In Depth Review- TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300m Calibre 16 Ceramic Bezel
It’s already been a busy 12 months for new Aquaracer models, with TAG Heuer launching a new Aquaracer 300m series including a family of 3-hand watches and chronographs. And now there is another choice to add to the mix- the Aquaracer 300m Calibre 16 Ceramic Bezel. This new model effectively starts with the steel bezel 300m Chronograph, updates the dial design and hands and finishes off the look with a ceramic rather than brushed steel bezel. These might sound like small changes, but it does give the watch a very different feel to its steel bezel brethren and to emphasise the point, there are new dial colours and materials on offer.
We’ve had a chance to shoot each of the new model range for an in depth review, so stand by for a lot of photos of TAG Heuer’s new Aqua baby. If you like to keep things old school on a dial-up modems (!), this is not the post for you, as we’ve gone heavy on the images to give you the best all-round look at the new dive chronograph.
Design- What’s New
The Aquaracer 300m Ceramic shares the same 43mm case as the steel bezel model, but there is one obvious change that you’ll notice right away: the cyclops over the date window returns and it’s certainly hard to ignore.
As you can see from the comparison shot below, both the ceramic and steel chronographs share the same basic dial, with a printed TAG Heuer logo and horizontal stripe pattern.
The key changes to the ceramic bezel model are as follows:
- New hour and minute hands
- New running seconds hand (9 o’clock sub-dial)
- Redesigned hour-markers- larger and highly polished
- “300m” text in colour
- No white border around the date window
Probably the only change that I’m not convinced about are the new hour-markers. The combination of being larger and more shiny means that they do dominate the dial – even more so on the soon-to-be-released Calibre 5 ceramic bezel model.
And of course, we haven’t got to the most important change- the ceramic bezel. The shape is the same as other 300m Aquaracers, but instead of a brushed steel, the new chronograph had a large ceramic bezel with six raised grips. I’m a fan of coloured bezels on dive watches- yes, it’s the Rolex Submariner look, but take a look at most dive watches on the market and you’ll see that they all tend to follow this design- and for good reason: it looks very sharp in contrast to the traditional steel case.
As we’ve detailed several times, ceramic is harder than steel, meaning that it is more scratch resistant than the typical aluminium/ steel bezel inserts. Not surprisingly, the ceramic reflects more light that a metal bezel, offering a “glassy” look to the bezel.
Turning the watch over doesn’t lead to any surprises- the watch uses the same “Diver Helmet” engraved case back as other Aquaracers.
Comparison with 500m Aquaracer Ceramic
If you’re across the TAG Heuer range, you’ll know that there already is a 43mm Aquaracer Calibre 16 with a ceramic bezel and horizontal striped dial- the Aquaracer 500m Ceramic Chronograph, shown here. Putting aside the higher depth rating and helium valve, the 500m bezel is thinner and more circular than the edgy 300m ceramic. Also note the use of rubber grips on the chronograph pushers and the crown.
Still, the two watches are quite close in execution, so time will tell whether the 500m ceramic will receive an updated design to differentiate it further from the new 300m chronograph.
There are two options for attaching the Aquaracer ceramic to your wrist- either the traditional Aquaracer steel bracelet (different to the H-Link bracelet on the Aquaracer 300m Steel) or a newly introduced nylon strap.
These straps are excellent- they look very sharp and fit well with the nautical/ watersports theme for the Aquaracer. Depending on the model, the straps have contrasting stitching…
..which matches the lining on the inside of the strap.
Aquaracer 300m Ceramic Black Titanium- CAY218A
First up in the new range is this Black-on-Black model. The case is Grade 2 Titanium coated with a black titanium-carbide powder. To complete the black look, this model comes only with the black nylon strap.
What I loved about this model was not just the colour-combination but the light weight compared to the steel model. These watches have a large, chunky case and when teamed with the steel bracelet, you really notice the heft. Now that’s fine if you like large watches, but the titanium version gives you the size of a large watch without this weight.
The use of colours here is very restrained- just the “300m” on the dial, the tip of the chronograph hand and the strap stitching in yellow, with the rest in silver or black.
On the Wrist
Aquaracer 300m Ceramic Bezel Steel- CAY211A
The second model is the same black dial/ black bezel combination, but this time in stainless steel- very much the traditional Aquaracer look.
As already mentioned, this is a substantial watch with a large case and a thick, sturdy bracelet and feels very different to the Titanium/ Strap combination.
On the Wrist
I felt that the steel/ bracelet combination worked better with a suit, as it looked a little more formal that the sporty nylon strap. You could always buy this version on the bracelet and then buy a separate nylon strap for the weekends if you want to have both options covered.
Aquaracer 300m Black Phantom Titanium- CAY218B
The third model in the range is something quite new for TAG Heuer. Sure there have been “Full Black” models in the past, but this is a “fuller” black- the Black Phantom.
Sure the case and dial are black, but the Phantom takes things a step further:
- Black Gold hands and hour indices
- Grey luminescent hands/ indices/ bezel markers
- Grey stitching on the strap
- Black strap lining
The effect is one that’s very hard to photograph- in these photos we’ve tried to get as much light as possible on the dial, but in normal light everything is quite, well, black. Don’t expect to be able to read the chronograph at a quick glance…this is designed for effect rather than pure legibility.
Aquaracer 300m Ceramic Bezel Steel- CAY211B
The last model is a steel case chronograph with a blue dial and blue bezel- reference CAY211B.
Apart from swapping blue for black, this model also offers orange highlights (“300m” text on the dial and tip of the chronograph hand) rather than the yellow offered on the black dial model.
Price and Availability
The Aquaracer 300m Calibre 16 Ceramic range will be out in Q3/ Q4 this year, and so pricing at this stage is indicative and could change. The prices below are expected Australian retail prices and so if you are not in Australia take these as a guide- worldwide pricing is far more complex than simply converting the amounts below in your home currency.
- CAY211A/ CAY211B (bracelet): A$4,650
- CAY211A (strap): A$4,450
- CAY218A: A$5,200
- CAY218B: A$5,200
To put that pricing in context, the Australian price for the Steel bezel Calibre 16 Aquaracer 300m is $4,100 on a bracelet, so you pay an extra $550 for the ceramic bezel model.
In Summary- TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 16 Chronograph Ceramic Bezel
A classically designed diving chronograph that fills out the Aquaracer range and introduces new dial options and straps. More sporting than the all-steel model, this is our favourite Aquaracer chronograph, along with the 500m model. How the ceramic bezel Aquaracer 300m and 500m models will be positioned differently remains to be seen.
If you don’t like big watches, try the titanium first, as you’ll likely find the steel/ bracelet combination too heavy. Those readers who love these larger watches will be very pleased with what is a very solid and well-built watch.
- Classic dive watch- Black bezel, steel case
- New hands are cool- notice the TAG Heuer shield at the tip of the hour and minute hands?
- At last, TAG Heuer offers a strap beyond leather or rubber- and it looks and feels fantastic
- Shave 10-20% off the size of the hour markers..and maybe a little de-shine
- And while we’re at it, take a couple of millimeters out of the case depth
- Change up the basic dial design- it’s the as the Aquaracer chronograph with steel bezel and ceramic bezel Aquaracer 500m
- Would love to have seen one bright coloured dial- Orange? Yellow?
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