TAG Heuer Kirium Digital

Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer Kirium

The TAG Heuer Kirium series was launched in 1997 and marked the end of one era and the birth of another. For more than 15 years TAG Heuer’s designs had been rooted in the “Six Features” look- steel sports watches with a rotating bezel and “Mercedes” hands. But the Kirium was the last new series to use this philosophy, with future TAG Heuer’s being more influenced by the success of the Carrera (relaunched in 1996) and Monaco (1997). Yes, the “Six Features” look continues to evolve with today’s Link and Aquaracer, but those watches trace their lineage back to the 1980s, when they were launched as the S/el and 2000 respectively.

The watch was also the first model released by an independent TAG Heuer, with the company having listed on the Swiss and New York Stock Exchanges in September 1996. Techniques d’Avant Garde (“TAG“) would remain part of TAG Heuer in name only.

TAG Heuer KiriumSo, the Kirium is a bridge in many ways- the “final” evolution of the “Six Features”and for the first time in more than 20 years, a new TAG Heuer series with a name rather than a numeric code or acronym.

Design

Given its importance to the newly independent company, TAG Heuer could not afford to make a mistake with the Kirium, and so appointed renowned designer Jorg Hysek for the new watch. Hysek has designed watches for many brands, including Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, Cartier, Ebel, Boucheron, Seiko, HD3 and his own brand, Hysek.

The Kirium was to replace the TAG Heuer 4000 series, the mid-range watch that had been part of the range since 1990. As you can see below, the Kirium (Left) shares the same basic look as the 4000 (right), but with a more modern twist.

The Kirium has a “Liquid Metal” look, with the case, bracelet and bezel all flowing into a single shape, as if they were carved from the same block of steel. The bracelet was a return to simplicity, with its inter-locking links being far less complicated than the 6000-Series bracelet.

The dial design was very similar to the 4000, with even the “Professional 200m” placement and script looking almost identical. In place of the baton-shaped hour markers of the 4000 were circular lume markers, shaped like drops of liquid metal.

The Kirium was not a large watch, either in diameter or thickness. The largest case was 39mm (Men’s size), with a mid-sized model at 37mm and a Ladies model (28mm). All models came with a newly designed unidirectional bezel and domed Sapphire crystal, which gives the dial a more interesting feel than the flat glass used on other series of the day.

Two finishes were offered on the case and bezel- either brushed or polished steel, with some models using a combination of these finishes, as you can see on the watch below. By the late 1990s, combination Gold/ Steel cases had gone out of fashion- if you don’t like Silver-coloured watches, then the Kirium is not for you, as there were no Gold models offered.

While the watch is most commonly seen on its steel bracelet, the watch was also available with a vulcanised rubber strap, or a range of coloured calf-skin straps.

Advertising

Advertising for  the Kirium emphasised both the connection to sport and the “liquid metal” design, with the tag line “Shaped by the Spirit of Sport“. To publicise the new range more broadly, there was also a series of fashion shoots by Herb Ritts that featured a range of athletes, including Boris Becker, Marion Jones, Colin Jackson and Marie-Jo Perec.

The Kirium also featured in a series of print ads in TAG Heuer’s “Inner Strength” campaign, again using the likes of Becker.

In the mid- 2000s, TAG Heuer used the tag line “What are you made of?“, with the Kirium being shown with drivers from the McLaren- Mercedes Formula 1 team, such as David Coulthard.

The Kirium Series

While the Kirium range was offered with a variety of movements- mechanical, quartz analogue and quartz digital- the basic Kirium shape never changed throughout its 11-year life.

To keep the look fresh, TAG Heuer made a series of running changes to each Kirium model, which we’ll take you through below.

Kirium Quartz Watch

At the heart of the Kirium range is the 3-hand quartz watch, perhaps the most elegant Kirium thanks to its clear, simple dial and thin case. The first watch models featured the traditional TAG Heuer “Mercedes” hands, and circular hour-markers, except at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock where applied numerals were employed.

The quartz watch is the only Kirium to offer a red and green TAG Heuer logo and so is quickly identifiable- beware, as many fake Kiriums have the coloured logo, even if they are pretending to be a Chronograph.

