Series Overview: TAG Heuer 1000
Sometimes watch companies must wonder what the secret is to a developing a successful new model. Watches that are lovingly developed by the world’s most powerful luxury goods company and backed by history and large marketing budgets can sometimes fail to catch fire (such as the Autavia), yet others that are developed as side projects can turn into hugely popular models that enjoy success over more than a decade. The watch that has become known as the TAG Heuer 1000 Professional series is a great example of the latter.
Having gone through the 1970s naming its watches after wonderfully evocative race tracks and cities, Heuer seemed to give up as the 1980s came around, simply using reference numbers in the place of model names. So the Heuer 1000 never really had a name for the first 5 years of its life and was instead known by its reference numbers- 844 and 980. It wasn’t until 1985 that the watch was given a proper name- The 1000.
The 1000 was a watch that Heuer didn’t initially believe in enough to invest in tooling up for production itself, instead outsourcing the production to a French company in 1979. Heuer had produced diver watches before with the Autavia, but this was something different- a low cost diver model with the option of a quartz movement.
By the time the TAG Heuer 1000 Professional was finally retired in 1992/3, it had not only proved to be one of the most successful TAG Heuer watches, but had created a design template the survives today through the latest TAG Heuer Aquaracer.
The Early Days: Made in France- Ref. 844
Jarl Fr. Rehn-Erichsen’s website Classic Heuers has some great photos of the first generation Heuer 1000- the Heuer 844. This model was designed and manufactured by the French company G. Monnin and featured a Felsa movement, available in both automatic and quartz. These 844 Heuers are some of the few Heuer models that don’t carry the “made in Switzerland” script due to their French origins.
Already evident on the 844 are the design features that would last for more than a decade: The triangle marker at 12 o’clock, the circle hour-markers, the black diving bezel and the elevated guards around the crown.
I’ve struggled to find out much about the “G. Monnin” company that made these early watches. Was it Gaston Monnin, the French watchmaker from Charquemont in the French alps and near the Swiss border? Certainly I’d like to find out more about M. Monnin, who was also Mayor of Charquemont in the late 1960s and early 1970s- it sounds like there is a story there to be told.
Jarl’s website has more photos of his early 844 Heuer/ Monnin Diver here
The Heuer 980.xxx: Made in Switzerland
When the 844 series proved itself to be a success, Heuer began to switch production of the watch back to Switzerland and replaced the Fesla movements with ETA movements. However, the watch still didn’t really have a name- gone was the 844 serial number and in its place were new model numbers- typically 980.xxx depending on the variant.
At the same time the look of the watch was changed slightly- gone are the 24-hour red numerals and there is the first sign of the “Mercedes Hands” that Heuer and TAG Heuer would soon use on all of their diver watches.
The photo on the right shows a photo from the 1981 Heuer Catalog- I believe that the Orange-faced model is a transitional model still with some French parts (note the 844-style hands and the lack of “Swiss made” on the dial”.
Heuer also replaced “Professionel” with the English spelling “Professional”. TAG Heuer would later use the Professional label to generally indicate that a watch was quartz-powered, but initially “Professional” is found on both automatic and quartz watches. Why it was ever spelled “Professionel” rather than the correct French “Professionnel” is a mystery to me- maybe a French reader can clear that up.
My favourtite watch from this era is the 980.032 which had luminescent material covering the entire dial. These are fantastic watches that can be found for around USD500 today without too much trouble. This “glow watch” came with both an orange and yellow dial- its probably the orange that is the rarer variety.
There were a huge range of variation of the Heuer 980 series- it came in three sizes (Mens, Boys and Ladies), various case materials (PVD, Stainless Steel and Gold-plate) and various movements (quartz, Automatic and a quartz analogue-digital combination).
TAG Heuer 1000
By the time that TAG bought Heuer in 1984/ 5, the diver watch finally had a name- the 1000 series. The very last of the watches produced by Heuer have “1000″ on the dial as well as the “Heuer” only logo.
Initially not much changed with the TAG Heuer 1000 Professional- it was essentially the same watch as the Heuer 980 series, but with TAG Heuer on the dial. However, the late 1980s love of two-tone Gold and stainless steel soon infected the 1000 series, with all sorts of colour combination’s offered- some of the “highlights” of this dubious era are shown below:
Quite why you would want a gold divers watch is beyond me, but TAG Heuer wasn’t alone in producing the two-tone models, and Rolex and others including TAG Heuer still do today.
The 1500 Series
While the 1000 series disappeared from the TAG Heuer catalogue in 1992/ 3, in reality it survived as the 1500 series (presumably named because it was 50% better than the 1000). Some of the 1500 series models were almost identical to the earlier 1000 series (for example, the blue faced watch below, which has lost the 1000 series circles hour-markers), while others started to develop a distinct look, abandoning the black diving bezel in favour of silver, to bring the watch into line with the other TAG Heuer watches of the day- the 2000, 4000 and 6000 series.
M. Monnin could never have imagined that his low-cost 1979 design sold to Heuer would be so enduring that it would influence the watch worn by an American President when he collected his Nobel Peace Prize 30 years later.
President Obama’s love of his TAG Heuer 1500 is not the only on-going influence of that original Heuer 844.
On the right is the 2009/ 10 TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300 Calibre 5, which has several clear links with the 1000 series- the black bezel is back, as are the circular hour markers. The watch still has the crown guard and has a very similar overall case design to the original Heuer 844.
Many people have a special love for the TAG Heuer 1000 as it was an affordable way of getting into the world of quality Swiss watches- for many, it was their first “proper” watch and offers great value for money.
And today its still affordable, with prices ranging from $300-700 for a second-hand Heuer/ TAG Heuer 1000 Professional. These are pretty tough watches that generally can take a fair beating and still look good- its really only the bezel condition that gives away what sort of life a watch has led. Sadly, these are also very difficult to replace with correct TAG Heuer parts, although there are several aftermarket options available.
The TAG Heuer 1000 still offers a lot of watch for your money and make a great choice as a Heuer/ TAG Heuer to wear as a daily wearer where you won’t be continually worried about scratches or scrapes. Just steer clear of the two-tone gold!
This article was originally posted in December 2009. In March 2010 I had the chance to ask Jack Heuer some questions about the Heuer/ TAG Heuer diver watches, which you can read here. You’ll note that Jack says that the first watches were not out-sourced and that it was a design- both case and dial- by Heuer.
2) Classic Heuers: http://classicheuers.blogspot.com/2009/01/heuer-844-french-made-diver.html
3, 5 and 6) Heuer catalog: OnTheDash
6) Bernard Watch