The second day of my visit to TAG Heuer focused on the four assembly and production areas of TAG Heuer that turn raw materials into a complete, finished watch:
- T-0: Component Fabrication
- T-1: Assembly of the Calibre 1887 movement
- T-2: Watch Assembly
- T-3: Fittment of Bezel and Strap
As with the visit on Day One, TAG Heuer have significantly expanded both in capacity and in capability over the last two years- there is no doubt that TAG Heuer has embarked on an “in-sourcing” programme to bring back many of the stages of watch production in-house, although there will always be a significant number of parts made by specialist suppliers.
In my view this is driven by two factors: the uncertainty of future supply of movements from ETA and the emerging view in the market that integrated watch companies are somehow more “real” than brands that out-source to a series of suppliers.
Of course, those that know their history are aware that the out-source model has always been the foundation of the Swiss watch industry, with a network of specialist firms producing parts that were fed to the watch brand for assembly…but times change and the real benefit to TAG Heuer about developing its own in-house capabilities is the benefit of true independence from the strategies of other firms.
Cortech, a 100% owned subsidiary of TAG Heuer for almost 20 years, manufactures several key metal components for TAG Heuer at its factory about one-hour away from La Chaux de Fonds. As well as making components for TAG Heuer, it also produces parts for Zenith, Chaumet and others.
For those of your concerned that today’s Swiss watches are assembled in factories in anonymous suburban industrial estates, you might like to see the view across the road from Cortech. I didn’t get the cows in the photo, but they were there.
Until this year, the components produced here for TAG Heuer were limited to cases, case backs and bezels, but Cortech now also manufactures several key components for the Calibre 1887 movement.
TAG Heuer still source some cases from other manufacturers, but there is a trend towards moving greater volumes of production to Cortech, for example the Monaco cases are now made here.
The watch case starts life as a strip of metal (Cortech make cases in Gold, Stainless Steel, Platinum and Titanium) that goes through nine different stamping processes to form the case, each stamping bringing the case closer to its final shape. After each stage, the case is super-heated to 1000 degrees and then cooled to preserve the integrity of the metal.