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Hands on Review- 2013 TAG Heuer Formula 1 Chronograph FIM

More than two years after TAG Heuer announced its partnership with the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (“FIM”- the governing body of International Motorcycling racing), the union has produced its first watch- the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Chronograph FIM Edition.

The current Formula 1 series was launched in 2012 and represented a more sober, mature design than the original series of 1986 which was seemingly available in every colour of the rainbow.

P3116993While the FIM edition doesn’t differ significantly from other Chronograph models in the Formula 1 range, this is the first opportunity that we’ve had to spend a week with any model in the current Formula 1 series.

P3116989The Formula 1 is one of the most discussed models in the TAG Heuer range, partly because the series continues to offer quartz movements across the board, somewhat of a contrast to the advanced mechanical movement strategy that TAG Heuer is pursuing with other series. But this quartz-only approach is about to change as TAG Heuer introduce a mechanical movement in the men’s Formula 1 series for the first time.

Background

P3116996All models in the Formula 1 series now use the same 42mm stainless steel case, with a variety of bezels and dial colours offered to differentiate the various models.

The Formula 1 FIM is based on the Steel & Ceramic Formula 1 (Ref. CAU1115, shown below). The FIM watch loses the ceramic bezel and bracelet, instead opting for an all-steel finish.

CAU1115.BA0869 THF1 PACKSHOT HD 2012

Design

P3116998While the Formula 1 series has changed significantly since its launch in 1986, the case of the 2013 model stays true to the original shape. The watch is a very professional design- well finished and neat, even if it lacks some of the bolder design elements of the previous models. Isn’t the Formula 1 supposed to be a little more adventurous?

One piece of the design that works very well is the integration of the chronograph pushers and the crown guard (see below).

P3116995The quality of the finish and the overall feel of the watch is a step ahead of the previous Formula 1 series, although it doesn’t feel up to the standard of say a Carrera…not that you would expect it would given the large price difference between the Formula 1 and the Carrera.

P3116994Like the other Chronograph models in the Formula 1 range, the FIM edition uses the quartz Ronda 5040 movement.

Dial

P3116991The stand-out feature of the FIM Formula 1 Chronograph is the blue accents on the dial- seen on the inner minuterie flange, sub-dial rings and hands. It’s a different look to the usual red highlights and works well with the starburst anthracite dial.

Keen observers will note that the name “Formula 1” doesn’t appear on the dial- instead the 6 o’clock sub-dial has “TAG Heuer Moto Racing”.

On the Wrist

IMG_2055The Formula 1 Chronograph looks very good on the wrist- I especially like the contrast of the Black bezel grip and Crown with the stainless steel case.

IMG_2053 The blue contrasts are not always obvious- sometimes blending in with the anthracite dial as in the photo above. It’s a more subtle colour combination that using Red and one that TAG Heuer is using more in 2013 (for example, the Aquaracer Calibre 72).

IMG_2051

What’s Next for the Formula 1?

P3116992We’ve been telling you for a while that the quartz-only era of the Formula 1 series was coming to an end, and in the next few weeks we’ll be able to show you a Formula 1 with the Calibre 16 mechanical movement. But is this the right direction for the Formula 1 series?

Regular readers will know that we’d rather see the Formula 1 stay quartz-only, but to step up the technology in the movement. Today’s quartz watches are nothing like the low-cost movements of the 1980s. What about a solar-powered watch that maintains accuracy 100% via radio waves from an atomic clock? GPS locator? Altimeter? Perpetual calendars? Pulse meters? All of this technology is possible in a quartz watch, and many of these features have a nice link with the type of technology used in Formula 1.

But, most watch buyers believe that quartz = cheap, hence the move to offer a mechanical option. Stay tuned for the Calibre 16 Formula 1, which will be offered in a larger, 44mm case.

Price and Availability

P3116997The TAG Heuer Formula 1 FIM Chronograph is already available at a recommended price of A$1,995 in Australia and CHF 1, 750 in Switzerland. If you’re looking at the F1 Chronograph, the FIM edition offers a distinctive option thanks to its blue colour-scheme.

And for those who believe that Swiss watches should be mechanical, check back in a few weeks for a look at the first men’s automatic Formula 1.

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  • Wilfreb

    I don't know what is going on with Tag, 42mm is way too small for its sports line of watches, I own the 44mm F1 grande date and the size is awesome, but this at 42mm is just tiny, the same happened to the Aquaracer 500M going from 43mm to 42mm, this is ridiculous.

  • DM

    I may have said this before but I too think TAGHeuer should be making bolder moves with Quartz powered Formula 1 watch models.

