Based in the town of Neuchatel, right on the northwestern shore of the namesake lake, Tag Heuer have been making top-quality timepieces for the past 150 years. The brand is founded by Edouard Heuer and his sons and is widely recognized for its involvement in elite sports.
The company has been the F1 official timekeeper since longer than we could remember. On the timepiece end, the company range currently includes product lines such as the TAG Heuer Formula 1, Monaco, Carrera, the SLR Chronograph and the Grand Carrera.
The company takes pride in producing some of the most accurate timekeeping equipment for decades now but it is a newbie in phones. We are curious to know if they managed to get that right too.
About a year and a half ago TAG Heuer announced their first handset - the Meridiist. Two things raised eyebrows back then - the peculiar name and the eccentric edgy design of the phone. We don't know about that first one but almost all questions about the second disappeared as soon as we held the phone. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and take a look at the exclusive background first.
The TAG Heuer Meridiist mobile phone is made of watch-making stainless steel and has two displays covered with unscratchable 60-carat sapphire crystal. There's also leather at the rear.
The secondary display is uniquely placed on the top side of the handset and shows the current time, the incoming call ID or the stopwatch if the latter is turned on. Seriously - you didn't think they would resist the temptation to brag with what they are best at, did you? There is even a dedicated button to start the stopwatch.
The TAG Heuer Meridiist is armed with a 1.9" primary display of QVGA resolution, while the secondary is an OLED unit at 96 x 76 pixels. The image quality is actually ok, but is totally let down by the rubbish interface.
The user interface is extremely basic, worthy of a handset like Vodafone 231 (no offence, Vodafone, ok?). It's not like S40 raised the bar too high, but the Meridiist UI is vastly disappointing. And yet it was only the beginning of a downhill slide that ended in flames with the GoldVish handsets that followed. Everything in its due time though.
The keypad of the TAG Heuer Meridiist is one of the things that impressed us the most about the handset. It was amazingly comfortable and, although we doubt it anyone will take messaging seriously on this handset, it certainly is a great tool.
Both the size of the keys and terraced layout seem pretty nice, while the press feedback is at a level worthy of a leading wristwatch manufacturer. And the stainless steel used makes things even better.
The leather used for the back panel is somewhat less perfect than that. It's not that it isn't high-quality or anything - right on the opposite. There is a choice between calfskin and alligator, and even rubber if you prefer. It is exactly here that TAG Heuer put their experience with watch straps to good use.
The problem is that when you open the battery cover it doesn't detach. Instead it bends at a certain point, which we suppose will eventually get damaged.
We don't know if TAG Heuer thought that users will never change SIMs or batteries or anything like it but don't quite agree with their design solution. It can't have been much harder to attach the leather at the bottom edge, where marks from bending are unlikely to appear.
The other element of interest on the the TAG Heuer Meridiist rear is the 2 megapixel camera, hidden behind a steel lens cover. Tag Heuer claim it is good enough for a quality print of a standard 10 x 15cm photo, but we have our doubts. Nevertheless, this article is not about camera image quality.
The compact leather box of the TAG Heuer Meridiist is hardly as impressive as some of those of we witnessed by Vertu but considering that this is the cheapest handset (costing the measly 5000 US dollars) in the bunch we are not gonna hold that against it.
There isn't an extra battery included in the package but, as the company claims, you will hardly ever need it. The Meridiist is rated at up to 28 days standby time or 7 of hours talk time due to its large battery and power-optimized components used.
As time passed we gradually grew fond of the TAG Heuer Meridiist. Its edgy design is rather extraordinary in mobile phone terms but quite customary for the brand and the build quality is a worthy rival of the Vertu handsets. Now we cannot quite figure out how did they let that battery cover attaching slip but the final product is certainly impressive from a construction point of view.
Sure enough, the Meridiist will never deliver at the level of industry leading handsets that pack all the latest in mobile phone technology. But it's a tool that embodies the values of watchmaking: solid, reliable, classy and confident.