The TAG Heuer Targa Florio was released in 2001 and marketed as tribute to the famous Italian road race, despite actually drawing its inspiration from the Heuer Flieger (German for “Pilot”) watches of the 1930s.
The early 2000s were a renaissance period for lovers of the TAG Heuer re-edition series, with TAG releasing a steady stream of watches that drew their looks from the old Heuer catalogue.
The Targa Florio was one of three new re-edition watches announced as part of the classics series. The highest profile of these 2001 releases was the blue TAG Heuer Monaco in the Steve McQueen colours- up until that point, the Monaco that had been available from the late 1990s had only been available in black and silver. Alongside the new blue Monaco was the Calibre 36 version of the TAG Heuer Monza (the El Primero movement) and the Targa Florio.
The official press release at the time described the Targa Florio as follows:
“In a complete revival of the timepiece worn by the F1 world champion Juan-Manuel Fangio, the new generation Targa Florio is faithful to its predecessor in its contemporary feel. It’s clean, black dial and seconds and minute counters make for a subtle, yet striking timepiece. The Targa Florio chronograph is available with a brown or black leather strap for a sporty look or an alligator strap for sophisticated chic”
The Targa Florio Road Race
The Targa Florio was an endurance road race that was first held in the mountains of Southern Italy in 1906. Created by wealthy enthusiast Vincenzo Florio, the Targa (meaning “Plate” or”Shield”) was the most prestigious motor race in the world in its early years, pre-dating the F1 World Championship by almost 50 years. The race itself was held over a course that varied in size, but was usually more than 70 kilometers long and wound its way through the villages of Palermo. Winners of the race included Stirling Moss, Nuvolari and in 1970, the Heuer-sponsored Jo Siffert. Ironically, while TAG Heuer promoted the Targa Florio with the image of Juan Manuel Fangio, he would never win the race, finishing second to his team-mate Moss in 1955.
Eventually the cars out-grew the circuit and safety concerns (led by Austrian Helmut Marko who today is a prominent member of the Red Bull Racing F1 team) led to the race losing its Sports Car World Championship status in 1973 and its cancellation all-together in 1977.
The inspiration for the design of the TAG Heuer Targa Florio were the Heuer Flieger chronographs of the 1930s, such as the watch pictured on the left which shows the later model featuring two chronograph buttons. There are many similarities between the Flieger and the Targa Florio- the coin-edge bezel, the bold white numerals at each hour (including the chrono sub-dial overlapping the “10” and the “2”), the over-sized crown and the shape of the two chrono re-set buttons are all a close match.
Despite this, there was no connection between the original Heuer Flieger and motor racing.
An interesting side-story to the Flieger watches was the mysterious appearance of the over-sized Heuer Flieger watches beginning around the time that the Targa Florio was released. These fakes first emerged from Eastern Europe and took on several design cues from the TAG Heuer re-edition.
Targa Florio Re-edition
The first Targa Florio (Ref. CX2110), pictured above, was powered by a Calibre 17 (ETA 2894-2) movement and featured a plexi-glass crystal. Later in the model-life, this plexi-glass was replaced by sapphire crystal, as it would also be on the 1957 Limited edition model.
The standard model with the sapphire crystal model has the reference CX2112.
Limited Edition Targa Florio
Around 2003 TAG Heuer released a limited edition Juan Manuel Fangio Targa Florio that was limited to 1957 watches- the year that Fangio won the last of his five F1 World Championships, this time driving for Maserati.
- Sapphire crystal instead of plexi-glass
- Fangio’s signature below the TAG Heuer shield
- Number of each watch engraved on the back
Argentina Special Targa Florio
Not to be confused with the limited edition of 1957 watches, TAG Heuer also released a second Juan Manuel Fangio limited edition- this time of just 200 watches that were available only in Argentina (Ref. CX2111).
Perhaps confusingly, this Fangio edition did not have his signature on the front of the watch, and so is basically identical to the original CX2110. It did come with a specially engraved case-back and a special tribute book. The price? USD20,000.
I’ve seen two of these sets offered second-hand- one where the seller was seeking USD16,000 (not sure if it ever sold) and the second that did sell for almost USD8000- which still seems like a large premium over the standard model for a nice book and a personal letter from TAG Heuer.
The Targa Florio disappeared from the TAG Heuer catalogue around 2005, and I suspect that it was never a huge seller. However, it was a well-executed niche watch that is distinct from any other watch that TAG Heuer offer then- or now. Both the standard version of the watch and the 1957 limited edition are reasonably easy to find today and some retailers still have new stock watches.
The Targa Florio is a worthy part of the TAG Heuer re-edition series and one hopes that TAG Heuer will continue to produce niche watches like this that pay homage to the designs of some of the lesser known Heuer’s of the past.
TAG Heuer; Mercedes Benz; OnTheDash; http://articulo.mercadolibre.com.ar/MLA-64760769-excepcional-tag-heuer-targa-florio-edicion-limitada-200-unid-_JM