The design of the hands changed in 2000, with the quartz watch switching to the design used by the quartz Chronograph since launch.

More significant changes appeared in 2001, when the colour logo was dropped in favour of a monochrome look and the dial design was updated. A simpler inner-bezel was added with larger hash-marks to indicate the minutes, while larger applied numerals were added at 12 and 6 o’clock with lume circles at the other hours.

 

The final design change came in 2003/ 4 when the word “Kirium” appears on the dial, a feature that would continue until the quartz watch was discontinued in 2006.

Kirium Quartz Chronograph

Unlike the 4000 series, the chronograph was available at launch. The quartz chronograph has a bespoke hand design, which would eventually make its way across the entire range.

The 1/ 10th second chronograph has a 3-6-9 o’clock dial layout and offers a clean look- there is no outer-circle to mark out the sub-dials.

The design of the quartz chronograph changed little over its life, although in 2003, the word “Professional” on the dial was replaced with “Kirium”. The quartz chronograph was discontinued in 2005.

Kirium Automatic Chronograph

The automatic Kirium chronograph was launched in 1999, two years after the first Kirium models appeared. TAG Heuer had begun to show at least some interest in mechanical movements by this time, in no small part due to the success of the Monaco and Carrera re-editions.

The mechanical chronograph is easily distinguished from the quartz model with its different dial layout (3-6-9 o’clock layout; date at 6 o’clock) and the tell-tale “Automatic” script above the TAG Heuer logo .

In 2002-3 the word “Automatic” moved to the 6 o’clock position to make room for  the addition of “Kirium” to the dial.

The automatic chronograph was discontinued in 2004.

Kirium Automatic Watch

The Kirium Chronometer was part of the launch collection in 1997 and continued through to 2004, when all mechanical Kiriums were discontinued.

The first version of the watch shared a similar design to the quartz watch- circular hour markers with numerals at 12, 6 and 9 o’clock and the then-traditional Mercedes hands. Apart from the obvious “Chronometer” marking on the dial, the mechanical watch also featured an applied monochrome logo rather than the printed colour logo of the quartz watch.

The hands were changed in 2001 when the Chronometer switched to the sword-shaped hands of the Chronograph. A more significant change came in 2002/ 3, with a re-designed dial, as you can see below. The new design uses larger numerals at the 12, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 o’clock positions, as well as adding the “Kirium” name to the dial.

Kirium Formula 1

The Kirium Formula 1 watch was added to the range in 2002/ 3 and features a combination analogue-digital dial. This allowed the watch to look like a normal 3-hand watch when the chronograph was not being used, with the dial lighting up to reveal a series of other functions.

TAG Heuer offered the same movement in the 2000 Multigraph.

The Kirium Formula 1 soldiered on for two years after the other Kirium models had been discontinued, and was part of the TAG Heuer range until 2008.

Kirium Ti5

One of the most interesting Kirium models is the Kirium Ti5, first launched as a watch in 1999 and as a Chronograph in 2001.

The Ti5 name refers to Grade 5 Titanium, which is an alloy of Titanium (90%), aluminium (6%) and vanadium (4%). The case is made from Titanium, as is the deployant clasp on the rubber bracelet.

The Ti5 Kirium was only available with quartz movements, and with either a brushed or polished finish.

Both the watch and chronograph were discontinued in 2005.

Special Editions

As with all TAG Heuers, there were a couple of special editions Kiriums, which ranged from the not-so-good (above, the jewel-encrusted Kirium Formula 1) to the very cool (the McLaren edition of the Ti5 Chronograph).

Movements

As was the case with all TAG Heuers of the 1990s-2000s, movements were supplied by ETA. The movements are as follows:

  • Quartz Watch: ETA 955.112
  • Quartz Chronograph: ETA 251.262
  • Automatic Chronometer: ETA 2892-A2 (Calibre 7)
  • Automatic Chronograph: ETA 2894-2 (Calibre 17)
  • Formula 1: ETA E20.231 (above)

Looking Back on the Kirium

The Kirium was a significant sales success for TAG Heuer, and in many ways is the quintessential 1990s TAG Heuer, despite only being released in 1997. The design is perhaps the most successful of the 1990s designs, even if the watch does look a little too round by today’s standards. This watch could only be a TAG Heuer.

