The TAG Heuer Challenge during the America's Cup 1995.

TAG Heuer Sailing Watches

Many of the posts on Calibre 11 focus on the deep relationship that Heuer/ TAG Heuer has with motor racing- and in particular with Formula 1. You only have to look through a Heuer catalogue from the 1970s to see model after model named after famous racing tracks scattered around exotic parts of the world.

But despite this motor racing focus, Heuer/ TAG Heuer also has a rich history of supporting other sports where exact timing is essential, such as Diving, Skiing and in particular, Sailing. Of course, there are many parallels between motor racing and sailing- cutting edge technology, the quest for speed and the ability to rapidly consume vast quantities of cash.

The TAG Heuer Challenge during the America's Cup 1995.

In addition to requiring standard chronograph timing functions essential for motor racing, Sailing also lends itself to other complications such as tide indicators and specialised timing functions, so it’s no surprise that Heuer produced several Sailing watches.

The Heuer/ TAG Heuer association with Sailing includes several notable America’s Cup campaigns, starting with providing chronographs to the victorious Intrepid inĀ  1967 and running through to the support of Team China in the 2007 campaign. As with all good sporting associations, there have been several watches inspired by the sport and featuring timing mechanisms specific to the needs of yacht-racing.

Heritage

Heuer’s Sailing heritage extends back to the first Heuer Solunar (Solar/ Lunar) of the 1940s that featured the ability to monitor high and low tides. The Solunar name was resurrected by Heuer in the late 1970s in a Calculator-style case and is one of the rarest of the Heuer watches from this period. This “Solunar II” is one of the only mechanical Heuer watches from the 1970s not to use Heuer’s Chromomatic movement- instead relying on the Venus 2790 movement.

In addition to the Solunar, Heuer produced three other Sailing series:

  • Heuer Mareographe: Two distinct generations of Mareographe were produced- the first based on a Carrera-style case and the later version based on the Heuer Autavia 2446. The Mareographe was also sold in the US by Abercrombie & Fitch as the Seafarer
  • Heuer Regatta: Based on the five-circle rotating-disc system pioneered by Aquastar, the first Regatta was based on the Aquastar design, while later models were based on PVD versions of the Autavia case. These “Autavia Regatta’s” use the Lemania 1345 movement. The Lemania connection extends to third version of the Regatta sold in the 1980s that was based on the design used by Aquastar, Lemania, Tissot and others
  • Heuer Skipper: The first version (the infamous “Skipperra” that was obviously signed off while the design-team was out at lunch) was Carrera-based and again, the later version was derived from the Autavia, including the Calibre 15 example shown below.

The TAG Heuer Era

The new TAG Heuer management decided very early on to continue to promote TAG Heuer as a sports watch- and there was a lot of effort focused on supporting Sailing teams and events, including the TAG Heuer Maxi World Cup. The vision that guided TAG Heuer product development through the 1980s was the “six features” principle, focusing on six features that would be common to all models. One of these was being water-resistant to 200m, and as this feature had little application to motor-sports, Sailing became a key plank of the TAG Heuer marketing strategy.

TAG Heuer Searacer

The first of the TAG Heuer Sailing watches was the Searacer series, a watch that TAG Heuer released as both a variant of the 2000-series and the S/el- Link Series. The first generation Searacer was based on the 2000 Series and available in two-tone Gold (Ref. CK1121) and the more appealing Stainless Steel (Ref. ) version pictured below.

The distinctive feature of the Searacer is the Regatta function, with its inner-bezel numbered from 1-10. The Searacer features a black central sweeping seconds hand for the chronograph functions and two sub-dials. The left sub-dial is a 12-hour counter while the right sub-dial shows 1/10th second for the chronograph. It’s the central red hand that is the Regatta function.

To engage the Regatta function, the top-right Chrono pusher is held down, switching the watch into Regatta mode. At this point the 12-hour sub-dial points downwards to indicate Regatta mode. The Red hand then counts down from 10 minutes and once it reached the 10 minute mark, the Yacht is assumed to have crossed the start line and so the standard chronograph function automatically engages and starts timing.

TAG Heuer Searacer_2

TAG Heuer Searacer

 

The second generation Searacer was based on the S/el- Link case and again came in two versions- one branded S/el and a later series branded Link. Apart from this obvious difference, there are also small details changed between the two second-generation Searacer models, for example The S/el Searacer has an applied TAG Heuer logo in silver, while the Link has the logo printed on the dial.

TAG Heuer Searacer SelThe S/el-Link Searacer line used a quartz ETA 251.232/262 movement and the Link version came in three colours: Black (CT1113), Blue (CT1115) and Silver (CT1114)

America’s Cup

TAG Heuer’s modern relationship to the America’s Cup began through its link with New Zealand Skipper Chris Dickson, who led the 1995 syndicate NZL-39 TAG Heuer Challenge. While ultimately unsuccessful, Dickson would later move to the BMW Oracle Racing squad in 2002, and TAG Heuer followed.

This association ended after the 2003 series, when TAG Heuer entered into a partnership with Team China. As with most aspects of the America’s Cup, nothing is as it seems: While Team China is back primarily by Chinese funding, the yachting know-how comes from the French group Le DEFI, a group who formerly challenged for the Cup as the French entry.

Unfortunately, the America’s Cup is a bit of a mess these days- how many people even knew that the most recent America’s Cup was held in February 2010? Still, TAG Heuer remain linked with Team China, but when the Cup will again be open to multiple challengers is something that will probably be left for the Courts to decide.

