Hands-on Review: TAG Heuer Aquagraph
One of the highlights of the TAG Heuer’s range over the last 30 years has been the triumvirate of “hard-core’ diving watches: The Heuer/ TAG Heuer 1000m (Spirotechnique), the Heuer/ TAG Heuer Super Professional and the watch that is the subject of this week’s review: the TAG Heuer Aquagraph. Based on the TAG Heuer 2000, the Aquagraph is a true “tool watch” and one that already hold a special place with TAG Heuer collectors as a future classic.
Reviewing the watch for Calibre 11 is “MCV”, as Marc is known on the web. He is a long-time watch lover and professional writer who has written this review of his watch. DC
- Brand/Model: TAG Heuer 2000 Aquagraph
- Reference: CN211A
- Movement: Swiss automatic w/ Swiss chronograph module
- Material: stainless steel case and bracelet; rubber dive strap included with accessory dive kit
- Complications: chronograph timing in one-second increments up to 12 hours; 24-hour indicator sub-dial
- Price: approx. $3500 USD (at time of sale; watch now discontinued)
The TAG Heuer 2000 Aquagraph was first introduced in 2003 as a heavy-duty piece as part of their long running 2000 series. About a year later, the 2000 series became the ‘Aquaracer’ series, so the ‘2000’ moniker was dropped and the watch was simply known as the ‘Aquagraph’ from 2005 and on.
This was one serious chronograph, the first able to be operated as a chronograph while under water, thanks to the unique rubber sealed chronograph pushers. The Aquagraph made its last appearance in the 2008 time-frame, but examples of these watches can still be found brand new and also on the used market.
The Aquagraph, even in 2012, is still a very unique, functional and generally awesome tool watch and one that is truly designed and built for the task at hand, that is, deep diving. TAG Heuer made a point of having each Aquagraph individually tested to make certain it achieves its 500 meter rating, including testing the security of the screw in plates that seal the rubber covered chrono. pushers.
The Aquagraph came in only one flavor (yellow chrono. hands on a black dial) and this seems to have helped make it the iconic watch that it has become. This watch has many intriguing features and nothing that is frivolous or unnecessary. Let’s begin with the basics. The fully brushed stainless steel case measures 43.2mm without the signed screw-down crown; 46.6mm crown inclusive. Lug width is 22mm, thickness is an expectedly chunky 15.9mm due to the chrono. module and the 500 meter depth rating. The case back screws down and features a very cool and heavily embossed deep-sea scuba diver helmet logo in the center.
The screw down crown is one of the unique features of this watch. The crown itself is nicely knurled with deep ridges between the knurls for a secure grip. When viewed from the underside (case back side), one sees a colored gasket (either yellow or red/orange in color, as TAG Heuer used both colors for the gasket) between the crown and case side.
If the crown is unscrewed, the colored gasket becomes visible from the dial side, warning the wearer that the watch is not water-resistant because the crown is unscrewed. TAG Heuer refers to this feature as a ‘security indicator’. When the crown is properly screwed down, this gasket is only visible from the rear of the watch. A simple, elegant and nifty little addition to this watch and one that shows this piece means business.
Movement- Calibre 60
Inside this watch is another surprise. TAG Heuer decided to use an automatic ETA 2892-2 base movement with a Dubois Depraz 2073 chronograph module stacked on top. This gives the watch a genuine jewel count of a heady 46 jewels! TAG christened this movement the ‘Calibre 60’.
What makes this movement combination really special is the Lemania 5100-like large center chronograph minutes hand, which sits underneath the chronograph’s large center seconds hand. This design makes it extremely easy to see how many minutes have elapsed on the chrono., doubly so because both these hands are painted a bright yellow and the minute hand has a large arrow tip replete with a generous amount of lume. Super cool! TAG Heuer mentions this as being important to a diver concerning the duration of decompression stages.
The automatic Calibre 60 winds smoothly, quietly and runs a fine 45 hours on a full wind. Accuracy in my testing procedure has yielded an average of +4 seconds over 24 hours, which is superb. Chronograph functions are crisp and accurate, with start, stop and reset procedures working perfectly. The rubber covers do not hinder the operation of the pushers in any way.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Aquagraph are its rubber-covered chronograph pushers. They are rectangular, with the rubber covers held in place by steel plates secured with screws. This design allows the chronograph to be used while submerged in water, one of the only (if not the only) chronographs to be able to say this.
The dial on the Aquagraph is a slightly gloss black with inset sub-dials for the chronograph and watch functions. The sub-dial at 3 is the main watch seconds hand, nicely done in yellow with a small arrow tip, easy to see and confirm that the watch is running while under water.
The sub-dial at 6 is the 12-hour chronograph totalizer while the sub-dial at 9 is a 24-hour (am/pm) indicator. Not sure why they decided to put this 24-hour indicator complication on this watch, as there is no day or date function, but I guess it’s nice to have regardless.