But, as mentioned in the introduction, it was also the end of an era. The success of the Carrera and Monaco re-editions, combined with the new strategy introduced following the acquisition of TAG Heuer by LVMH in 1999, changed everything. TAG Heuer set about reducing the number of series that it offered and began to focus more on mechanical movements and watches that echoed the heritage of Heuer.

In the end, TAG Heuer chose to continue with only two of the “Six Features” designs- the 2000/ Aquaracer and the Link. There was no room for the Kirium, which all of a sudden did not fit where the TAG Heuer range was headed.

Make no mistake, these are fine watches. The quality of the materials and finishes is several steps above the early 1990s offerings and the Kirium is still a favourite of many collectors, with prices still very reasonable.

When you think about 1990s TAG Heuers that might one day be offered as a re-edition, the Kirium stands out as a watch with that potential. It’s hard to think of a more iconic design from the period and interesting to consider how the Kirium series would have evolved had it not been for the (highly successful) intervention of LVMH.

To see more photos of this well-worn TAG Heuer Kirium quartz watch (still in great condition after 15 years of hard, daily use), click here.

***

Photos: Courtesy of TAG Heuer archives

  • Philmo

    A very fair summary of a great watch, a solidly designed watch, a real pugilist's welterweight of a watch!

    And for the era in which it lived, it had great design flair.

  • Bob

    Yet another great overview. My hat's off to you for all the great information.

  • DC

    Thanks Gents

    dc

  • Pinho

    I'm a proud owner of the quartz model for 11 years!! Its's a fantastic watch!! I use it in a daily base and it's in perfect conditions!!

  • Stephen

    Great overview!!! I have always loved the modern look of the Kirium. I didn't realize it was discontinued in 2008 until I read your article because I still see them offered for sale in some jewelry stores as new… Left over I suppose. I just purchased an early quartz model with a silver face for my wife for our anniversary. She bought me an automatic Aquaracer when we got engaged in 2005, so I thought it was high time I returned the favor. 🙂

  • DC

    Thanks Stephen. I'll be honest- I was devastated when the Kirium came out, because my 4000 quartz was only a year old, and I loved the look of the Kirium…if only I'd waited..

    Yes, there are still some dealers selling them as "new"- even though they're almost five years old now.

    Cheers

    David

  • Dr. Barry E. Taff

    I've owned my TAG Heuer Kirium F1 for more than several years now. having purchased it new, as the last unworn model available in the US. Without question, it is the most beautiful and functional watch I've ever owned. Far more visually compelling and reliable than my old Rolex Submariner, which was a joke in it's constant need for serving and never keeping accurate time. I'm often asked by many strangers what type of watch I'm wearing, and I'm proud to tell them that it's a TAG Heuer Kirium F1. Some many people have inquired as to whether this watch is still available, and I must tell them no. It was a beautifully designed, limited edition run that is worth every penny of it's cost. It also happens to go very well with my McLaren Vodofone shirts from Speedgear that come with sponsor names. You cannot have a better time than owning one of these incredible timepieces.

  • steff

    I have a special edition that you have not covered here it is the Kirium Quartz Chronograph F1 Paddock Club edition I've never seen it anywhere!

  • Thanks Steff. Yes, from memory there were two Paddock Club watches- a Kirium and a Microtimer. From memory, the Microtimer has no difference to the standard model expect for the Paddock Club logo on the back…how about your Kirium? Do you have a photo?

    David

  • Leo

    My dad gave me the Kirium F1 for my 21st birthday back in 2002. I was torn because he REALLY couldn’t afford it at $3500 Australian but it was my dream watch at the time. I still wear it now and is a great daily wear and very practical. Much easier to live with than my beef cake planet ocean haha

  • Leo

    Oh and excellent overview!

  • WIGLEY

    Great write up, I believe a kirium is a must have watch for any collector, along with a Seiko 5. No matter if I prefer wearing my Breitlings or my submariner I can still appreciate great designs that will go down in history.

