 

The collection’s well-known 12-sided bezel with ceramic insert and white printing adds its own particular touch of refinement, while applied, rhodium-plated indices, a magnified date window at 6 o’clock and ample Super-LumiNova make for a refined aesthetic that belies the collection’s relative affordability. As for available colors, there are several: black, blue or green with matching bezels and contrasting seconds hands for the time-and-date models, and blue with a black-and-blue bezel or green with a green-and-black bezel for the GMT models.

“I think it’s probably one of the best values for money you can get on the market,” continues Tornare. “And that’s the comment I’ve heard in terms of the movement, the design, but also the level of finishing. And this is something that I pay attention to a lot. For the price you pay for these watches, you get a very high-end, Swiss-made, quality watch, and you don’t have so many in this segment.”

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Indeed, multiple case finishes — with a prominent, brushed bevel and a beautifully engraved, screw-down caseback featuring a classic dive helmet —make for an attractive package that extends throughout the collection’s multi-link, stainless steel bracelet. Terminating in a folding clasp with a fine adjustment system across a range of 1 cm for easy shortening or lengthening, it’s ideal for use with a wetsuit, or when the weather causes a wrist to expand or contract. (Models that ship on a rubber dive strap also feature this hardy clasp, which is easily opened using dual push buttons.)

Powering these pieces are two excellent, reliable movements: the automatic, COSC-certified TH31-00 with an 80-hour power reserve within the time-and-date model, and the TH31-03 for the GMT model, which adds a second time zone. Both feature extended five-year warranties, chronometer certification and a frequency of 4 Hz. With a case height of 12mm for the time-only models and 13.45mm for the GMT models, TAG Heuer has managed to craft watches in modern proportions that nevertheless wear comfortably and perform admirably under adverse conditions. 

Kai Lenny, a Red Bull athlete and world-renowned big wave surfer, wears his Aquaracer while surfing. Multiple Aquaracers, actually — he has, by his own admission, had five or so knocked off his wrist by the sheer force of the water. “Surfing is all about timing,” Lenny says. “When you’re on a wave, the wave is this fluid object and it’s constantly changing, and you’re almost predicting the future, even if that future is only a couple seconds ahead of your next move. With the surf, it’s very tide-dependent, it’s wind-dependent, it’s the timing of the swell arriving in a particular place.”

The Aquaracer Professional 300's night mode, featuring an illuminated display.
The Aquaracer Professional 300’s night mode, featuring an illuminated display.
TAG Heuer

“When you’re out in the water,” he continues, “Especially when you’re competing, you’re timing the intervals of the wave. And I use it [the watch] as a tool. If I was ever to give them to my kids or have them down the line, or just wear one after not wearing it for a while, I’ll be like, ‘Wow, I rode this. I remember this wave that I rode, or at this place, or that horrible wipeout. I had the watch, and it survived with me. And so that’s cool — it becomes very personal with each timepiece.”

TAG Heuer, for its part, has always seemed comfortable as the introduction point to luxury watchmaking, producing timepieces that, while not inexpensive, provide years of service without absolutely breaking the proverbial bank. Common gifts for both high school and college graduation ceremonies, they’re the source of happy memories for countless collectors across the world. The new Aquaracer models, scaled down for modern tastes and built with daily use in mind, will no doubt help the brand continue along this path. Having award-winning athletes use them while tackling some of the world’s biggest waves doesn’t hurt, either. 

“I really believe that in watches, it’s not only the look of it, but it’s how you feel with it,” says Tornare. “And when I say ‘feel,’ obviously it’s on your wrist, but not only that — it’s also when you grab your watch in the morning from your bedside table or wherever and you take it in your hand — it has to be a good feeling. Some watches, they’re sharp, or they pull your hair, and it’s not very comfortable. It’s a bit like when you buy a new car: Even if the car is the top one, if you sit in the driver’s seat and you don’t feel good, you’re never going to buy it. So I’m working a lot on small details to make sure [these are] watches you feel like wearing every day. When people tell me, ‘I have 25 watches, but that [TAG Heuer] one, I love to wear it every day,’ I take it as a great compliment. It means he or she feels good with a watch on his or her wrist — and that’s the whole point.”

The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300

Diameter: 42mm

Movement: TAG Heuer Calibre TH31-00; TAG Heuer Calibre TH31-03 automatic

Water Resistance: 300m

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