As another new year starts, it’s an opportune time to look back over what 2012 meant from a TAG Heuer perspective and to take a peek at what to expect in 2013. In 2012 Calibre 11 bought you 52 new stories from a range of expert writers, taking you behind the scenes at TAG Heuer and showing you the best of the 2012 models, as well as a few “blasts from the past”.
Of course, there were a number of new models and limited editions, but the perhaps the most intriguing story of the year was the brand’s continued push into the world of high-end watchmaking. While these ultra-high end watches are interesting, we will finally see the benefits to production watches in 2013 as TAG Heuer shows off its new in-house “1888” Calibre.
We also updated the website design, added more than 50 catalogs, celebrated the 3rd anniversary of the website, featured in Forbes.com and welcomed a stack of new, regular readers. To those who first discovered Calibre 11 in 2012, welcome!
The year saw updates to two of TAG Heuer’s more popular lines- the Formula 1 and the Aquaracer 500m. The 2012 Formula 1 series brought a new maturity to the range and took away some of the style gimmicks used in the past (plastic bumpers, anyone?). The reception for the Aquaracer was more muted- yes, the watch looked great…but where was the innovation of the previous model?
It seems a mistake to have carried over none of the design cues of the previous model (rubber bezel with raised markers, date at 9 o’clock with cyclops, different case to Aquaracer 300m), as the new model looks perfectly nice, but less distinctive at the same time.
In addition, we also saw a new 43mm Carrera 1887, which combined the Gold Arabic numerals of the Carrera Heritage with the look of the 41mm Carrera 1887. While we’re on the Carrera, there was also a limited edition retro-style Carrera to mark Jack Heuer’s 80th birthday shown at Basel in March.
While Calibre 11 doesn’t devote as much focus to the Ladies collection, 2012 also saw a major revamp of the Ladies range, the most notable being the new Lady Link. No longer does the women’s range look like a scaled down men’s watch with a few diamonds- a unique case and dial made the Lady Link stand out.
Vale Avant Garde?
One of the design trends that commenced with the 2011 Link series has been the more conservative (elegant?) look. This continued with the Formula 1 and Aquaracer 500m this year..so what does this mean? The new designs are more classic….more elegant…but also less avant garde.
Part of the reason may be the growth of sales in China, where tastes do lean towards the conservative. Part of the reason may be the push up-market, seeking further sophistication. The design of the Mikrogirder shows that TAG Heuer has not forgotten how to design forward-looking innovative watches, so we should assume that the direction is part of a distinct strategy rather than the brand losing its design mojo or forgetting how to “do innovative”.
No-one is advocating design gimmicks or loud colours- just that TAG Heuer shouldn’t forget the innovative design spirit that has always defined what makes the watches special.
The Year in Vintage
Remember the Bonhams vintage Heuer auction of 2010? Our pick of that auction was the large-register, early Autavia (a 3-register model rather than the version above), surprising for some given the other special watches on offer.
Two years later that pick is justified as everyone seems to be on the hunt for these early Autavias. Yes, the Monacos are still popular- and always will be- but the 70s were out and the 60s were in this year.
2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Carrera, so if you are looking to get in early, we’d recommend an early 1960s panda-dial Carrera- the Carrera 2447SN is the pick. Don’t believe us? Check out this wonderful example from Paul Gavin at HeuerWorld. Stunning.
One model missing from the new Aquaracer 500m range was the quartz-powered watch. In fact, with a couple of exceptions, the Formula 1 is really the only series to offer quartz these days- and even then, this is as much due to availability of mechanical movements as anything. But given that TAG Heuer is still shaking off its reputation as a quartz house from the 80s and 90s, how can the demise of quartz be a bad thing?
Quartz movements do have a place, especially in sports watches where they provide superior shock-protection. While not many will miss the relatively standard ETA quartz movements used in the recent past, it would be a mistake for TAG Heuer to abandon the high-end quartz (“HEQ”) sector, having always been a leader in the development of electronic watches.
You may have read speculation about Apple considering launching a watch (surely to be called iWatch) in 2013, a move that could change the horological landscape. So who could match Apple? TAG Heuer is the only brand that can already combine smart-phone technology and watch making. Surely the team at Atelier Haute Communications (who provide the internal smarts to the TAG Heuer phone collection) and TAG Heuer could work together to design the next generation of electronic watches.
