Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer 1500

The TAG Heuer range in 1990 was totally unrecognisable from the range offered during the golden era of the 1970s and early 1980s. Gone were the great Motorsport- inspired names- Monaco, Carrera, Autavia, Jarama, Montreal, Silverstone– and gone was the innovative mechanical Chronomatic movement. In their place was a range of watches with numerical names that were organised in a clear hierarchy of good (1000 Series), better (4000 Series) and best (6000 series). This range, with a couple of exceptions, was entirely quartz powered, and instead of the Chronograph being at the heart of the design, the new watches were based around the “Six Features” dive watch template.

A large part of the reason for the move towards this look was the huge success of the original “Six Features” watch- the TAG Heuer 1000 Series, which was introduced in the late 1970s. But by 1990 the 1000 was beginning to show its age, and so TAG Heuer set out to replace the iconic dive watch, with a new model- the watch that would become the TAG Heuer 1500 series.

Design

As the name implies, the design of the 1500 is a hybrid of the 1000 Series (above left) and the 2000 Series (above right). The 1000 Series was very much a “Tool Watch”- a large, thick, 70s- style case with broad shoulders and a deeply recessed dial.  The 1500 picks up several design touches inspired by the 1000 Series:

  • “Mercedes” hands (admittedly a feature of all TAG watches at the time)
  • A combination of circular and rectangular Baton hour-markers (note that the 1500 reverses the pattern used on the 1000- circles at 9 o’clock and 6 o’clock where the 1000 has batons)
  • Triangle-marker at 12 o’clock on the dial
  • Triangular marker on the bezel at the “0” position (in fact, the steel bezel version above uses six triangles on the bezel)
  • “Jubilee” style bracelet
  • Circular case

But despite these similarities, the end result looks more like a modified 2000 Series, especially with a much lighter case design and thinner lugs.

TAG Heuer clearly wanted the 1500 to be seen as a more sophisticated watch than the 1000 Series, with many models featuring gold highlights and the option of a leather strap- never an option on the Diver-orientated 1000.

Models

Like the 1000 Series, the 1500 was only available as a 3-hand watch- no Chronograph version was ever offered. Buyers did have a choice of bezels, with either a steel bezel with minute-markers (above left) or a black diver-style design (above right).

When it came to case size, there were three options- Men’s size (~40mm/ 21mm lugs- below left), Mid-size (~38mm/ 19mm- below centre) and one Lady’s design (below right).

Unlike the 1000 Series, there was no “over-size” (~42mm) option for the 1500.

Dials

In addition to the usual Black and White dials, TAG also offered a rare “Night Diver” model with a luminous dial, a model only available in the mid-sized case with a black dive bezel. This is my favourite of the 1500 models, probably because it’s the 1500 that is the closest in looks to the 1000 series.

Perhaps the most unusual dial offered on the 1500 (and a contender for the most unusual on any Heuer or TAG Heuer) is the “granite” finish dial that you see below. It’s the trademark dial of the 1500 series, and something that was never offered on any other series.

Movement

Being an “entry model”, the 1500  was only available with a quartz movement. Watches have either the Swiss-made ETA 955.112 or the Thai-made ETA 955.114 movement. Both movements are the same 7 Jewel design, with the only difference being where they were made.

Series Evolution

Despite being on sale for almost 10 years, the 1500 series of 1998 is basically identical to the 1990 launch version- as already mentioned, there was never a Chronograph nor an Automatic version added during the model’s life.

Changes to the range were minor, for example:

  • The full-size model was discontinued in 1994
  • Later models have additional polished finishes- the centre links on the bracelet, the triangles on the Steel bezel and the outer-edge of the black dive-bezel
  • Detail changes to the bezel on the Steel/ Gold models, with later versions losing the gold inner-ring
  • A  blue-dial/ blue-bezel model (above) was added in 1996

Barack Obama and his Watch- TAG Heuer 1500

While the 1500 was quietly phased out at the end of 1998, there was a spark of interest in the watch 10 years later when Jeff Stein of Onthedash.com noticed that a certain Senator from Illinois was wearing a 1500 during the build-up to his Presidential campaign.

