The Tag Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5 Automatic was my first real entry into the world of luxury automatic watches. Technically, the Tissot Le Locle was my first watch before I gifted it to a close friend, but this Tag was the first watch I owned that really required a lot of research and a large investment. That said, watch collecting is definitely not for everyone and it usually takes years (if not decades) to build up a collection of several quality timepieces. For me personally, this watch was a Christmas gift to myself after getting my first sizable bonus in my job after college. At the time in 2014, I bought it new off a grey market retailer called TheWatchery, which as far as I can tell, no longer exists. After coupons and discounts, the price was $1,325, which I still believe is a good deal on this watch.
I chose this watch as my first luxury watch for two main reasons. First, I wanted something more casual, as the Tissot I owned at the time had a simple black dial with a dark brown leather strap, and as I learned during my initial research into watches, watches with bracelets are seen as more casual nowadays. Second, I wanted something that was more of a “beater watch” since I was probably going to wear it pretty often. The Aquaracer has a sapphire crystal display, which is the most scratch and shatter resistant watch glass. It’s also made of stainless steel with a closed back and has a high water resistance rating of 300m. Of course, there are many other watches that fit these requirements, but I chose this one due to Tag Heuer’s recognizable brand and quality ETA movement.
Appearance and Function
The Aquaracer’s dial is simple and clear. The hands and hour markers are polished with a luminous coating that reads clearly but subtly in the dark (it’s not an obnoxious glow-in-the-dark watch). The date display is standard at the 3 o’clock position and does not have a magnifier/cyclops, which I prefer since it means the face is completely flat. Unfortunately, the back casing is solid, meaning that we can’t see the Calibre 5 movement inside. However, it has a beautifully embossed scuba logo to make up for it.
Around the face, there is a uni-directional (CCW) rotating bezel that can be used for imprecise time estimations. Just point the triangle at the minute hand and read the bezel as the time passes. It’s obviously no chronograph, but I’ve used it many times in the kitchen and other places. The crown is adorned with the Tag Heuer “shield” logo and is screw down. The neutral position allows manual winding of the movement, while the 1st and 2nd positions on the crown change the date and minute hand, respectively. The 2nd position also stops the watch, allowing for precise time setting.
Since the back casing is solid, I can’t see the Calibre 5 movement without opening up the watch or looking online. In the picture above, however, you can see that the half circle rotor is decorated with Côtes de Genève in the center with the Tag Heuer brand engraving. There isn’t much else in terms of decoration, but I suppose that’s one of the main differences between a Tag Heuer and a more expensive luxury watch.
Mechanically, the Calibre 5 movement is a modified ETA 2824-2. Despite being probably the most mass produced Swiss movement out there, it’s clearly a competent one, given that so many companies choose to use it. That said, it’s less complex than other in-house movements and pretty much makes the entire difference in price (other than the brand name, of course) when comparing the Aquaracer to something like the Omega Seamaster. The ETA 2824-2 is pretty standard with 25 jewels and a 42 hour power reserve. It moves at 28,800 vibrations per hour, which is also the most common in the industry.
Why get a Tag Heuer Aquaracer for your daily diver watch though? It’s true that there are many other options depending on your price range. In the lowest end of the spectrum, one could get an reliable automatic diver in the Seiko Black Automatic Diver Men’s Watch for just under $200. Seiko movements have a great price-to-value ratio and they look great too. For another cheaper ETA-powered automatic diver, one can consider the Alpina Black Dial Automatic Men’s Blue Bezel Watch for under $700. It has pretty much the same specs as the Tag Heuer, except the back is transparent so you can see the movement. Lastly, the aforementioned Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean can be had for over $4,000 if that’s within budget. The in-house Omega Calibre 8800 movement is legendary in the industry for its decorations, precision, and accuracy and you can’t go wrong with that.
At first, I did feel some guilt paying $1,350 for a watch with an ETA 2824-2, since you can get watches in the $400-500 range with the same movement. But I suppose part of the price does include the decorations I mentioned as well as the brand label. However, the accuracy and precision on the Tag Heuer Aquaracer has not disappointed at all.
In my first two years of wearing this watch almost daily, I measured an average daily error of about +3 seconds/day. That’s good enough to be in the Top grade for ETA movements and falls well within the COSC standards for Chronometer certification! Unfortunately, at some point in the past year, the watch has become +14 seconds/day, but the great thing about this error is that it’s surprisingly precise in its daily error. This means that I just need to invest in a watch timing machine to adjust the watch to be faster, which apparently is a relatively easy DIY procedure, or take it to a watch repair store to get it adjusted (only costs about $50, unlike a full service). As long as a watch’s daily error is precise, it can be adjusted to be accurate, and the Aquaracer’s Calibre 5 movement has shown that it was worth the investment.
In terms of the power reserve, I can confirm that the Tag Heuer Aquaracer can last just short of two days on a full wind. Of course, if it’s on my wrist or in my watch winder, this is not an issue. On a watch winder, the Calibre 5 movement is optimally set at 650 turns per day in either or both directions (CW or CCW).
The Aquaracer has had no problems being my beater watch. I’ve worn it on multiple vacations in the ocean and although I haven’t gone scuba diving, I can confidently say that water is no match for this diving watch. However, in the pictures above, you can see that the stainless steel casing and especially the bracelet have taken a beating over the 4 years I’ve owned this watch. Fortunately, the bracelet is replaceable for cheap if necessary, and the back casing of the watch has only sustained minimal scratches (not that anyone can see it anyway). In addition, the face of the watch looks nearly perfect, even though that’s the side that I’ve banged up the most in my daily wear.
- Good brand recognition
- High end and precise ETA movement
- Durable through wear and tear
- Priced a little higher than some other similar ETA divers
Manufacturer: TAG Heuer S.A.
Reference number: WAN2111.BA0822
Functions: Date, hour, minute, second
Movement: Tag Heuer Calibre 5, automatic, 28,800 vph, diameter = 25.6 mm, 25 jewels, 42 hour power reserve
Case: Stainless steel case and case back, sapphire crystal, water resistant to 300 meters
Bracelet: Stainless steel, width = 20 mm, fold over with flip lock
Dial: Luminous hands, uni-directional rotating blue ion-plated bezel, screw down crown
Dimensions: Diameter = 41 mm, height = 12 mm
Variations: Black dial
Price: $1,325 (purchased), $1,795 (Jomashop grey market, new version), $2,550 (Tag Heuer official, new version)