You don’t need me to tell you the mainstream watch media all dance to the same tune. Just surf for the latest watch news from the usual suspects. All of a sudden, on the same day, aBlogtoWatch, HoDinkee, dmarge, Esquire, Time & Tide et al. are singing the praises of the same watch. Today it was the new TAG Heuer X Bamford Aquaracer. No surprise there . . .
According to adweek.com, this year, TAG Heuer will spend $10m on U.S. advertising and $45m worldwide. A big chunk of that ad spend goes to the aforementioned media outlets – including display ads, affiliate payments, wholesale prices (for sites that sell TAGs), junkets, wine-and-dine schmoozefests and watch discounts to “friends and family.”
So when TAG says here’s a press kit on the new TAG Heuer x Bamford Aquaracer embargoed until Black Friday, the watch blogs are on board. And when the articles appear, not a negative word was heard.
Is This the Ultimate Tool Watch? Esquire asks. Using quote marks try to maintain a shred of editorial integrity, Dmarge’s all caps headline calls the newest Aquaracer the ‘ULTIMATE SPORTS WATCH’.
The TAG Heuer x Bamford Aquaracer sells for $4400. TAG’s limiting production to 1500 examples. If they all sell – which they should given the subsidized praise heaped on the watch – the LMVH group will gross $6.6m. Not as much loot as TAG generates from its back catalogue, but it ain’t hay.
The question none of the media sycophants are answering (at least not honestly): is the TAG Heuer x Bamford Aquaracer worth $4400? Keep in mind the Bamford LE is a modified version of the standard Aquaracer, a 300m dive watch available in no less than sixty-nine variants.
Like the other automatic Aquaracers, the top-priced modded model’s powered by TAG’s Calibre 5 automatic movement, a reworked version of the ETA 2824-2. Even aBlogtoWatch admits that the engine’s no great shakes, albeit grudgingly.
While many of its competitors in this segment have moved on to in house movements, the Calibre 5 remains a reliable if unspectacular performer with a 42 hour power reserve and a 28,800 bph beat rate.
Justifying the price bump: Bamford styling and a blasted matte finish Grade 2 “pure” titanium case, bracelet and bezel. It’s the only Aquaracer so equipped.
Problem: commercially pure Grade 2 titanium has moderate strength. In other words, it scratches more easily than Grade 5 (alloyed with 6% aluminum and 4% vanadium). We’re talking the difference between 149 and 349 Vickers.
In fact, Grade 5 titanium is slightly softer than the industry standard 316L stainless steel (152 Vickers). While many watchmakers choose Grade 2 titanium for both weight and aesthetic reasons, I reckon the choice disqualifies the Bamford watch from being the “ultimate” tool or sports watch.
“Bamford was particularly drawn to the material’s lightness – its combination of low density and high strength,” Esquire reports. “’I wanted to make the ultimate tool watch,’ [George Bamford] explains over Zoom. ‘I love the lightweight feeling and I wanted you to be able to put it on your wrist and go anywhere in in the world. Something that you could go cycling, mountain climbing or diving with and not really care. It’s not that thing where you have to polish it because it’s got a bit of a mark on it.'”
And there you have it: an admission by the watch’s creator that the TAG Heuer x Bamford Aquaracer is a scratch magnet. Do any of the aforementioned websites mention this? They do not.
They’re too busy singing the watch’s praises. Dmarge lauds the entire Aquaracer line “for being tough enough to face any challenge.”
Titanium schmitanium. Most buyers will focus on the new TAG’s looks. To this reviewer’s eyes, the date wart ruins the dial (as regular readers will have surmised), but that’s the way the 43mm automatic Aquaracers roll.
If we’re judging the non-Bamford automatic models’ horizontal dial texture against the modded watch’s circular pattern, I’m with Bam. For an extra $1200? Not it.
TAG Heuer’s $1600 (ask for discount) 41mm white dial fine-brushed stainless steel case and band quartz Aquaracer is more my horological cup of tea. Not to mention the $745 300m stainless steel automatic Yema Navygraf Heritage, complete with an in-house movement.
But then the quartz TAG isn’t a limited edition titanium auto. Nor is it the Next Big Thing that TAG’s marketing department’s busy hawking through its editorial friends and family. So I guess it’s not worth mentioning.
The watch media makes it money doing the bidding of an industry obsessed with the thrill of the new. (Rolex not so much – a lesson to us all.) The trick with the TAG Heuer X Bamford – or any new watch flooding the watchblogosphere – is to resist getting caught up chasing the latest thing. What I call “the magic feather syndrome.”
Bottom line: hype is hype (na na na na na). There is no “ultimate watch.” That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. If there was One Watch to Rule Them All, well, where’s the fun in that?