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In Depth Review- TAG Heuer Formula 1 Red Bull Edition

Today at the Monaco Grand Prix, TAG Heuer has announced the 2016 Formula 1 Red Bull Edition, the first watch that celebrates the partnership between TAG Heuer and Red Bull Racing. While the watch is only shown for the first time today, we’ve already had the chance to spend some quality time with the new chronograph to bring you the full details and some fantastic high-res photos of the newest Formula 1.

And rather than make you wait until the end of the article to get to the punchline, we’ll start with the conclusion- we think this is the best looking Formula 1 ever made by TAG Heuer, and when you consider that history stretches back to 1986, we don’t say that lightly or without poring back over old catalogues.

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140012Launching the Red Bull Formula 1 at the Monaco Grand Prix is appropriate, because not only is it the highlight of the Formula 1 Calendar, but the colour scheme of the watch is inspired by one of TAG Heuer’s most iconic models- the 1133B “McQueen” Heuer Monaco, which introduced the flat Blue dial/ white sub-dial/ Red hands colour scheme.

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Red Bull and TAG Heuer

Regular readers will know that TAG Heuer started a new partnership with Red Bull Racing this year, breaking the 30 year relationship with the McLaren Formula 1 team. As part of the deal, TAG Heuer takes over as the naming sponsor of the team’s Renault power plant, meaning that the cars this year as known as Red Bull- TAG Heuers.

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

One of the benefits of the relationship with Red Bull Racing is that TAG Heuer has access to two of the fastest- and yes, most marketable- young drivers on the scene in Daniel Ricciardo and 18-year-old wunderkind Max Verstappen. Below is Ricciardo wearing his Carrera Heuer-01 during pre-season testing in Spain.

We were sad to see the McLaren partnership end, but TAG Heuer has been able to get significantly higher exposure with Red Bull Racing, as well as probably being a better fit with TAG Heuer’s target market, so we see the logic.

Dial

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140013The dial is what sets the Red Bull Edition apart from the other models in the Formula 1 range. It starts with a matte blue base, a similar idea to the matte paint used on this year’s Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer RB12. The 3 sub-dials are a flat white and house the red-tipped hands for the sweeping seconds at 3 o’clock, the hour and 1/ 10th second register at 6 o’clock and the 30-minute register at 9 o’clock.

The unique aspect of this model is the use of a steel hour-marker at 12 o’clock, rather than the over-sized “12” offered on other quartz chronograph Formula 1 watches. The Red Bull Edition features an inner minuterie flange, which is a contrasting white with black and red markings. Adding to the clean look of the dial, the minuterie scale loses the numerals at 5-minute intervals of other watches in the range.

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140020The result is a classic, good-looking watch with a vintage feel. There is no “Red Bull” emblazoned on the dial, no gimmicky logos or colours, just a clean, sporty design. While it may be heresy to suggest it, there are also some similarities in the design to the famous Rolex Daytona Newman Exotic dial, especially the design of the 30-minute register and the 3-6-9 chronograph layout.

The finishing touch is the Aluminium matte fixed blue bezel, featuring a white tachy scale. The only markings on the dial is the model name- note that to keep Bernie happy, it’s always “TAG Heuer Formula 1” and not “Formula 1”.

Case

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140022Towards the end of 2015 TAG Heuer upgraded the case size of the Formula 1 Chronograph line from 42mm to 43mm, and that’s the case used for the Red Bull Edition. There’s no doubt that TAG Heuer believes its customers demand larger case sizes- witness the 45mm Heuer-01, the 42mm Monza and the 43mm Aquaracer 300m, all of which are 2-3mm larger than the most comparable older models.

The case is a nice mixture of fine-brushed and polished finishes (brushed upper case, polished case sides, crown and pushers)- and remember, the Formula 1 is TAG Heuer’s entry series, so prices are very reasonable, as we’ll come to shortly.

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Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140018While the purists will always prefer a mechanical chronograph, one of the benefits of quartz-power is the ability to use a slimmer profile case- as you see in these photos, the case is significantly thinner than a comparable 43mm TAG Heuer automatic chronograph.

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Caseback

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140027The only Red Bull specific markings on the watch are found on the caseback, which features the engraved Red Bull Racing logo. Sitting under the caseback is a Ronda 5040D quartz chronograph movement, the same movement used across the Formula 1 quartz chronograph range.

Bracelet & Strap

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140031There are two strap options for the Red Bull Formula 1- the bracelet that features on the watch used for this review (code BA0842) or a technical blue strap with red stitching (code FC8213). The bracelet is comfortable and offers a “racing suit” extension. TAG Heuer has improved the quality of these bracelets over the last couple of years. Sure, they don’t quite have the same polished look and feel of the bracelets offered on the more expensive Carreras, but it’s a good step forward.

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140028The technical strap suits the watch well, with the red and blue of the strap matching the colours on the dial. The pattern of the stitching on the strap is designed to mimic the look of a drivers racing suit.

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On the Wrist

CAZ1018_wrist-1889The new watch looks awesome on the wrist- not much that we’d change to be honest. The slim case profile and quartz movement means that it’s relatively lightweight. Doesn’t matter the angle, this is a great looking watch.

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Price and Availability- Formula 1 Red Bull Ref. CAZ1018

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140021The 2016 TAG Heuer Formula 1 Red Bull Edition (Ref. CAZ1018) goes on sale in the next four weeks, hitting the shops in July. Prices (Swiss Francs) are as follows:

  • Steel bracelet- CHF1550
  • Technical textile strap- CHF1400

While the watch is marked as a “Special Edition”, it’s not a limited edition, so the watch should be available widely from dealers.

In Summary

Red_Bull_TAG_Heuer_Formula_140032As we said at the start, this is our favourite Formula 1. Ever. That’s a big call given the number of models over the years, but this really is the perfect combination of modern sportiness and retro design. If this watch had a mechanical movement and no series name on the dial, it would be a hailed as a true modern-day Autavia.

The watch is great value for money and if we were buying one, we’d be greedy and buy both the bracelet and the textile strap.

We like:

  • A retro look for the Formula 1, with the famous blue, white and red colour combination
  • No Red Bull logos on the dial, no superfluous detailing
  • Sharp pricing

We’d change: 

  • For the full vintage look, perhaps delete “TAG Heuer Formula 1” text from the dial, or at least make the “Formula 1” white like the “TAG Heuer” script
  • Could a Formula 1 like this ever be fitted with the CH80 and sold at a premium? We think so.
  • …well, that’s it

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Join the Discussion

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  • John

    Is the sundial at 6 for the hours or 10th seconds?

    • Erik Fahlman

      Pretty sure it’s for 10th Seconds

      • I’ve updated the text…it’s for both. For the first 30 minutes it can be used as a 1/ 10th second timer and after that is hours

  • Benjamin

    What a great new watch from TAG. I’d rather purchase an automatic version of this watch than Heuer-01.

  • Benjamin

    I believe this particular piece contains the essence of the TAG: durability, reliability and readability. If this piece comes out with ceramic bezel and Calibre 16, I’d purchase this rather than Aquaracrer or Carrera.

  • Mario

    AR coating on the inside and the outside?

  • Zoltan

    Beautiful watch from TAG. Looks like the 2006-2009 Aquaracer quartz chronograph with blue dilal and white register one of my favourite from the quartz range. I think the quartz movement is not problem beacuse this is the Formula1 line but I recommend an ETA 251.262 quartz movement with 27 jewels and 12 hours register that is more better.