2011- The Year in Review

Posted by: David Chalmers   |   31 December 2011   |   8 Comments  

So, another year slips into the rear-view mirror, providing an excuse for lazy writers everywhere to crank out an annual “Best Of” list. If you expected any different from Calibre 11, then prepare to be disappointed, as we take a look back over the year that was for TAG Heuer.  We posted more than 50 stories this year on watches ranging from under $1000 to over $70,000, looking at vintage watches, new watches, and even one that never made it into production.

The Launches

2012 saw four key launches for TAG Heuer- two production models (Carrera Heritage and the Link Series) and two high-end watches (Carrera Mikrograph and Mikrotimer Flying 1000). Putting aside the technical wizardry of the two high-frequency watches, the most interesting launch was the Carrera Heritage series, a watch that was designed with the Chinese consumer in mind. Chinese buyers prefer “Luxury” to “Sports” when it comes to watches, which helps explain some of the design elements of the Heritage series, as well as the smaller size of the case.

The series was launched first in China in late 2010 before being shown to the rest of the world in early 2011. You may be sick of reading about China and how consumer tastes there are going to shape the watches that we all wear, but there is no denying the importance of the market.

Irrespective of which consumer the watch was designed for, the Heritage series was a nice complement to the ever-expanding Carrera range.

The Year of Hertz

But the Headline-grabbers were the two high-frequency watches- the Mikrograph and the Mikrotimer, which beat at 50hz and 500hz respectively. Considering that it was only in 2008 that TAG Heuer boasted about offering 1/10th second accuracy with the Grand Carrera Calibre 36, it’s been an amazing leap forward.

What’s special about these movements is the twin-escapements that you see above. These beat at different frequencies, allowing the Chronograph to run without draining power from the watch.

Perhaps even more impressive is that both of these watches went on sale within a few months of being announced and from all reports have sold exceptionally well despite being priced at levels you wouldn’t normally associate with the brand.

…but What’s Next?

TAG Heuer has an amazing spread of prices for its watches at the moment. In the CHF50,000 plus zone you have the Carrera Mikrograph, the Mikrotimer and the Monaco V4. Then it drops down to CHF10-12,000 for the Monaco Twenty-Four, while the majority of the range is in the CHF2000-6000 price-band. It’s a odd mix, with a huge gap between the Monaco 24 and the haute horlogerie watches.

If TAG Heuer are serious about moving up-market- and all brands are these days- then it would make sense to build the range in CHF10-20,000 price point. That’s a level that is still unaffordable for most of us, but if it means more interesting watches with bespoke movements, then why not? The key to going up-market is for the push to be product-led- as TAG Heuer have already demonstrated, if you can build innovative watches, then the market is there. Just pushing prices for existing models and technology is a sure way to lose the battle for credibility.

Goodbye ETA?

Not quite. 2010 marked the first year in a long time that the majority of TAG Heuer’s movements did not come from ETA. Sure, they are still an important supplier, as Jean-Christophe Babin told us in October, but they are no longer the major supplier. In addition to increased volumes of TAG’s own Calibre 1887, Sellita have stepped up supply, now providing the Calibre 11 and 12 movements.

Oh, and next year’s Formula 1 series? All quartz movements are from Ronda.

It’s been a slow and orderly transition away from ETA and expect that trend to continue.

The Year in Vintage

2011 was the year that collectors woke up to the Heuer and TAG Heuer diver watches from the late 1970s/ 1980s, especially the 1000 Series. Prices started to rise for the best examples, but you can still buy a perfect Heuer/ TAG Heuer 1000 for well under $1000, which is fantastic value.

Our friends at OntheDash launched a Diver Reference table in late 2010, and combined with collector Stewart Morley‘s ability to find and expertly photograph what seemed like a new watch every week, there was a lot of collector focus on these gems. Who said that quartz wasn’t collectible?

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