The design philosophy that shaped TAG Heuer watches in the 1990s was the absolute dedication to what the company called the “Six Features”.
While each model in the 1990s TAG Heuer range had its own design and movements (from quartz to COSC Automatic), all the watches had the Six Features.
The Six Features were initially a big success and were a key part of establishing TAG Heuer as new brand, distinct to the old Heuer. However, the mistake was to see these six worthy features as more than just “things a sports watch should have” and instead as a philosophy applied across every watch. The result, not surprisingly, was a range of watches that, at first glance, all looked the same.
I’d argue that it was TAG Heuer’s inability to offer distinctive, high-end offerings throughout the 1990s that created a perception problem that has only been overcome through concept innovations such as the Monaco V4 and Grand Carrera Pendulum and new up-scale series, such as the Grand Carrera.
However, without the sales success of the mid-range watches in the 1990s, TAG Heuer probably wouldn’t be around today, so lets look at these Six Features that helped save the company to fight another day.
The Heuer design philosophy in the 1970s was simple- a range of innovative, colourful sports chronographs powered by a family of quasi in-house Chronomatic movements. Square cases, round cases, digital- it was an eclectic range.
The watches themselves were typically named after either Formula 1 race tracks (Silverstone, Jarama, Monza), glamorous cities (Monaco, Cortina) or places synonymous with famous sporting events (Kentucky, Daytona). This philosophy was backed up by Heuer’s sponsorship of sporting events- principally Formula 1 and Sailing races, with the iconic images being the sponsorship decals on the Ferrari F1 cars.
When the banks forced the sale of Heuer in 1982 to the Piaget/ Nouvelle Lemania consortium, it was clear that changes were needed, although sadly these changes began with the naming policy, with Heuer moving to simple Reference numbers rather than names, meaning good-bye to Silverstone, Monza, Cortina and Carrera and hello to (respectively), Ref 510.403, Ref 110.511, Ref 510.513 and Ref 510.508.
Despite this lack of imagination, the Piaget/ Lemania era produced a great range of watches using the Lemania 5100 movement, even if many model designs were shared with other brands.
It wasn’t until the sale to TAG that things really changed- not just the name, but the philosophy behind the company. TAG Heuer was still a sports watch company, but one that produced the 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 6000 series- each design a little different, a little more expensive and a little better made as the series number became larger. And at the centre of this new range were the Six Features, a concept first introduced in the 2000 series of 1982.
The Six Features
The extract below comes from the 1995 TAG Heuer catalog and sets out the view that:
“Technology determines function and function creates the design. This philosophy is expressed by the 6 unique functional features of each TAG Heuer watch”
The Six Features are all self-explanatory and are illustrated below with images from the same Catalog
Water Resistant to 200m
Screw in Crown
Double Safety Clasp