TAG Heuer’s sponsorship of America’s Cup challengers has produced two limited edition watches. The first of these was the 2002 Oracle Racing Searacer (Ref CT11118), which was a Limited Edition of 1500 watches based on the Link.

The second America’s Cup watch is the China Team Limited Edition (CAF7112; 2000 pieces) that was launched in 2006.

Like the Searacer series, the Aquaracer Calibre S also features a Regatta function which is engaged by rotating the crown. This watch demonstrates the flexibility of the Calibre S movement, which is a quartz-mechanical hybrid movement- albeit more of a quartz movement with mechanical complications: TAG Heuer claim that there are 230 mechanical components in the Calibre S movement.

2011 Partnership with Oracle Racing

In November 2011, TAG Heuer announced the renewal of the partnership with Oracle Racing, the team that will defend the America’s Cup in 2013 in San Francisco Bay. TAG Heuer logos can be seen on the boats, and TAG will also supply watches and sunglasses to the team

Oracle Racing Aquaracer 500m Chronograph

To mark the partnership, TAG Heuer will release a special edition of the Aquaracer 500m Chronograph, the only visual change being the small logo added beneath the date window. TAG Heuer also mention that the special edition Aquaracer comes with a watersports lense, a blue polarized, hydrophobic and oleophobic lens with 5 layers of anti-reflection.

No information yet on pricing or availability.

Summary

3037Sailing watches seem to be a constant part of the Heuer and TAG Heuer catalogue, albeit a niche part that in recent times is heavily focused around the America’s Cup. Given the trouble that series has experienced over the last few years, and the lack of a well-known alternative Blue Riband event, that niche status is unlikely to change.

But niche or not, the Heuer and TAG Heuer Sailing watches offer an interesting alternative to the far more common diving and motor-racing chronographs that dominate the catalogue.

***

Photos

1) NZL39 www.cupineurope.com

2) 2000 Searacer: www.hasegawa78.jp

3) -6) TAG Heuer

  • Greg Moon

    I have a TAG HEUER Challenge watch WI 1110 and am trying to gain more information on it. Any info or direction to additional info would be great. Thanks

  • DC

    Greg, do you have a photo that you can send me? info@calibre11.com

    dc

  • BC

    Further question on operation: Can countdown be set to begin at 5 minutes, rather than 10?

    Thanks.

  • DC

    Not sure BC, as I don't have one of these, but I wouldn't have thought so.

    dc

  • DC

    Actually BC, I had a look at the TAG Heuer catalogue and it says that the countdown can be started from 10, 6 or 5 minutes

    David

  • StJohn Weyers

    Keeping the bottom button depressed will set the hour hand to the six and set the watch to 10-min countdown mode. If the bottom button is pressed a second time, it becomes a 6-min count-down, and a third time, a 5-min count-down. The position of the red hand changes each time pointing to the relevent number on the white part of the face (the reversed 1-10 numbers), and the red hand moves every 10 seconds until it reaches the top and the countdown is completed. It then automatically switches to normal chronograph mode and continues counting, but the red hand now reverts to moving every minute to indicate elapsed time – at the same time, the hour pointer resets itself to the 12 position.

    Hmmm. That sounds very complicated!

  • DC

    You're not wrong!

  • linda howard

    How does a girl get a tag watch, and which one, for a casual sailor ? and the big thing, for not a ton of money?

    Please help! Do I buy a used one? How do I know it is really a tag?

    help!

    linda

    lindahoward@mac.com

    • DC

      Hi Linda, I'd go for a 1980s 1000 or 2000 series…should be able to get a nice one for well under $1000 (depending on model and condition, you'll maybe pay $350-700).

      Make sure you get the seals checked/ replaced if its going near the water.

      Good luck.

      David

  • Terry Waterfield

    Actual winner of 1967 was the U.S. defender, the 12-metre yacht Intrepid, not Imperial as mentioned in your article

  • DC

    Thanks Terry- will change the article. Actually, the one America's Cup result that I know off the top of my head is 1983…

    dc

  • Dan

    David,

    Keep us updated on the new Team USA special edition of the Aquaracer 500m Chronograph. Would love to get my hands on one once it's available.

    Thanks,

    Daniel

  • Stephen

    Hi David any news on the Team USA aqua racer 500m?

  • Neil Tyler

    I have a Tag Heuer Regatta Automatic black stainless steal watch with matching wrist band. The watch is numbered 134.601.It has the 5 moon countdown. The 5 moons progressively change colour from blue to red as the red second hand progresses, after the 10 minutes the red moons progressively change to white. so the watch gives a 5, 10, & 15 minute countdowns. It also possesses a quartz movable bezel. The countdowns are easy to see even with poor eyesight.

    I cannot find it listed anywhere. I need a valuation for insurance purposes. Can you please help.

    Neil Tyler

  • DC

    Neil,

    You have a Heuer Regatta. Those five circles are actually used to count-down the 15 minues- a design pioneered by Aquastar.

    I really like these watches- Lemania movement, Autavia case. You can see more here:

    http://www.onthedash.com/Guide/_Chronographs/65.R

    David

  • JC Marrou

    Dear David, I just bought a CAJ2111 watch (ORACLE Racing) but it doesn't have the word TEAM (blue) beside the USA word (red) at the dial. The seller says that this model or issue has not this world. The case and machine looks great and it doesn't look a fake or replica watch so I want to know if you know if there are this model without this TEAM word in blue letters. Thanks in advance for your comments.