New Arrival- TAG Heuer F1 Chronograph

Posted by: David Chalmers   |   9 January 2010   |   42 Comments  

My first watch of 2010 arrived this week and its something a little different from the usual 1970s Heuer Chronographs- a 1990 TAG Heuer F1 quartz Chronograph (ref. CA 1211-RO). I’m planning a more detailed look at the TAG Heuer F1 series shortly, so today only a brief  overview of this watch.

This is the second series F1 watch, and the first to come with a chronograph function, via an ETA 251.262 quartz movement. While its tempting to think of the F1 as TAG’s “Swatch”, this was no cut-price special- the original price tag on this one shows that it cost USD795 in the early 1990s- well over 10X the cost of a comparable Swatch.

Wearing the watch today the first thing that you notice is the size- at 36mm it feels very, very small. The first two series of the F1 only came in what TAG called mid-size, and with tastes today pushing well into the +40mm size range, this one feels light and small. In fact the small size is really the only aspect that dates this watch to being from an earlier time. The rest of the design is very clean, functional and crisp- just how I like my watches.

But the best bit about buying a “vintage” F1 today? The price. This almost NOS example with perfect bezel, dial, case, full length bracelet, original sales box plus outer box, all papers, swing tag and original price sticker cost USD300. That’s a lot of watch for the cost of a vintage Heuer bracelet.

I don’t think that it will replace the vintage Calibre 12 chronographs in my collection too often, but its perfect for the weekends. A few more photos below- and if you think these photos look better than what is usually shown here at Calibre 11, then credit should go to Paul Gavin, who has shown the crew at OnTheDash how he takes his beautiful photographs.

My thanks also to David (“dmr33″) at WatchUseek for his background information on the F1.

Home » Focus, Formula 1

42 Comments »

  • James said:

    David, thats an excellent catch, very good condition, well done. If you need any pics for the F1 write-up i have plenty, all the best, James.

  • Paul Gavin said:

    Hi David – the shots are great. I particularly like the second one with the shallow depth of field and the hint of the Tag logo in the background. You can get really creative for this editorial type of picture. Its different from a sales shot. Thanks for the credit and keep pushing your own creative bounderies.

    regards Paul Gavin

  • Dan P said:

    Bought one of these today w/o box or papers for $100 cash. Hope I did alright as it's my first chrono. Don't even have a clue why anyone would need a 1/10 of a second dial anyway but it sure is cool on my wrist. My Seiko was 1 1/2 seconds fast a week. How will this compare? Now I need to find a manual for it. Thanks

    Dan

  • DC (author) said:

    $100? Great buy at that price, well done. Depending on which version you have, its got a pretty rugged ESA/ ETA quartz movement, so accuracy shouldn't be a problem.

    Not sure where to find a manual unfortunately.

    Enjoy

    dc

  • Dan P said:

    Thanks, I'm pretty excited. This unit is identical to the four pics in this article. In addition to the model it has a light stuck number on back.. X27359. Could this be the serial number? Any idea as to it's date of birth? Thanks for your great write-up.

    Dan P.

  • Steve said:

    HI

    I have had this watch since 1990 It has been fantastic until earlier this year it kept perfect time. I have just had an service and overhaul NOT CHEAP

    Service+ Battery,New Bezel, New adjuster,New Dial and hands £385

    Soon will need new metal strap £105

    I would definately advise having battery replaced by a good company not cheap but will save you a lot of problems in the long term.

    I could have bought a new one nearly for the price of the repairs but as i said it's a great watch.

  • Nick said:

    Hi,

    I too have had an F1 Chronograph since 1991, totaly faultless in operation, with I think about four or five batteries in its life time. Recently however, the watch would stop at 8:45 at night but would restart after moving the hands through the date change, and be okay untill 24 hours later. I therefore sent it off to the UK's TAG service center, requesting a battery and re-seal and they have quoted me 415.00 GBP to include a dial, hands, service, battery, and postage! I requested the watch to be returned without repair and will now source a battery and see if that gets the watch running again! If not it'll go back to them next year…..

    Just one other thing – I notice that the chronograph minute hand on the watch pictured above is all red – the one on mine is green with a red arrow head. Any reason behind this?

    All the best,

    Nick.

  • DC (author) said:

    Hi Nick,

    That's a lot to get the watch repaired- frankly, its a very high percentage of what the watch is worth is you were to sell it!

    If the movement needs to be fixed, a local watchmaker should be able to source a replacement unit (here is one for about $100- http://www.esslinger.com/etaquartzmovement251262…. so then you just have the cost of seals.

