TAG Heuer just revived the old Aquaracer Nightdiver (also styled Night Diver, depending on where you’re reading about it; I’m going off of TAG’s official page today), a watch that, in an earlier form, once graced the wrist of James Bond in The Living Daylights, a sort of ironic title, horologically speaking. Naturally, this new model, separated by over three decades, is quite a lot different than its predecessor, although the unifying theme remains present, namely the full-lume dial. It looks fabulous, and although all-lume dials are not totally obscure these days, neither are they common, particularly from major brands like TAG Heuer, so it’s certainly worth our attention.
For a brand with “Techniques d’Avant Garde” (TAG) in the name, most of the brand’s offering are relatively mainstream, but I think the Nightdiver rises to the occasion, even if it’s purely incidental. Using an all-lume dial is already a pretty unique design path to take, but I note, for instance, the negative spaces created by the totally blacked-out octagonal hour markers, which also have an avant garde appeal to them. In addition to the admitted coolness of the design, it’s a legitimately well-designed tool watch. For instance, the horizontal lines across the dial, which is something you find in other Aquaracers, is no longer a mere aesthetic flourish. Rather, the texture of the dial, as compared to the “smooth” lume of the hands and cardinal markers, makes these elements immediately visually separable, whereas they would otherwise blend together. The use of different colors of lume for the hands is something I always commend in dive watches, and its presence here once again signifies some serious tool watch design.
The date complication, on the other hand, feels like a missed opportunity. If Heuer was aiming for a sort of hardcore dive watch, skipping the date entirely would have made sense, but if they’re going to use a date, why not use a luminescent date ring; that might have been practically useless, but it would have added to the cool factor. I will say two things in defense of TAG’s approach here, however, which is that the dark spot on the dial (at least when viewed at night), is consistent with those cool black hour markers and thus not as noticeable as it might otherwise be. The second aspect that I like is that TAG still managed to hide a small hour marker in that space, which helps the dial remain balanced.
I rather like these new Aquaracer cases. As the great Gerald Genta’s influence seems to grow posthumously (not that it was ever absent), angular bezels are now all the rage; I think it looks great, and I suspect that it makes it a little easier to rotate as well. The bezel insert is ceramic, as is only proper, while the case is steel. I’d have preferred a full ceramic case, but it probably would have raised the price to an unacceptable degree for the segment TAG’s targeting, which is totally understandable. On the plus side, the black case is DLC, so it should hold up to abuse quite well. I generally prefer uncoated cases, because I’m neurotically annoyed by scratches, but when designing something like the Nightdiver, there was really only one acceptable path, which was a black DLC case. We made the exact same decision when we designed our Zodiac Blackout LE, and very likely for the same reasons. Interestingly, at least to me, one of the watches I researched while working on the Zodiac was the original Night Diver, and internally our Zodiac project was named after it. It’s worth noting that it is a fairly large (although not enormous) watch at 43mm. Normally I’d be slightly annoyed by that, but I think the large size makes sense given the hardcore tool watch look it’s going for. Too big for my tastes? Sure, but I’m not the target demographic.
There’s no display back on this Aquaracer, but I suppose that fits with the overall tool watch theme, and, at any rate, the Calibre 5, TAG’s version of the ETA 2824-2/Sellita SW200, automatic isn’t much of a looker anyway. It’s a fairly banal movement, but it’s as proven as any in the world, and not unreasonable at this price point. It’s not a watch that will intrigue movement snobs (like me), but on any practical level, it’s a worthy companion to the new Nightdiver.
I think the new Nightdiver is a wonderful addition to TAG’s increasingly compelling Aquaracer lineup. At $3,350, it’s $650 more expensive than its non-Nightdiver brethren. Is it worth the extra money? If you like the concept, then absolutely; it’s an enormous aesthetic change and a very unique offering. For myself, I would definitely consider the extra expense, but I would have to think hard because there are several “normal” Aquaracer Professional models that I also really like, and the fact that they’re significantly more affordable doesn’t hurt either; I’m particularly fond of the green model, but the Nightdiver would be way up on the list too.