Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer SLR
The TAG Heuer 300 SLR due in October will be the fifth SLR-branded TAG Heuer, a series that began as a limited edition watch only available if you also bought a Mercedes SLR McLaren, which at least gave you a way of getting your watch home fast.
The partnership with Mercedes-Benz grew from the shared association that TAG Heuer and Mercedes-Benz had with the McLaren F1 team, which in the early 2000s had sealed a deal with Mercedes-Benz to produce a Supercar that would be the spiritual successor to the famous Mercedes-Benz 300SLR of the 1950s.
The first SLR Calibre 36 was released in 2004 to mark the release of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, the first McLaren car since the famous McLaren F1, although one that was developed without the genius of Gordon Murray.
The car was nowhere near as focused and pure as the McLaren F1 and through a series of engineering compromises ended up as a somewhat confused GT- Supercar hybrid and one that apparently proved once and for all that the boys from Woking thought about making cars in a very different way to their colleagues from Stuttgart.
Series One: TAG Heuer SLR Chronograph Calibre 36
The watch itself- much like the car- was a controversial design. The black dial featured five inter-locking circles, which apparently mimic the design of a sportscar dashboard, but to my eyes looks a bit of a mess. The 40mm watch was designed by Jean-François Ruchonnet, who is better known today for being the father of the TAG Heuer V4 Movement.
What you notice when looking at the watch in detail is that the watch is a Regulator with the hour and the minute hand not placed together on the centre stem. For reading the time, the hour hand has been shifted to the counter at 12 o’clock, while the counter at 9 o’clock displays seconds. For chronograph functions, the 6 o’clock counter displays hours, the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock displays minutes and seconds sweep by on the central hand. The watch is powered by the Calibre 36 (El Primero) movement.
Another innovative design features of the SLR Calibre 36 was the placement of the chronograph pushers on top of the case, which is really the only design feature to carry through each of the SLR watches that followed. Perhaps the most successful part of the design is the side view below, which features three gills- reminiscent of those found on the car- and the large crown with the famous Mercedes-Benz star.
For the privileged of paying the USD14,000 asking price of the watch, you first had to plonk down USD400,000 for the car, similar to the way that owners of the McLaren F1 received a Platinum TAG Heuer 6000. There have not been too many TAG Heuer SLRs come on to the second-hand market, but the one featured in the photos here was available in 2005 for USD10,000.
It’s hard to assess the TAG Heuer SLR Calibre 36, because its purpose in life was not really as “just” a watch, but as an add-on to the car itself. The dial layout seems pointlessly complicated, but the purpose is to provide something unique and different to the new owner of a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, who probably already has an extensive watch collection sitting at home.