    I wouldn't replace the hands and dial unless it really needs it.

    Cheers

  • Nick said:

    thanks for the reply, I have now fitted a new battery and the watch is now running again! If it's okay over the next few days then I shall look at getting the seals changed.

    I have worn the watch every day since getting it so is in a more of a "used" look compared to the photo's above! There's no markings on the bezel and the clasp has been re-newed but other than that it's fine.

    Nick.

  • DC (author) said:

    A new battery is a much better solution that spending big money on it- good result

  • Himawan said:

    Hi David,

    Great watch! I have myself a classic TAG Heuer 2000 chrono. My old reliable, a legend at its time. I guess the 2000 and F1 series share the same ETA movement?

    Thanks.

  • DC (author) said:

    Himawan,

    Firstly, you are famous.. Go to US Google and Type in Calibre 11. There are 8 sub-links under the site name…for some reason, you are one of them!

    I have been planning for the longest time a post on the 2000 series…but was waiting until I had as many old brochures as possible. Almost there…it is coming.

    Depending on the model the 2000 used different movements…but there are so many 2000 variants that I'm sure they found a way to share parts.

    David

  • USA 591 said:

    I have owned this watch since it was introduced in the early 90's and I was in high school. It has been my trusty companion on many, many adventures: sailing, mountain bike crashes, camping, motorcycle trips, board meetings, surfing–you name it. I have always been pleasantly surprised by it's ability to take abuse and a) stay on my wrist and b) keep perfect time.

    I have worn through three bezels, one bracelet and recently had the movement replaced (through Feldmar Watch, Los Angeles). Unless bandits steal this watch or a shark takes my arm, I am keeping this watch forever and hope to pass it on to my son.

    The design is super-clean and uncluttered. Truly a great value & one of the design greats, IMHO. Can't say enough good things about this watch. It's medium-case size is a plus.

    The only fault is with the expansion clasp–it has a tendency to open up unexpectedly when knocked hard: for me, this usually occurs when I'm doing bow on big boats. For this reason, when I know I'll be wearing it during heavy athletic activities, I switch to the resin band.

    My dream feature would be tritium markers for true 24 hour use.

    For those lucky enough to have one of these in their collection–bravo.

  • DC (author) said:

    Thanks for this great story USA 591- great to see so much enjoyment out of a watch. Hope you keep enjoying it for years to come.

  • jules said:

    nice watch dude!!! tag heuer f1 is the best…

  • Dirk said:

    Very nice watch by the way – always wanted one and am looking to get it soon. Could you tell me what the difference is between the models that have the 1/10 written on the face at the nine o'clock and the ones that have it at 12 o'clock. The one that I am looking to purchase has "Chronograph" only at 9 0'clock and "1/10" below the Tag Heuer emblem.

    Thanks

    Dirk.

  • DC (author) said:

    Thanks Dirk.

    Great question, and it took me a while to find out.

    The F1 Chrono from 1991-1995 has this model with "1/10th" under the TAG Heuer logo and "Chronograph" at 9 o'clock.

    From 1996 on, the dial has changed to the photo that you see on my watch. Not sure if there are any other differences, except for this small change as the model got to the end of its life.

    Cheers

    David

  • Planner said:

    Good morning to all: I am interested on purchase a Tag Heuer ca 1211-RO in good conditions.

  • Sean said:

    Did the early Formula 1 chronographs have a Helium escape valve? I saw one for sale on ebay without a date window and without "200 Meters" and "Chronograph 1/10" markings on the dial but with an escape valve on the side. It also has "T Swiss" between hours 7/8 and "Made T" between hours 4/5. Is this a very early model or a fake?

  • DC (author) said:

    Hi Sean,

    No, not that I am aware of- do you have a photo?

    dc

  • Tim Crosse said:

    Hi, i have a four button Tag s/el chronograph quartz, and for the life of me i cannot change the date. Any ideas??

  • DRQ said:

    Lovely Article and Watch, just at the right time when I'm reminiscing about the exact same one I lost when I was in Uni, first watch bought with my pay too. House burglar had the foresight of swiping this watch and leaving me my swatch even though I'd thought it'd be easier to just swipe both into his bag.

    You guys seem to have found great deals on these. eBay search revealed the cheapest at usd500 and not of great condition. I'm not sure if any of you decides to sell yours do let me know, or can point me in the right direction in acquiring one. Thanks!

  • DC (author) said:

    Hi DRQ,

    Well, at least the theif had taste- not that this is much of a consolation to you.

    I did sell this one about a year ago, and while the prices may have gone up a little over that time, I would still think that $500 on eBay should buy you something in great condition.

