As 2010 comes to a close, so too does TAG Heuer’s 150th anniversary- a year with new releases, a concept watch with magnets, electric cars and the landmark sale of 81 vintage Heuer watches. So settle back with your Christmas leftovers and a glass of yuletide cheer as we both look back over 2010 and look forward to see what TAG has planned for its 151st year.
There were many high-profile releases in 2010- the new Carrera 1887, the Aquaracer 500m Chronograph, the Aquaracer Full Black, the Monaco Vintage and the Monaco Twenty-Four. But my favourite at the end of the year is the same as my favourite was in Basel- the limited edition 300 SLR. In essence the 300 SLR is a Carrera 1887 with a brown and orange dial- but what I love about it are the details- the fantastic dial that mimics the Fume Silverstone of the 1970s, the great leather strap with its orange lining and the Heuer logo on the dial and crown.
The original plan was to make 1860 watches- which increased to 3000 after Basel…and apparently now the final number is 5000. In fact, so popular was the design that the Carrera 1887 was modified to make it look more like its limited edition cousin. As I said when I reviewed the watch back in October: Who would have though that brown and orange would look so good?
A special mention to the Aquaracer Full Black, the PVD-coated, titanium version of the popular Aquaracer 500m. I’d underestimated how popular this watch would be- take a look at the various watch forums and you get a sense for just how hot this watch is- even I bought one. As well as looking cool, it’s nice to have the hot watch of 2010 not being a high-priced limited edition.
Most Disappointing Model
The Monaco Vintage Calibre 11 that I reviewed in October was one of my favourite watches of the year, but also ended up being my most disappointing. Why? Because the watch that I reviewed was the Basel prototype with the distinctive Charcoal coating, whereas the production version is standard stainless steel. Apparently TH were unable to get the quality of the coating to the standard required, and so made a late switch.
Of course, if the quality isn’t right, this is the right decision….but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be disappointed. The Charcoal finish gave the watch a real point of distinction in the large Monaco range, and losing it somehow made the watch slightly less special.
I still really like the Monaco Vintage and still believe that its great value relative to the Monaco 40th Anniversary model- it’s just that it could have been that little bit better.
Favourite Vintage Watch
I have a confession to make: after five years of collecting almost exclusively Chronomatic-powered Heuers, I think that I’m starting to get a little bored with the 1970s. Yes, these are the glory years of Heuer- Autavia, Monaco, Carrera, Silverstone, Cortina, Montreal and more- but the one vintage Heuer that I really wanted in 2010 was this Autavia 2446M from 1963. This first generation Autavia case is a kind of maxi-Carrera, and is more elegant than the Second generation of the 1970s.
The over-sized sub-dials and the fantastic Dauphine hands finish the look and as a bonus you get the great Valjoux 72 movement. The example below sold for GBP5,400 at the recent Bonhams auction– a big price for sure, but its a real beauty.
A Vintage Year for Vintage
And while we’re on vintage Heuer watches, 2010 saw the auction of collector Arno Haslinger’s Heuer collection. A landmark event in many ways- the quality of the watches, the level of promotion and of course the prices achieved. The aspect of the auction that I regret missing the most was actually the Collectors dinner organised for the evening before the sale. The vast majority of the interaction that collectors have today is by e-mail or posts on a forum. It’s rare enough to talk to other collectors on the phone, let alone meet a large group of people in person, all of whom share the same crazy interest in old watches that don’t tell the time as accurately as a $25 quartz.
So, has the auction changed vintage Heuer prices forever? It’s too early to tell, but I doubt that the Haslinger prices will become the norm. Irrespective of the prices achieved, the event was a great success and it was great to see the company embracing its heritage- lets not forget that between 1985 and 1995 the company did almost everything possible to forget about the old Heuer days. If the Bonhams auction achieved nothing else, it succeeded in helping to spread the word about the fantastic watches of the 1960s and 70s.
Five Most Popular Posts
So, what did you read at Calibre 11 this year? The five most read articles were:
1. Carrera Calibre 1887 review: Back in March Calibre 11 showed you the first live photos and review of the new Calibre 1887-powered Carrera, a watch that only now is beginning to be available widely.
2. Grand Carrera Pendulum: Unveiled on Calibre 11 several hours before the watch was shown to the public, this article has the first “live” photos of the amazing Pendulum concept. Biggest surprise? Its size, clocking in at 47mm and feeling massive on the wrist. Will it ever be made? Who knows- but at best, I suspect it’s several years away.
3. Grand Carrera Calibre 36 RS: This was one of the first in-depth reviews that I did, borrowing both the stainless steel and PVD versions of the Grand Carrera Calibre 36. I thought it was the PVD version that I would like the most, but after some swapping and changing, its the stainless steel on the rubber strap that works best in my eyes.
4. 1000 Series: Surprised? It’s incredible how popular these watches still are. Perhaps because for many people it was their first “proper” watch; perhaps because they’re still rugged and affordable- either way, people still love the 1000 series. This article was first published back in 2009 and is still popular with readers.
