Hands-On: My Watch Of The Summer? It’s A Contest Between Two Aquaracers.
Two new (and very different) TAG Heuer dive watches vie for a place on one collector’s wrist.
It happens every year, around the end of May. The temperature is rising, I’ve booked the beach vacation, and I start to think about my ideal watch for the next few months. I have some criteria. It will be a dive watch, rugged and legible; it will be modern rather than vintage; a classic black dial is acceptable, but I’ll give the edge to a watch that adds some color. Comfort is a top consideration, so rather than being made of heavy stainless steel, both the watch and its bracelet will be titanium. I prefer a moderate depth rating (say, 200 or 300 meters), so that the case will be thinner and lighter than on some professional models.
With TAG Heuer recently offering its very first Aquaracer dive watches on titanium bracelets, May 2021 was an ideal time to stage the tryout. The two contestants: The Bamford x TAG Heuer Limited Edition Aquaracer (ref. WAY208F) introduced in November 2020, and the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 Green Special Edition (ref. WBP208B) introduced in April 2021 (and arriving to purchasers on June 23). These two models represent different generations of the Aquaracer. The Bamford comes at the tail end of the fourth generation Aquaracer, having been in production since 2014. The Green Special Edition comes as one of the launch models of the fifth generation.
Both are TAG Heuer Aquracers in matte Grade 2 titanium cases on three-row titanium bracelets; both have Calibre 5 movements. Beyond these shared features, almost every element of the two watches is different. The Bamford is limited to 1,500 watches, with a price of $3,900, and the Green Special Edition will be available on June 23, 2021, retailing for $4,200.
The fifth-gen Aquaracer case has gotten thinner, at 12.4 mm, compared with the previous 13.0 mm, with the bracelet links also being thinner at 2.8 mm (compared to the previous 4.4 mm). The lugs have been shortened to offer a better fit on most wrists. Fifth-generation Aquaracers include finer details in their finishing – for example, the addition of a chamfer between the top and side surfaces of the case.
The bezel has also been redesigned, offering a sunburst ceramic insert and a smoother clicking action when being rotated. The date window slides down from the traditional 3 o’clock to the more subtle 6 o’clock, and the magnifying lens for the date moves from the top surface of the crystal to the bottom surface, so that the crystal is smooth on top. Finally, the bracelet of the fifth generation Aquaracer has a redesigned clasp, incorporating a fine adjustment mechanism that can be used to change the length of the bracelet (by up to 1.5 cm), while the watch remains on the wrist. Nifty.
While the advancement of the Aquaracer from the fourth generation to the fifth generation explains many of the differences between the Bamford Limited Edition and the Green Special Edition, the most significant differences between the two watches come from design changes implemented by Bamford. In designing its Limited Edition Aquaracer, Bamford has altered almost every significant element from those used on standard-production models.
Aquaracer dials feature engraved horizontal lines that have the look of ridges. Bamford uses tight concentric circles that resemble the grooves of a record or the look of a sonar screen, with crosshairs enhancing the instrument motif. The standard Aquaracer’s applied metal markers, filled with white lume, give way to painted rectangular markers. In the place of the Aquaracer’s metal-edged hands, the hands on the Bamford Limited Edition are pencil-shaped, with bright orange edges. And in a final statement that “everything that can be different will be different,” the end of the second hand on the Bamford Limited Edition adopts the style of a gate at a railroad crossing, with alternating orange and white stripes.
And these are the major style elements. The tweaks get tinier. The TAG Heuer logo on the crown? It’s raised on the Bamford model, but engraved on the Green Special Edition. The TAG Heuer logo on the dial? It’s printed on the Bamford watch, but applied on the Green Special Edition. And so it continues – the edge of the bezel, knurled or grips; bezel insert, titanium or ceramic; numerals on the bezel, black or white.
The two watches create very different first impressions. The Bamford Limited Edition offers an aggressive instrument style, with the bright orange and glossy black creating a special energy. There is action everywhere, even danger. Whether it’s the sonar screen, the crosshairs, the railroad crossing arm, or the orange “checks” around the inner bezel, you feel the excitement of motion.
Compared with the Bamford Aquaracer, the Green Special Edition Aquaracer evokes calm and refinement. Green is the symbol of vitality, representing growth and life itself, but the energy of this watch conveys a sense of calm. This Aquaracer is ready for adventure and fully capable as a dive watch, but maintains quiet elegance when resting under a shirt cuff.
On a podcast discussing Seiko dive watches, I once heard an expert offering advice for those trying to select the right watch. He suggested that when evaluating Seiko dive watches, the prospective purchaser should ask two questions: How deep do you want to go? And how good do you want the movement to be? Answer these two questions and you’ll be able to choose.
I would add a third criterion for the prospective purchaser to consider, and it’s especially important for the “desk divers” whose watches will rarely be underwater: How do you want the watch to feel on dry land? Sure, you can get the watch that will go deep, say 500 or 1,000 meters beneath the sea, but that watch is likely to feel heavy on your wrist when you’re above the surface. In fact, there’s often a tradeoff between having a watch with a superior depth rating and having a watch that is comfortable to wear on earth, especially in the heat of the summer.
Both the Bamford Limited Edition and the Green Special Edition represent the right balance between going deep and being comfortable to wear. With depth ratings of 300 meters, both watches qualify as “real” dive watches, up to the task of handling summer adventures, while being perfectly comfortable. Both are light (125 grams for the Bamford and 122 grams for the Green Special Edition, each on their bracelets) and relatively thin. Just as importantly, the geometry of the lugs on both watches provide an excellent fit (at least they did on my relatively skinny 6.75-inch wrist).
Well, it depends.
I wore the Bamford Limited Edition Aquaracer and the Green Special Edition Aquaracer for a week, switching between the two watches as the spirit moved me. This particular week included my wife and I traveling to attend our daughter’s college graduation, along with several social events with family and friends. The temperature was perfect for our test of summer watches, reaching the mid-90s, with high humidity. Intermittent air conditioning outages at the hotel raised the stakes even higher.
Over the course of the week, the Green Special Edition Aquaracer got the call for more occasions than the Bamford Limited Edition. The bright, festive look of the watch seemed right for the week’s celebrations. The thinner case and bracelet of the Green Special Edition gave the watch a lighter feel than the slightly larger Bamford Limited Edition, and the watch often felt easier to wear.
Had our schedule been different for the week, the Bamford Limited Edition might have recorded more wrist time than the Green Special Edition. The Bamford would be the natural choice for outdoor adventures – hiking, boating or cycling – when you might prefer a more rugged-looking watch that may have more presence.
In the end, the choice between these two summer watches may come down to a question of mood. The Green Special Edition has a sleeker, more refined look, with the green dial providing a calm, bright energy. The watch wears smaller, naturally sliding under the cuff of a long-sleeve shirt. The Bamford Limited Edition has a stronger, more aggressive look. It’s edgier, louder, and more visible.
So think about your summer calendar. How will you be spending your time? Indoors or outdoors? In the water or on land? Long sleeves or short sleeves?
Equally important is the question of what you want to see – and how you want to feel – when you check the time. The Bamford Limited Edition conveys excitement, it’s an instrument for adventure. The Green Special Edition conveys elegance, the perfect companion for celebrations. The Bamford makes the hot days even hotter. The Green Special Edition keeps you cool, in more ways than one.
Jeff Stein collects vintage Heuer and modern TAG Heuer watches, and since 2003 has operated the website OnTheDash.com. In 2016, he and his collection appeared with Benjamin Clymer on an episode of Talking Watches.