  • Theresa

    I am trying to find another link for my Kirium ladies watch (WL 131E). Any ideas

  • Roposo

    I am the lucky owner of a TAG Heuer Kirium Full size Man FIA Formula One Chronograph Stainless steel Analog- Digital. I simply love it. Great article… thanks!

  • mb

    Anyone know where I can get links for a 37mm kirium that won’t break the bank? Tia

  • Jim

    Owner of a WL5110-0 Kirium Chronometer since 1999! Keeps perfect time and still looks great! Wife purchased it for me on honeymoon, I bought her a TAG Alter Ego, which she loves! Great article also!!

    • calibre11

      Thanks Jim…keep enjoying!

  • Raymond Zammit

    hi i have a tag heuer kieum blue dial and on the back of thewatch i have this numbers WL111F under i have QR2726 is it real or fake thanks

  • Steve Hayzlett

    Hi all. My WL1111 is 1/2 of a link too small. Does such a thing even exist? I have the clasp adjusted to the widest position. Just need a little more room.

  • richard perez

    sir, i am wanting to buy a kirium paddocks limited edition chrono f1 watch black face. does it have to have the paddocks logo at the back or its not applicable in this model? thanks hoping for your response before i buy the watch soon. thanks!

  • C Mather

    Hi, I have a Kirium WL1115 (white dial, Matt black strap) that I am looking to sell. (It was a gift but is not my style.) I can’t find a price guide for it anywhere. It’s in original box, never used and I have a certificate of authenticity. Any ideas? Thanks

  • mtnjon

    Calibre 11, I am looking at a pre 2000 Kirium, all brushed bracelet, white dial, looking quite consistent with authentic features and in great shape. What should be on the back? There is only the engraved TAG Heuer emblem, the model (WL1110, and another finer inscription WB5475, but no “Sapphire Crystal” or other writing.
    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • Yes, that’s right. If you have a photo, post it at forums.calibre11.com and we can check it out for you

      • mtnjon

        Here are some snapshots, thanks!

        • Looks fine to me

          • mtnjon

            Hello Calibre 11,
            I need some more assistance.
            I have a Kirium Paddock Club Chronograph which I am considering purchasing, in my possession for evaluation.
            The 1/10 second register (in the 2:00 position) does not sweep when the stopwatch has been started, but when the stopwatch is stopped (2:00 button) or put in Lap mode (4:00 button) it advances to a 1/10 measurement. When lap is restarted, the second hand advances to missed time as it should, and the 1/10 dial resets to zero, but does not sweep…it stays still until a stop or lap button is pressed and then it registers a 1/10 reading. Is this the correct function, or is it supposed to sweep continuously while the stopwatch function is in use?
            Many Thanks for your assistance

  • Marcin

    Hi, one of my friends has CL1110-1. I know that his strap is almost broken and would like to order him hand made leather strap. Since it supposed to be a gift I cannot measure it. Could you give me all details about it?

  • Martyn abbott

    Hi I have just purchased a kirium ti5 chronograph Jordan royal family version are these very rare? it’s being delivered tomorrow is it worth getting it checked for authenticity ?

  • Martyn abbott

    Hi would love to get some info on the kirium ti5 chronograph royal jordanian does anyone have any info on this watch model number cl1185 I can supply pics if you want them

  • Le Washington

    Stopped wearing my beautiful Tag Kirium in 2005 while divorcing my husband, who purchased for me in 2000, for my birthday. I love this fluid liquid metal time piece. Mine has the exquisite silver face adding to the liquid metal feel. I was disappointed upon hearing of its discontinuation. My Tag traveled the world with me, something I am no longer financially able to do. My Tag deserves to be taken out, worn, and loved again. I am looking for a good buyer, who will feel beautiful wearing it, and alive showing it off, just like I did. If someone could point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

  • AJ

    Hello, I just bought a Kirium chronometer on the used market and everything seems to check out fine expect for the crown. I searched the web for images but could not find one that matched the crown on this chronometer model coming to me. Can you please verify if Tag had used this crown on some earlier version of their chronometer Kiriums?