5. Carrera Calibre 1887- Final Design: Ah, yes, the “final” design of the Carrera 1887- that was until a few months later when another round of changes were shown. Everyone wearing a Carrera 1887 today has this version of the Carrera- lets see when Version 3 starts to appear..
The Road Trip
The Odyssey of Pioneers was a major focus for TAG Heuer in its 150th year and was a focal point for local promotional events. The TH-branded Tesla (which I saw at TAG HQ in March- no they wouldn’t let me drive; yes, I asked) made its way through 16 cities and covered almost 37,000 kms. I didn’t dedicate too many posts to the Odyssey of Pioneers road trip, as personally I’m more interested in a watches than electric cars- but there is no doubting the success of the event in terms of generating publicity for the 150th anniversary at each stop.
Services to Archiving II
Last Year OntheDash added the amazing Carrera reference table- and this year it was the turn of the Diver watches– predominately, the quartz Heuer and 1000 series. Anyone looking for information on the 1000-series should start here.
So Where’s My Watch?
The tradition of showing the full range of a years’ watches at Baselworld in March is well established. Early prototypes are typically shown to the press, with the production versions following throughout the year. Despite this, the increased focus and coverage of new watches from sites like this one mean that consumers want and expect to see the Basel watches in the stores within a few months.
While there has been a great deal of enthusiasm around the Carrera 1887, the reality is that the watch has only been on sale in Asia since September/ October and is still not available in the USA. Given that we are about to see the 2011 watches from many brands in SIHH in January- where TAG Heuer will also show some of its 2011 offerings- that delay is too long for many people. Of course, its important to get the details and quality right, but the best time to maximise sales of a 2010 watch is surely in 2010- before we’re tempted by next years’ models.
OK, so I may be biased, but I think that the coverage that Calibre 11 provided at Basel in 2010 was the most detailed coverage provided to any watch brand: interviews with Jack Heuer and Jean-Christophe Babin, a visit to HQ and a review of each new release- 13 articles in total posted in only five days. Take a look in the Archives for March on the right-hand menu bar to re-live Baselworld 2010. Expect the same for Basel 2011.
What’s Coming in 2011
Within three weeks we’ll see the first of the 2011 models- the Carrera Mikrograph with the new in-house 1/100th second movement. So far, all that I am allowed to show you is the teaser image below. Yes, I have seen the full photo, and the watch is amazing- something quite different. I’m not sure it’s really “retro”, but it’s certainly classical. The movement is a real work of art and again shows how far the company has come in the last 10 years. There may have been complaints about the origins of the Calibre 1887, but the Mikrograph is different and proof that the Calibre V in the Monaco V4 was no one-off.
What else? Well, it’s the 40th anniversary of Swiss Formula 1 driver (and Heuer ambassador) Jo Siffert’s death, so expect a tribute to Jo. Of course, the logical tribute would be an Autavia, but the Autavia isn’t in the current catalogue, so the tribute will be another model. Also expect to see a power-reserve Carrera 1887 and perhaps the use of the Calibre 1887 in other watches in the range.
I’d also expect to see a revamp of the Link series some time soon- the rest of the range is quite up-to-date and sometimes the Link feels like the forgotten model. Maybe 2011, maybe 2012.
And what about Calibre 11 in 2011? 2010 was a big year with the re-design of the website and more than 75 articles posted. 2011 will be just as busy- on January 18 I’ll be in Geneva for the launch of the Mikrograph and will have the opportunity to again interview CEO Jean-Christophe Babin. March means Baselworld, and of course Calibre 11 will be there to bring you the full details of TAG Heuer’s new releases and the stories behind our favourite watches. Of course, you can follow Calibre 11 here at the website (to make sure you never miss a story, why not Subscribe for e-mail notification of new posts- see the form under the “Recent Comments” box in the right-hand menu bar), but you can also follow what’s happening here on Facebook and on Twitter.
Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone that has visited Calibre 11, contributed a comment or taken the time to ask a question- I hope that you enjoy reading the articles as much as I enjoy writing them.
To the team at TAG Heuer in Switzerland, Australia, China and Hong Kong, many thanks for all of your time in answering my questions and the support to keep Calibre 11 on the air. Of course, Calibre 11 could still exist without TAG Heuer’s help in providing interviews, loan watches and extra information- but it wouldn’t anywhere near as good. Thanks also to Topper Jewelers for their continued support and taking the time to write a couple of great articles as well.
I spend a lot of time at various watch forums, so a special thanks to the readers and contributors at OntheDash, Forum a Montres, Relojes Especiales and especially WatchuSeek, with whom Calibre 11 has a great partnership. Some of you may have noticed the banner for Joe Saward’s GrandPrixPlus magazine- I’ve been a long-time fan of Joe’s writing and met him at the Monaco Grand Prix this year. If you love F1, you must check out Joe’s website.
So, let’s raise a glass to 2010- a great year for watches and I look forward to seeing you all in 2011.