The Ayrton Senna TAG Heuer Series
For better or for worse, watch ambassadors have become an indispensable part of the marketing landscape these days. Some of them have a genuine affinity with the brand they’re representing, some see their watch deal as just another in their portfolio of celebrity endorsements.
While the ambassador concept doesn’t do a lot for me, I have to confess that a big part of the reason that I started getting interested in TAG Heuer was because it was the watch worn by my favourite sportsman: Ayrton Senna.
TAG Heuer and McLaren
By the time that Techniques d’Avant Garde (“TAG”) purchased Heuer in 1984/ 5 it was already the 50% owner of McLaren International. The McLaren team, founded by Bruce McLaren had lost its way by the late 1970s.
TAG- the investment arm of the Saudi Ojjeh family- had been a sponsor of the Williams team for several years, but decided that they were looking for much more than a simple sponsorship arrangement.
In conjunction with Marlboro, Ron Dennis was able to force a merger between his Project 4 team and the McLaren team run by Teddy Mayer. Ever wondered why all McLaren race cars- and the new road car- since 1981 have had the MP4 prefix? That stands for “Marlboro Project 4″- the name of Ron’s original team. And joining Ron Dennis in this new enterprise was TAG, which took a 50% ownership stake in the newly named McLaren International.
As a sidenote, what is not widely known is that just as TAG were an investor in McLaren, Ron Dennis was also an investor in TAG Heuer. Documents from the time of the 1999 sale of TAG Heuer to LVMH show that LVMH had secured the agreement of the four largest shareholders of TAG Heuer to sell- included in those four was Ron Dennis.
TAG famously paid for the development of the 1.5 litre Porsche turbo engine, ensuring that the championship winning McLarens of 1984, 1985 and 1986 were known as “McLaren-TAG”. The “TAG” engine continued through to 1988 when a new era began.
Ayrton Senna and McLaren
The relationship between Senna and McLaren produced three Drivers World Championships and 35 wins and was once of the most talked about era’s in Grand Prix racing, with his legendary battles with Alain Prost on the track, and the FIA off the track.
At the end of 1993 Senna left the McLaren team to move to Williams-Renault, a partnership that lasted only three races before that terrible crash at Imola that took his life on 1 May 2004.
Ayrton Senna and TAG Heuer
Senna appeared in a range of advertising for TAG Heuer, as well as carrying sponsorship on his racing suit and on his McLaren. But despite these links, TAG Heuer did not produce the first Senna Limited Edition watch until after he left McLaren in 1994.