Obama’s model of choice was the white-dial 1500- the stainless steel/ Gold watch that you see below.

Obama is not the first US President to wear a Heuer/ TAG Heuer- as Mark Moss told us a few weeks ago, President Eisenhower wore a Heuer 2447.

Legacy of the 1500 Series

Until the discovery of the Obama-connection, the 1500 Series had slipped gently into relative obscurity, never being as well-known or well-loved as either the 1000 or 2000 Series. This wasn’t really a reflection on the watch itself, but more that the 1500 suffered from a lack of a clear identity in the TAG Heuer family.

Many people today refer to the watch as the “TAG Heuer Professional”- an easy mistake when that is all that you see on the dial. There is no “1500” badge on either the dial or the case, something that admittedly was also the case with other TH models of the same era.

No, the real issue is that the 1500 is too close in design to the 2000 Series. Sure, the case is not quite the same and the dial markers are a slightly different shape- but these are differences that only people reading a watch website will notice. To most people the two series are basically the same. You can see the 2000 series on the bottom left below, with the 1500 to the right. Now imagine the 1500 with the same white dial as the 2000…

It’s a shame that in wanting to modernise the 1000 series, the result was something that, while perfectly attractive in its own right, lost the “tool watch” feel of that original series that distinguished it from the softer 2000 series.

The upside of this for collectors is that USD500 will buy you a near-perfect 1500 today, while you can get a nice, if somewhat worn, example for around half that amount. That’s a bargain in anyone’s language.

To see a copy of the launch catalogue for the TAG Heuer 1500 series, click here.

 

***

Photos

Obama: Moose/AdMedia/Sipa Press/0711191805

ETA movement- jpmwatches: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/TAG-Heuer-New-Old-Stock-Quartz-Movement-955-112-/190554264879

  • Alex

    Interesting piece, with nice detail and history… Especially that that's the watch Obama wears. Where do I sign up to borrow it from him? That's part of "when we spread the wealth around, we all win", right?

    • Rajpdxusa

      “Where do I sign up to borrow it from him? That&#039s part of when we spread the wealth around, we all win”, right?

      No that would be very very basic economics. Try a Community College. They may have a course for you.

  • Philmo

    IMHO the 1500 series offers a great variety of truly practical daily workhorse watches some of which pass muster for evening wear.

    The one piece bezel Obama style had interesting variations in the textured quartz, anthracite and granite dials.

    A more ornate option, the blue and gold WD1223-G-20 with bi-metal five row bracelet, is a particular favourite. There are also attractive diver, black and gold variants.

    They are light, compact, and totally unobtrusive.

    They'll always have a place in my collection!

    Cheers

    Philmo

  • Bob

    Yet another informative, most worthy look at a Tag Heuer line from years past. Thanks so much for these in-depth features – they are so valuable for those of us that collection vintage TH pieces!

  • Jed

    Very nice article. The TAG Heuer 1500 is an attractive watch and the first TAG Heuer that I bought. Actually, my mother and I chipped in for one of these for my father's 50th birthday. After decades of cheap Japanese watches, it was his first nice Swiss watch. It is the stainless model with the black dial and bezel ring. He has owned it for over 10 years and he is relentlessly hard on his watches. He goes in the ocean with it, rides on motorcycle trips in all kinds of weather and builds furniture with the watch on. It still looks great and the sapphire crystal doen't have a scratch.

    So, if you guys want a role model who is an all around cool guy and abhors communism, you can think of the 1500 as my father, George's watch.

  • J

    I read in the article that tag heuer were using thai-made eta quartz that time. Are they still using those in today's models? I hope not! I hope tag heuer could go mechanical in all of their models.