    The ones I keep going back to as an example are the WRC watches that Edox make. Perhaps those are a bit too rally specific in their application and not in any way appropriate for normal every day use but at the same time, you can’t help but think that it is something TAGHeuer of all manufacturers should be doing.

  • Dan

    I can't make up my mind if I like or loathe the 30 min. chrono on the F1. It's great for lap timing, with the 1/10 sec. capability, but not much else.

  • Good news Wilfreb- new Calibre 16 F1 is 44mm.

    DM- agree. The F1 is moving towards the mainstream..reckon there is some scope to take more risks.

    Dan, if for no other reason, I like the 3-6-9 layout…gives the dial a nice balance.

    Cheers

  • KJ7

    I'm all for the larger case for F1 series – they are purely racing inspired. Speaking about small case for racing watches, Omega has its Speedmaster racing line at just mere 40mm, too small! Anyway, TAG is still the king in luxury sports watch and 44mm housed with Calibre 16 movement is awesome!
    Hey David, waiting for your article very anxiously 🙂

  • Philmo

    IMHO this is the most attractive F1 for some years, though for me the tachy scale and bezel are a tad too dominant.
    Re reduced acceptance of quartz driven chronographs – might this have something to do with the lack of support from TH for the 1980's and 90's quartz chronographs, using the piggy-back movement, and which have become expensive ornaments/parts bins for many enthusiasts?

  • Philmo, you mean the Calibre 185? Yes, very hard to find parts for that…although off the top of my head, I don't think the movement would have been fitted to a watch in the last 20-25 years. Either way, not sure that this is the problem- I think it's more to do with the view that luxury Swiss watches should be mechanical. We''ve seen all brands reduce their quartz offerings. I remember being in Hong Kong 5 years ago looking for a quartz Omega for a friend (…I know…) only to be told that Omega no longer sold any quartz watches in HK.

    KJ7, won't be too much longer. Have to say that I'm not with you guys on 44mm…too big for me!

    Cheers

  • Dan Dahl – WI Proud

    Good writeup David.

    I could see an entry level Cal 16 priced at $2500 USD to keep the pricing level beneath the Aquaracer which just went over $3000 usd.

    I am a bit confused, however, because supposedly the 1887 was brough in because of the eventual shortage of 7750/SW500 movement to put in the Carreras and Links. Now, it appears there are enough movements to supply the F1 line with the Cal 16.

    I think in time the carreras will all be 1887s and the AR and F1 will be cal 16s.

    As for the size, I believe 42mm is good. there are other larger watches in the 43-44mm range and on top of that, sizes in general are creeping back down in the sizes seen in the past by all manufacturers.

    size isnt always a function of diameter but also should consider thickness which gives the most wrist presence assuming that is the wearers goal.

  • Kback

    The strategy to go over from quartz to mechanical watches is a sustainable strategy. Nowaday, it’s only about automatic watches, especially in asia. Beside the actual brand-value, a watch needs to have an automatic movement – if in-house-made, then even better.
    44mm will be to big for chinese armwrists though, but there are other markets too.

  • DM

    Dan.

    Well, there’s an obvious move, in the Carrera line at least, to the 1887 movement. As it is, the 1887 has begun to all but replace the 16 in every iteration with the exception of the “basic” tachy model.

    With the codenamed 1888 coming soon and a still as of yet “secret”, the 16 is without doubt taking a back seat and being phased out of the higher end of their line-up.

    What surprises me is that their production of the 1887 can sustain so many different models. I don’t think the new facilities are running yet so unless they expanded the production, that suggests that they actually sell fewer of the more expensive Carrera chronographs than I thought. I mean, 50,000 shared across three models and their variations and for this year, two limited run models.

  • Hi DM- yes, the 1887 production certainly seems to have ramped up- next time I speak with the company I'll try and find out how many they're now making annually

    dc

  • James

    Hi, I am about to receive a tag watch as a gift for birthday/Christmas present, I’m a UK police officer and wanted a watch for daily use, I’m a fairly big guy and like the F1 chronograph automatic 44mm but am concerned about the fact that will it be roust enough for general use! Any advice and guidance would be greatly appreciated

  • James

    I meant to say robust enough, I’m just concerned about the ceramic bezel and ceramic tiles in the strap and I don’t think the 42mm will look big enough on my wrist, thanks

  • Hi James,

    Yes. In this sense, the quartz movement is a plus…will take more knocks than a mechanical movement. Ceramic is a lot harder than aluminium, so perfect for the bezel. Not sure on the tiles, but I haven't heard/ read of any complaints about the bracelet.

    As for size, best to try one on in person. I've had some 43mm watches that feel way too big…and others that are fine. It can be the way that the watch sits on your wrist, so definitely worth trying one out in person

    Good luck
    dc