As stated previously, the two large yellow center hands are the chronograph seconds and minutes counters. The main watch hands are simple in design, silver with inset lume. The hands are a bit stubby and wide, but not overly so. Round applied markers with lume complete the dial’s presentation.
As with any serious dive watch, lume quality is strong, bright green and long lasting. There are even lume dots that encircle the bezel, with a lume pip at 12 on the bezel as well.
And speaking of the bezel, this is another unique point of this watch and a design that shows TAG Heuer was serious about serious diving. The bezel has six large ridges or bars on it to assist in turning it and that also add a bit of style.
The bezel design is a unidirectional 60-click variety, but one that is locked and ratcheting, so as to prevent accidental movement of the bezel while diving. You have to push firmly straight down on the bezel and while still pushing down, turn it to the desired time, then release it, locking the bezel in place. Not real easy to do, but it does work and accomplishes the goal of having the bezel stay in the position it has been moved to. This bezel has been designed so even while wearing gloves the bezel is usable.
The crystal is anti-reflective sapphire and is suitably thick to accomplish the 500 meter water resistance rating. No distortion has been noticed with the crystal. And speaking of 500 meters of water, there is also an automatic helium escapement valve (HEV) in the center on the left hand side of the case.
The bracelet on the Aquagraph is pretty much a no-nonsense oyster-style solid link stainless steel affair with the links held in place by the dreaded pin and collar system, but at least you know the bracelet will retain its integrity while being worn.
The bracelet is 22mm at the lugs and tapers to about 19mm at the clasp. Solid end links and a signed, push-button locking clasp with machined deployant complete the set up. The push-button design of the clasp against the deployant is such that the clasp actually locks in place around the deployant instead of just fitting in by friction, so again, you can be assured the watch will stay on your wrist.
TAG Heuer also outfitted the Aquagraph with a machined diver’s extension that folds out and locks in place, which is a nice touch (below).
You really can’t complain about the bracelet in any way with the exception of Tag only including one half-link for sizing and the total lack of micro-adjustments on the clasp. At the very least, two half-links should be included. The lugs on the watch are drilled to facilitate strap/bracelet changes.
Many Aquagraphs originally came with a presentation that included a rubber dive strap, strap extender, changing tool and a larger more comprehensive box, plus PADI dive card (Professional Association of Dive Instructors).
Fit and finish
Overall fit and finish on the Aquagraph is superb and the heft this watch exhibits corresponds to its tool watch intentions and mission in life, that is, a no-nonsense dive watch meant for extreme depths.
The dial is clean and shows no dirt or defects under my standard 8X loupe exam. And despite its seemingly large dimensions and weight, this watch does not wear unduly big on the wrist and is very comfortable while larding about on land.
The Aquagraph is not a poseur. This is a serious dive watch that can and will hold up to a lot of punishment and true diving expeditions. Factor in its unique features, precise and unique Swiss movement and attractive, functional good looks and you have a winner, no question about it.
It’s too bad the Aquagraph didn’t have a longer production run, where Tag could have refined the design, introduced new colors or added new features. But again, the fact that there was only one style of Aquagraph has added to its allure in the years since it has been discontinued.
As a side note, the screw-down crown tends to be a bit finicky on this watch. When I purchased mine, it had about 1-1/2 turns to lock on it, and progressively got worse until I could not screw the crown in at all. I returned my watch under warranty and it came back with four full turns to lock and a yellow instead of red/orange security indicator on the crown.
I also have to say that as part of the service, TAG Heuer regulated and refinished the watch (even though to my eye it didn’t need it) and for about the first time in my experience with a watch company and their factory service, I received a watch back from repair looking and functioning almost better than new. This was at TAG Heuer’s service facility in New Jersey, USA.
Pros: unique feature set (ratcheting locking bezel, rubber covered pushers, crown gasket security indicator), superb Swiss movement with large central chrono. minute hand, great build quality
Cons: needs two half links on the bracelet and micro-adjustment holes on the clasp, lack of a date display could bother some
Verdict: a true tool dive watch for land lubbers and sea vultures alike. TAG Heuer took the plunge with the Aquagraph and surfaced a winner. This watch rocks! Well worth seeking out.
About the author:
Marc, aka: ‘MCV,’ has been a professional writer for over 25 years and resides in the Midwestern United States. A former advertising, marketing and public relations professional, he has had a passion for watches since the age of 12, when he was first introduced to the marvels of mechanical chronographs with a LeJour chrono., sporting a two-register Valjoux 7734 movement (he still owns this watch).
Marc has also had a long-term career in radio, as a rock and roll disc jockey at various radio stations and still gets to play classic rock on the FM dial, albeit from compact discs and MP3 files instead of those funny black round things with a hole in the middle.
He currently owns three TAG Heuers, including the Aquagraph seen here, an Aquaracer 500 and a ‘McQueen’ Monaco and has found them to be thoroughly enjoyable and some of the most accurate watches he owns. He’s still looking for just the right ‘Gulf’ Monaco to add to his collection.
Photos: MCV; TAG Heuer