  • DC

    Thanks for the comments Gents.

    @Alex: at $300, you can own your very own Obama watch. Cheaper than him lending it to you and sending insured by courier both ways

    @philmo: Agree that its a more versatile watch than say the 1000. I really like the Blue-dial version

    @Bob: Thanks Bob- still a few more series to go: Kirium and S/el are the main ones missing

    @Jed: I love stories like yours- that's the real test of a watch: 10 years of proper enjoyment and use and not something stuffed into a safe

    @J: Most quartz movements today are from Sellita- I'm not sure if any are made in Asia. I think the whole range- except for the Formula 1- will be mechanical within three years

    dc

  • Mark

    I like the case shape. As the group shot shows it was confidently angular when the rest of the range was more organic and curvy. I find sharper angles a better fit for a watch because it says mechanical more strongly than curves, at least where the lugs are concerned. This case reminds me of the second economy series Heuers (7721/73323/73623 et al).

    The textured dials are interesting too – for me, the optimal watch in the series is probably the "granite" dial in all steel (not bi-metallic) case on the bracelet.

  • Yande

    Thanks David,

    as an owner of two of the 1500 models, Black dial and granite dial, I am pleased to finally have a resource for information about these watches. I felt that they had been over looked in the past, and am glad to see that you have now rectified this. Thanks for the info.

    Regards Mark

  • John Weiss

    Well that settles it for me…..If Obama wears a TAG I am getting an Omega Planet Ocean.

  • DC

    Thanks for the comments guys. Mark, agree that its a more square-edged case- and maybe that's why its aged a little better than some of the softer-shaped series.

    Any other 1500 owners out there?

    dc

  • Peter

    I bought a 1500 in 1992. Love it. Have not been able to wear it though as I need to buy the one link of the bracelet that attaches the bracelet to the watch. Any ideas where I can buy one such link. Or do I need to buy a whole new bracelet. I am hoping not as it is engraved.

  • DC

    Hi Peter,

    Try eBay…or here:

    http://watchpart.co.uk/tag-heuer-m-40.html?filter

    David

  • Peter

    Hi David,

    Thank you for the website link. I am in Canada. Not really keen on ordering all the way from the UK. If I were to phone Tag here in north America would you happen to know if they would be able to supply the part I need…? I will phone them either way and let you know how I make out.

    Thanks again!

    Peter

  • DC

    Hi Peter- certainly worth a call…let us know what the response is.

    dc

  • davehods

    Great to see a view of this fab little watch! I bought a black face and bezel 1500 in 1992. Still lovely despite being worn every day on every task for 9 years – before a Kirium arrived! Now also inherited (sadly) a steel bezel 1500. Love that too! Really fancy a blue one now!

  • Paul

    I have a 1500 Professional that actually says 1500 on the dial. Is it a fake?????

  • DC

    Hi Paul. Feel free to send me a photo- info@calibre11.com

    David

  • Mark

    Hi,

    I have a 1500 professional that was a gift from my ex in 1997. It must be one of the later models and has blue face and bezel.

    I must admit, despite its age it's still a modern looking design.

    Mark – Glasgow

    • DC

      Hi Mark- like the blue. Enjoy

      dc

  • Brendon Kostas

    I just purchased my first tag, a 1500 night diver. you mentioned in the article that it is rare. I was wondering if you could specify how rare and perhaps provide any links when I can find specific details on that model. I enjoyed the article.

    bk

  • Hi Brendon,

    No idea how rare unfortunately..and I also don't know of any articles on that specific model. Sorry- not much help!

    dc

  • Steve

    Thanks for the article. I bought a 1500 with blue face and bezel back in December of 1997 and I'm wearing it right now. In fact, I've worn it almost every day since I bought it. That's 15 years of constant use and it keeps time as well today as the day I bought it. It's a little beat up now on the bezel but what can you expect after 15 years of uninterrupted service? It's very prominent in the photo taken of me holding my daughter for the first time and I promised it to her as a keepsake when I finally trade up (or it stops, whichever comes first!)

