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Inside TAG Heuer’s Haute Horlogerie Workshop

Only a few years ago, the concept of a haute horlogerie (a French term that in essence means “high-end watchmaking”) TAG Heuer watch was a foreign one. It was only under the leadership of Jean-Christophe Babin in the mid-2000s that the company began to reactivate watchmaking skills that had long been dormant. Starting with the Monaco V4, TAG Heuer has set about not only showing off highly innovative concept watches, but backing these ideas up by turning those concepts into production models.

So where are these high-end watches made? As it turns out, each one is hand-made in the room you see below at TAG Heuer HQ in La Chaux de Fonds. And yes, that is the whole room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile many of the production processes at TAG Heuer are assisted by various degrees of automation, each of the haute horlogerie watches are hand-built. And the watchmaker that makes your watch is the same watchmaker that will service the watch when it comes back to La Chaux de Fonds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tray above shows eleven of TAG Heuer’s haute horlogerie range, with the least expensive being the Heuer Mikrograph at USD50,000. Of course, regular readers will have seen each of these watches before, but it’s something else to be able to see these special pieces in the flesh. Here are the highlights.

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrograph Avant Garde- CAR5A50

IMG_2535The newest model is this 2014 update to the Carrera Mikrograph, known as the Mikrograph Avant Garde. We showed you photos of this watch a couple of weeks ago, and these new photos show you how similar the case design is to the Mikrotimer (which we’ll come to later).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Carrera Mikrograph Avant Garde boasts a larger case than its heritage-themed predecessor, clocking in at 45mm in a Titanium case (coated in titanium carbide) and featuring Rose Gold horns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe movement is beautifully finished, with the same design as the Heuer Mikrograph.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no doubting that the Mikrograph Avant Garde fits with the design theme of the bolder haute horlogerie range, but I have to say that I still prefer the original Mikrograph- the new design is more of an evolution of the Mikrotimer, rather than a development of the original to my eyes.

IMG_2511The colour combination looks good- expect to see the same combination on the first Carrera 1969, a watch which we now understand has been pushed back to early 2014 unfortunately.

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Heuer Carrera Mikrograph- CAR5041

IMG_2521And here is the original- the Heuer Mikrograph from 2012. This is the second Mikrograph model that has the Anthracite dial and leather strap. It’s still a large watch at 43mm, but noticeably smaller than the Mikrograph Avant Garde.

IMG_2522I’ve long thought that this is one of the best designs that TAG Heuer has produced, and seeing the watch in person only served to strengthen that view- it’s spectacular.

Carrera Mikrogirder 10000- CAR2C10

IMG_2524The Mikrogirder is the watch that re-introduced us to the Bullhead chronograph design that TAG Heuer have offered on several new watches in 2013, including the Carrera Jack Heuer 1887.

IMG_2523The central chronograph hand rotates so quickly that you can’t see it move…not surprising considering that the watch has a precision to 5/ 10,000th second. The watch that you see here is the production model, basically unchanged from the concept watch shown at Basel in 2012.

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TAG Heuer MikropendulumS

Here is the watch that is without doubt the most ambitious watch ever produced by TAG Heuer- the Carrera MikroPendulumS. Not only is the watch a double Tourbillon, but the regulating mechanism of the movement is powered by TAG Heuer’s magnetic Pendulum system.

IMG_2516The MikroPendulumS has a precision of 1/ 100th of a second and is dominated by the beautifully designed Rose Gold bridges that sit across the double tourbillon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s not a watch that you should expect to slip neatly under the shirt cuffs, but when the expected price is north of USD200,000, owners could be forgiven for not wanting to hide this one away.

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TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Carbon Matrix

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a special watch that we hadn’t heard of before- a new Limited Edition Monaco V4, of which 50 will be made. The Monaco V4 Carbon combines a Carbon Matrix case, with a combination of steel and Rose Gold highlights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you’d expect, the Monaco V4 is remarkably light- feels very special.

IMG_2515Even though it’s almost 6 years since we first saw the idea for the Monaco V4, the design still looks bang up-to-date.

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 TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Rose Gold- WAW2040

IMG_2528The Rose Gold Monaco V4 was launched in 2010 and offered an update to the look of the original Monaco V4, with a larger case made from Rose Gold.

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TAG Heuer Mikrotimer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast but not least is the TAG Heuer Mikrotimer Flying 1000, launched at Basel in 2011. Along with the Rose Gold Mikrograph, this is still my favourite of the haute horlogerie models.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile many of the watches are luxury designs with Rose Gold finishing, the Mikrotimer is the sportiest of the range, with a Rubber strap, steel horns and brilliant Lime Green highlights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf I had to choose, I’d be greedy and select this Mikrotimer and the original 2011 Heuer Mikrograph- the perfect combination of luxury and sporty.

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  • BogdanFlo

    the mikrotimer is my fav also. the pic with all of them together is priceless.

  • Scott

    What was the first model that Tag Heuer placed the Zenith El Primero movement in? What model started the high end transition?

    Was it the Link Calibre 36 back in 2003/2005?

  • Mark Turner

    No Scott. It was the 2004 Monaco V4 Concept Watch. It’s just crazy to think its 10 years old next year

  • Hi. First time we saw the El Primero was 2002/ 2003 with the Monza Calibre 36 and the Link Calibre 36

    dc

  • Philmo

    What a mouthwatering feast! 🙂

  • DM

    Hello David,

    I’ve always wondered how many watchmakers there are in the Haute Horology department.
    The other question is how they relate to Guy Semon’s R&D team.

    DM

  • Mark

    This room was probably my favourite part of the tour; very interesting to see what they were up to!

  • Hi Mark, yes, amazing that all of these cool watches come from one small room! I like the idea of the same watchmaker servicing the watch that they built…keeps some of the romance of watchmaking alive.

    dc

  • Marc

    Very nice article. It's great to see all the "haute horlogerie" watches next to each other.
    On the picture showing the tray with all the watches, there is, at the back, what looks like a Monaco with red stiching on the strap. What was special with that one? Would you have any photograph? Cheers
    Marc