Series Overview: 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.
So, 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.
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.
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.