More haute horlogerie
2012 was another banner year for TAG Heuer’s high-end haute horlogerie collection. Creative genius Guy Semon and his team was at it again, bringing us not only a movement capable of recording to a precision of 5/ 10,000th of a second (the Mikrogirder- thanks to a new regulating mechanism), but then followed up with a double tourbillon in the MikrotourbillonS.
Both of these amazing watches have been put into limited production, and while their exclusivity and price means that most of us will never see one, there is a benefit that all future owners will see in the Calibre 1888, the codename for TAG Heuer’s new production movement.
It’s the learning’s from the Mikro-platform of movements that has allowed the Calibre 1888 to be developed so quickly and hopefully some of that platform’s innovation will make its way into the new Carrera and Monaco.
2012’s Most Popular Posts
1. First Look New Formula 1 Series. The new Formula 1 series kicked the year off with a January launch, and we brought you the very first live photos of the new series. Both the Chronograph and 3-hand watch shared the same 42mm case and upgraded materials. Biggest shock? The only dial colours available were black, white or anthracite. What happened to Yellow and Orange?
2. New Aquaracer 500m Ceramic. 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the TAG Heuer 2000/ Aquaracer series, a milestone marked with the new ceramic-bezel model. The watch shared the same basic case with its 300m cousin, but with a more traditional diver watch look.
3. TAG Heuer Mikrogirder 2000. A fantastic watch that made its debut at Geneva 2012, the Mikrogider pushed boundaries of mechanical precision with 5/ 10,000th second capability. Crazy. Of course, this wasn’t possible with a traditional regulating system, but required a new system of micro-beams (or girders). The Mikrogirder was judged Watch of the Year at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix, where it was announced that the watch would go on sale.
4. Jack Heuer 80th Birthday Carrera review. Without doubt one of the most successful heritage-style watches launched for several years, the watch was launched to commemorate the 80th birthday of Jack Heuer, the man who launched the Carrera in 1963. A near-perfect design, the watch was a big hit.
5. Carrera 1887 43mm Review. As production of the Calibre 1887 expanded, TAG Heuer offered the movement in a second watch- a 43mm version of the Carrera that veered more towards elegance/ luxury than sports. We brought you the first review anywhere of the new Chronograph.
My Favourite Story
This year saw a much more diverse group of writers- Mark Moss continued his excellent series on Heuer/ TAG Heuer history, while we also had contributions from Abel Court (who broke the news of the MikrotourbillonS), Marc “MCV” and from former Renault Formula 1 test driver Ho-Pin Tung.
My favourite article from the year was Mark Moss’ look at the history of Heuer in the 1950’s, which showed off some fantastic watches that are on the main unknown to collectors today. Mark’s appreciation of Heuer’s history and love of detail means he writes from a unique perspective. We’ll be bringing you more of Mark’s work in 2013.
It had to be the Calibre 17 Jack Heuer Carrera 80, a highly successful reinterpretation of the 1960s Carrera. Some of TAG Heuer’s recent limited editions have not sold as quickly as first thought, but there is no doubting the success of the 80th birthday Carrera.
The perfect size, the right chronograph layout and a beautiful silver star-burst dial completed the look.
Looking to 2013
And speaking of the Carrera, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Carrera, the model first launched by Jack Heuer in 1963. The Carrera sill be the focus of TAG Heuer’s new launches in 2013, starting with the 2013 Jack Heuer edition that you see above.
Expect several new Carrera models this year and expect more models powered by the Calibre 1887 movement. And of course, there will be a new concept watch…but where can TAG Heuer go next? 1/ 10,000th second? 1/ 100,000th second? Seems unlikely, but no-one would have expected the advances that have been made in the last three years.
We’ve also got some cool things planned to mark 50 years of the Carrera, starting with a visit to Geneva in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned.
None of this would be possible without our fantastic loyal readers, so my sincere thanks to you for your continued encouragement, comments and support. We’ve also had great support from our friends at On The Dash, Watchuseek, Watchonista and Grand Prix Plus. Last, but not least, thanks also to TAG Heuer for their continued “hands-off” support, especially for making new watches available for review.
Roll on 2013….