TAG Heuer made a modular $1,650 smartwatch

You can even swap out the central module with a mechanical timepiece.

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    When TAG Heuer released its first smartwatch two years ago, it had an $1,800 asking price and was dubbed the most expensive Android Wear device on the market. Still, more than 56,000 people bought it, which is certainly enough reason for the Swiss watchmaker to give smartwatches another shot. And so it has. Say hello to the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45, the company's second Android Wear collaboration with Intel and Google. The starting price is still pretty high at $1,650 (£1,400), but the cost might be worth it this time. The reason: The Modular 45 comes with interchangeable parts, making the watch a lot more versatile than its predecessor.

    Gallery: TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 hands-on | 16 Photos

    What's more, it's the watch's modular nature that makes this the "first Swiss-made connected watch." That's because the 45mm smartwatch module can be swapped out with a purely Swiss-made mechanical option that transforms it into an "ordinary" luxury timepiece. (Your options include either the Calibre 5 or the much more premium Heuer 02T Tourbillon, which TAG Heuer claims has "the most accurate mechanical movements around.") So even if the connected module part of it gets outdated eventually (as it likely will), you'll still be able to have a high-end TAG Heuer on your wrist just by swapping that module out. And who knows, maybe TAG Heuer will release future connected watch modules for the same system, making the whole thing wonderfully future-proof.

    As mentioned, it's not just the watch modules that are interchangeable. It's pretty much every part of the watch, including the straps, buckles and lugs. The core Connected Modular 45 range consists of 11 different designs; the watch module comes in either silver or black, while the straps are available in rubber, leather, titanium or ceramic, and in a slew of different colors. If that's not enough, TAG Heuer offers 45 additional options, some of which include premium materials like patent leather, rose gold and even diamonds. That amounts to a grand total of 56 different designs and, according to the company, over 500 different design combinations.

    Swapping out the different parts of the watch isn't too difficult, but it does require a bit of finesse. During a hands-on event in San Francisco, I tried assembling and reassembling the watch a few times, and it definitely took me several attempts before I finally got it right. The lugs and the central module connect to each other via a couple of pins that snap together, and a push button underneath releases them. The trick was aligning the parts correctly, which is harder to do than it looks. Still, after some trial and error, I eventually learned how to do it. The cool thing is that the parts are all interchangeable without the need for a screwdriver; just use your own two hands.

    The Connected Modular 45 watch module is quite a stunner. It has a 1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, which is a lot sharper than the transflective LCD on its predecessor. It's covered in 2.5mm sapphire crystal glass, and the entire thing is encased in titanium. And of course, it also comes with a few different TAG Heuer-designed watchfaces. Yet those with smaller wrists might not like it so much. The 45mm watch is quite bulky on slender arms and goes against the rumors that it would be more female-friendly. Something like that could come out sometime in the future, but for now, the Connected 45 is undeniably on the chunky side.

    As for the internals, the watch is comparable to most modern smartwatches. It has an Intel Atom Z34XX processor, 4GB of memory, WiFi, GPS, more than 24 hours of battery life and water resistance up to 50 meters. It also ships with the newly released Android Wear 2.0, which means simpler navigation, NFC support so you can use it with Android Pay, third-party complications and a standalone app store, so you can use it with an iPhone as well.

    As mentioned earlier, the Connected Modular 45 will start at $1,650, but of course, additional options will cost extra. If you opt for the top-of-the-line accessories and add-ons, it's likely you'll be spending thousands more. Still, the cost is very much on par with other non-connected luxury timepieces, and even those aren't as modular as the Modular 45. So if you think of it as a modern Android Wear wearable disguised as a versatile Swiss-made watch, that might make the price easier to swallow.

    We'll have more thoughts on the watch once we get our review unit, but for now, you can get your own in the following regions: the US, the UK, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.

    Update: CEO Jean-Claude Biver has confirmed that Android Wear 2.0 will be coming to the original Connected watch at the end of the month as well.

    In this article: gear, hands-on, intel, tagheuer, video, wearables

    Raised in the tropics of Malaysia, Nicole arrived in the United States in search of love, happiness and ubiquitous broadband. That last one is still a dream, but two out of three isn't bad. Her love for words and technology reached a fever pitch in San Francisco, where she learned you could make a living writing about gadgets, video games and the internet. Truly, a dream come true. Other interests include baseball, coffee, cooking and chasing after her precocious little cat.

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