The TAG Heuer 4000 series launched in 1990 as a mid-range sports watch. Despite being part of the range until 1998/9, the 4000 is one of the lesser-known models of the 1990s and perhaps suffers from not really having its own distinct identity. Trivia buffs know the 4000 as being one of the only mainstream Heuer or TAG Heuer watch ranges to never offer a Chronograph model (the 1000/ 1500 Series being others).
Despite this, the 4000 is one of my favourite watches, mainly because it was my first proper watch and my first TAG Heuer. I bought mine 15 years ago and wore it every day for about six years. In that time, the battery has probably been replaced two or three times, but apart from that its been faultless and still looks pretty good today.
So, let’s put aside any sentimental aspects and take a look at the 4000 as a watch rather than as a fond memory.
4000 Series Overview
The 4000 was released at the height of TAG Heuer’s fascination with the “Six Features” design philosophy, with each feature present and accounted for. As well as being the “middle child” between the 2000 and S/el series in terms of price, the style of the 4000 borrows from each of these other series- a more up-market, softer and rounder satin-finish case than the 2000, but without the quirky, distinctive lugs or bracelet of the S/el.
The 4000 range was very straight forward- there was one basic design offered in three sizes, with either a Quartz or Automatic movement and with various case and dial colours. Checking the reference numbers on the 4000 series is complicated by the change in naming convention in 1992. Early watches (1990-92), such as the ones featured in the catalogue shots below have the Reference numbers XXX.XXX, where:
- 1st Digit: Movement (9= Quartz; 6= Automatic)
- 2nd Digit: Series (9 = 4000 Series)
- 3rd Digit: Bezel/ case (9= Stainless steel; 5= Gold/ Stainless steel two-tone; 4 = Gold)
- 4th Digit = Dial colour (2= Grey, 7 = White, 4= Gold)
- 5th and 6th Digits: Case Size: (06 = Full size; 13 = Mid; 08 = small)
So, the 999.206 in the photo below is a Quartz 4000 with a Full-Size stainless steel case and the Grey (probably more of an Anthracite) dial.
Post 1992, the naming convention changed to the system still used today, so the 999.206 would become the WF1111. For the details of how to interpret the THs reference numbers, take a look here.
The Automatic version of the 4000 featured an ETA 2824 movement- the same movement still used today as the Calibre 5. As well as the obvious “automatic” on the dial (Quartz has “professional”), the 4000 Automatic had a slightly different dial design, with an inner minute scale added. While this made the Automatic stand out, it did lose some of the purity of the Quartz version.
The Quartz version also had a metal border around the hourly lume markers, while the Automatic went without.
While the watch was mainly sold with a stainless steel bracelet, it was also offered with a leather or Sharkskin strap.
Up Close with the 4000 Quartz
This watch is a WF1112 4000 Quartz from 1995. The only real signs of wear are to the enamel of the Green and Red logo at 12 o’clock that dominates the design of the watch. The Green “TAG” logo sits on the watch itself, while the Red “Heuer” logo sits on the Bezel. Over 15 years I haven’t been able to work out if I like having the logo there, or whether it looks too crass to have the logo both on the dial and on the case. Either way, it’s perhaps the only unique design feature of the 4000.
When you wear the watch its obvious that it’s from a different era- it’s far lighter and thinner than the watches of today, although it doesn’t feel too small, with a diameter of 40mm.
Not much to see at the back- clear case backs were still a long way away in 1995.
The 4000 series was effectively replaced in 1997 by the Jorg Hysek-designed Kirium, a successful design that offered a far greater number of models that the 4000 ever did. I don’t know why TAG never added different dial designs, movements or colours over the eight years- there wasn’t even the option of a Chronometre model- perhaps the 4000 just wasn’t that successful, or simply got lost between the hugely successful 2000 Series and the more up-market S/el- the difficult middle child. Take a look at the photo below- at a glance, can you tell which is the 4000?
While I doubt there will be a 4000 re-edition any time soon, the watch still looks contemporary and new-near examples are widely available in the $300-$500 range, which will give you a lot of watch for the price.
The 1990s won’t remembered as an era of great TAG Heuer watches, but there are the occasional gems to be found, and for me the 4000 is one of them.