    David

  • drummer1 said:

    I have one just like these pictures that I'm about to put on eBay. I just got it from a friend that grew up with. I actually want to sell this Tag and get something different that I've been wanting.

  • Hector said:

    I want to know if a Tag Heuer CA 1211-RO Olympic Edition was ever issued/built by the same company. I am being offered one but I want to know if this is authentic and ever came out to the circulation before I buy it. Thanks for comments.

  • David Chalmers (author) said:

    Hi Hector- never heard of it…so you have a photo?

    Nice collection Fernando. First time that I have seen the F1 generations next to each other. I like your 2012 model- great dial

    dc

  • Fernando said:

    Thanks David. The 1991 is pretty banged. I used it every day for over 10 years when I was moving computers around at work and was always hitting it with something. I want to see if I get it restored this summer. All my other watches are very cared for and have no scratches.

    I think the 2012 brushed ceramic is my favorite Tag right now. They have gone way up in price lately though. I got the silver one for about $620.00 at the Tag outlet in Sawgrass about 2-3 years ago. I saw it last year in Costco for about $750 and about a month later it was about $990. I hope they try and keep their Formula One line prices in check and don't let them get too out of hand. I don't think there are any Formula One Chronographs for under $1,200 now (retail).

    I'm hoping they make another navy blue Formula One Chronograph soon, I who buy it in an instant; a yellow one would be cool as well with black accents. I remember so sort of electric blue a few years ago but I did not like that blue at all.

    Close up of 1991 blue Formula One Chronograph (some numbers on the dial are very faded) :https://www.dropbox.com/s/an0mtl32gpqhl5o/1991-blue-Formula-One-Chron.jpg

  • David Chalmers (author) said:

    Agree Fernando- the new F1 series needs more colour. A busy couple of months for new models coming up, so fingers crossed.

    dc

  • Zach said:

    Hi DC

    Seriously.. Are they going to issue a new line up (variant) of the current F1 series?

    Can't wait to see it..

    Anyway.. Just purchase CA 1211-RO today.. Really happy as this is my dream watch since 90's

    Thanks for the nice article

  • David Chalmers (author) said:

    Hi Zach.

    I haven't heard anything about any new F1 models for 2013…maybe not this year, given that they were launched almost exactly one year ago.

    dc

  • Mike said:

    I've had mine since 1994 and have just had it serviced for the first time this week. The service cost $290 (In South Africa)and the watch has come back looking brand new. I recently bought a TAG Grand Carrera for more of a formal look.

    But the F1 is a brilliant watch. Great at keeping time and is hardy enough to do all sports with. I've been through about 6 batteries and 2 bezels.

    The face is small by today's standards but I don't have a big wrist so it suites me fine.

    After 19 years, I'm still thrilled with this watch!

  • David Chalmers (author) said:

    HI Mike,

    Thanks for the post. It is a beautiful watch and a perfect design.

    Hope you get another 19 good years from it!

    David

  • Adrian said:

    A great watch and the one s still my everyday favourite after 29 years despite owning several others including a Monaco – this used to be my diving watch before I bought a Citizen Hyperland as backup to my dive computer. I have left the bezel "distressed" as it really looks the part. One of the finest quartz watches you could have

  • Calibre 11 (author) said:

    Agree Adrian- Cheers!

  • Frank said:

    I own a first generation F1 chronograph that as purchased new in 1989 or 1990. The only service has been batteries. I replaced the original resin band with a Tag Heuer bracelet in the late ’90s. The bezel is original and is finally showing a bit of wear after all the use this watch has had over the years. I still have the inner and outer boxes, manuals, and swing tag. The sales slip is lost’ but I seem to recall paying around $375 for it. It has the blue dial and bezel, and it still is a great looking watch in my opinion.

  • Calibre 11 (author) said:

    Thanks for posting Frank. 24 years of use for $375 sounds like a great deal to me!

    Enjoy!

    dc

  • Frank said:

    Hello,
    I have a Tag F1 Chrono Sport watch I purchased in the 90's and need to find a pusher cap for one of the two
    pusher buttons. These don't screw in but are pushed on a post. Does anybody have any idea where I can get one of these?
    Thanks,
    Frank

  • Brian said:

    Got one of these in 1986 for high school grad. Wore it every day for 15 years, never took it off. The white paint highlighting the numbers on the bezel is gone but everything else looks fine after 28 years. I believe mine came with a Ronda movement. Great watch.

  • Calibre 11 (author) said:

    Thanks Brian- hope you get another 28 years from it…

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