    If they are going for as cheap as you say, if I can find another blue face/bezel I might just pick up a spare!

  • Great to hear Steve. Yes, if its in the photo with your daughter you have to keep it…no matter what!

    I had a quick look on eBay- here is a nice looking lume model for $500:

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Mens-TAG-Heuer-1500-Lum

    Cheers

  • Bill

    I'm in the market for one of these 2-tone Tag 1500s. Can you shed any light on the difference in case size between the WD1221-K-20 and the 955.706G-20? Websites all seem to say both models have a 40mm case, but I can't find a reputable guide or catalog to verify this info. Farfo says the 955.706G is larger than the WD1221. Is the former 40mm and the latter 38mm? What about 955.706G-20 vs. 955.706G-2 — what does the trailing zero mean? Wish the Swiss had come up with a simpler numbering system.

    I'm also confused by the available dial colors. There seem to be 3 or 4 choices: (bright) white, granite (speckled light beige?), metallic silver, and perhaps a darker granite, sort of a medium brown that is also speckled. Many thanks.

  • Hi Bill,

    Here is the answer- take a look at the 1992/ 3 Catalogue and there is a helpful guide that bridges between the new and old model codes:

    http://calibre11.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/gallery/1992-3-catalogue/19923-102.jpg

    The 955.706 is equivalent to a WD1121- so yes, I believe that one is full size and the other is mid size (40mm vs. 38mm)

    The “-0” is usually used to denote an updated model, for example one that carries a different movement to the model without the “-0”.

    For the full set of colours, see here:

    http://www.calibre11.com/tag-heuer-catalogues/?album=2&gallery=52

    dc

  • mike q

    IHi, just saw ur site, I got a 1500 tag and I was wondering where can I have it refurbished or just have it serviiced, nothing wrong w/ it , just maybe to replace d hour n minute hand, I live here in new jersey. Thanks.

  • HI Mike,

    Most good watch shops should be able to do a gentle case polish…emphasis on gentle…don't let them overdo it. Take a look on eBay, as you can find a lot of 1500 parts there that you can use to give yours a facelift.

    Cheers

    dc

  • Seb

    Hi David.

    Thanks for a very informative article.

    I was given the blue and gold WD1223G20 by my parents for my confirmation 16 years ago and the watch has hardly left my wrist since then except for the occational maintenace, and it is still in perfect working condition which i think is a testemony to the quality of the 1500 series and Tag Heuer timepieces in general.

    I never knew the story behind the watch until a came across this article so again, thanks for the article. Also good to see that there are others out there with a soft spot for these watches.

  • Hi Seb- love hearing stories about watches still going strong after 16 years!~

    Hope its many more

    David

  • shaun

    Hi, i own a 1500 gmt on matt finish stainless steel, with a white face- do you know how rare are these models?
    cheers
    shaun

  • Daniel L.

    I have about 22 years with my TAG 1500, being with me almost half of my life and still running perfect, it has some signs of usage but love it, even I have other fine brands watches, this is one of my favorites.

  • I've had my TAG Heuer 4000 for about 17 years! I don't wear it everyday, or even that often, but I'm still very happy to have it and like you, its one of my favourites

    dc

  • Jay Valeza

    Im still wearing my dads tag heuer 1500. Though it has scratches on its bezel and the luminous on the dial and hands faded, it still look great. 20 years in service. Can somebody help where can i have it redialed so it could look new again. Thanks!

    • Hi Jay. I think that all you're looking for is a re-lume, which any local watchmaker should be able to do for you. Be warned, that many people like the aged lume and collectors value this ahead of "new" lume.

      But, its your watch, so you should do what makes you happiest!

      Your other option would be to have the case (gently) polished..take out those 20 years of little scratched

      dc

      • Jay Valeza

        The local watch makers here keep on insisting that it should be re-dialed. They committed it would look the same. But I refused cuz I want to keep the old dial, and you're right just have it re-lume.

