Q&A with Jean-Christophe Babin
It’s been a few months since we talked with TAG Heuer’s CEO Jean-Christophe Babin to get the inside word on what was happening at TAG Heuer. Those last few months have been a typically busy period for the company, with further development work on TAG Heuer’s in-house movements, and several new models, the most notable being the trio of new Aquaracer 500m models.
While attractive designs in their own right, they do mark a departure from the previous design philosophy…so that seemed like a good place to start…
1. Aquaracer 500m Ceramic- Explaining the Design
Q: Reaction to the new Aquaracer 500m ceramic has been interesting- while the ceramic bezel is a clear step forward, several readers wonder why the design is so close to the Aquaracer 300m, where the older model was quite different. Why the change in design philosophy?
A: The Aquaracer has clear design codes making it a design icon since 1982 when it was born as the 2000 series, namely the six studs allowing to turn the bezel easily under water. With the new 500m we wanted this code to be clearly visible, hence the design is closer to the 300m. But for many features, it’s markedly different: ceramic bezel, helium valve, bracelet, dials.
The all-automatic new 500 is the slimmest 500m watch on the luxury market and adds a twist of sportiness to the classical Aquaracer 300m.
2. TAG Heuer Design- Still Avant-Garde?
Q: Several of the recent designs (2011 Link, 2012 Formula 1 and now 2012 Aquaracer 500m) seem to have taken a more conservative approach to design- more classical/ elegant rather than “avant-garde”- is this a fair interpretation?
A: I would not say classical but rather timeless and sophisticated. If you look at them, they are crafted to the tiniest component and made with the best potential materials. That said, we have some models with more Avant-Garde design such as the Aquaracer 500m Oracle Team USA or the new Formula 1 Gents with red flanges which is one of our worldwide best sellers.
3. Farewell to Lewis Hamilton?
Q: Moving to ambassadors, it was a surprise to see Lewis Hamilton announce a move from the McLaren team for 2013. How will this impact his relationship with TAG Heuer?
A: Lewis has been a great TAG Heuer ambassador since he was in Formula Renault, 10 years ago. We hope to continue with him in the future even though we don’t know yet what will be his freedom for personal deals at Mercedes. Furthermore, we’re very happy with Jenson Button too and we might prefer to focus even more on him next year. He’s one of the very best drivers around and an outstanding Brand ambassador.
4. The future of the past
Q: Where do you see the future for re-editions, as against “heritage-inspired”? The Silverstone was launched in 2010, but nothing since, although we have had the heritage-inspired 300 SLR and Jack Heuer Carrera. Is there still the opportunity for a re-edition that has its own unique case, or is the cost prohibitive?
A: Re-editions are obviously costly. However they have a very important role for the brand beyond financial KPIs. Remember that both the Carrera and Monaco were re-introduced as re-editions in 1996 and 1998 respectively before becoming back in the 2000s as the pillars they used to be in the glorious 1970s.
We have in the pipeline some great “commemorative” masterpieces which are kind of creative re-inventions of past legends i.e. more than re-editions but paying a tribute to the past. You’ll see good examples next year for the “50 years of Carrera”.