        So should I just keep it this way?

        Where can I email you to send the pic of my watch for better appreciation.

        Thanks for the reply.

        • Personally, I would consider having a dial cleaned…but not “re-dialed”..assuming that he means touching up your dial with paint. That rarely ends well

    • Bill

      USA Watch Service in Dover, NH is excellent. Prompt service, top notch communicators. I just had my 1500 renewed there.

  • John Whelan

    I received my tag 1500 17 years ago as a gift and can say it has never let me down. Fantastic watch!

  • ebola9999

    My 1500 granite dial TH turned 24 this year. Bought it in the Bahamas in ’90. Still running like a champ.

  • Drew

    Thank you very much for this article, I recently obtained a 38mm 1500 series with the white dial and black bezel. It is a stunning and a unique design. I am a 20 year old aspiring watch collector and this will mark my first piece in my collection. Could not be happier with the price ($370 on ebay as of 2014) and look, perfect proportions, great quality bracelet (has divers extension). Only complaint would be the unpolished/unbrushed matte finish on the case. Would have of looked better brushed in my opinion. Thank you once again for the read.

    • calibre11

      Thanks Drew and a great choice for a first watch. Smart buying at that price and hope you enjoy!

  • Kidk

    I purchased this watch recently and love the marble dial but now I am wondering if the hands are original since I had never seen all black hands with this style before.

  • Sean

    Hey, thanks so much. I wish I had something like this for all of my watches! The perfect article for a guy like me to find when he comes home with a “new” purchase. Please keep it up.

  • Bought my first Tag the other week. Second watch to my collection. Thanks for the article! You put me onto the 1500 night diver and I managed to find one… 🙂 I’m 25… time to start collecting.

  • RichardM

    I’ve got this sinking feeling that I probably purchased the 1500 gold & stainless steel, designated 925.213/611/M on this page. Purchased for $US404 in 1997, I made an unwise decision. The watch works fine, but it’s value is declining. Anyone willing to predict a bottom for the market value?

    • Hi Richard,

      Why a sinking feeling? The watch is worth at least what you bought it for almost 20 years ago..even adjusted for inflation you’re probably in the same ball-park, plus you’ve had 20 years of use! Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

      Values typically bottom out in years 1-4 of ownership and then hold…and if you’re lucky build from there.

      dc

  • Aiman Nurhakim

    I get this tag heuer model from my late grandfather…i dont know anything about this tag heuer but your article very helpfull for me…im just asking the market value of this watch….p/s how many of this unit re releases around the world tq.

    • Hi- impossible to know production numbers, but they would have been high…this was one of TAG Heuer ‘s more popular models.

      eBay is the best place to look for prices

      Cheers

  • Elisha Brinck

    I have the 1500 gold & stainless steel, designated 925.213/611/M – serial # WD1220-D0 I need to add some links or replace band. Is the band made of 1*k gold and stainless steel. Or is it gold plated and stainless steel? Also do you sell links or bands for this watch?

  • Robert Jordan

    anyone have any information on this?

  • Skye T

    Hi, great article! I have my 1500 series for more than 20 years. I want to share some of my experiences onhow some unprofessional watch service centre in Malaysia have ruined my watch.
    1. Battery change and not replacing the gasket – the luminous area no longer exists.
    2. And another occasion, battery change, they decide to “clean” the watch and polished off the 2 tone stainless steel look. :(((((((((
    My advise go to a reputable TG service centres

  • Jeff Greening

    Hello – I have a Tag Heuer WD 1221-K-20 that needs a new case back o-ring gasket. I cannot locate any reference to what size o-ring this watch takes? Looking at the Star Time Supply website, they list numerous Tag o-rings; however, the 1221 is not among those listed.

    Is there another model that uses the same case, thus the same o-ring??

    Thank you!