Given the pace of Baselworld, the sheer number of people, the many litres of bad coffee and the row upon row of shiny new watches, it can take a few days after the show for a balanced perspective to set in. In the heat of the show, it seems every model is either labelled “brilliant” or “terrible”, when of course the the truth for most lies somewhere in the middle. From a TAG Heuer perspective, Baselworld 2014 was certainly different to what we have seen in the last couple of years, given that many of the new releases were already in the stores ahead of the Basel show.
Almost every new Carrera watch- Calibre 5, Twin-Time Calibre 7, Calibre 5 Day-Date and Calibre 5 Drive Timer- were in the shops in February, so although it was my first chance to see the new models in person, there wasn’t the same excitement as you’d get from seeing a new watch for the first time.
But, pleasingly, there were still some surprises.
First, a little about the show itself. While the organisers do sell tickets to the public, the reality is that this is a trade show. Unless you have a pre-arranged appointment with one of the brands, all you will be able to do is gaze at the watches through the window- not really a great experience for the keen collector.
TAG Heuer’s pavilion is the first one you see upon entering the main hall- and it’s hard to miss, as it covers over 1,500 square meters across three levels. There are more than 40 offices in the pavilion where sales teams from each region meet with various distributors, dealers and journalists. The total number of watches that TAG Heuer brings to Basel? More than 2,000. So what happens to the watches after Basel? They get sent out to each region, which then uses the prototypes to show to journalists and dealers who don’t make the trip to Basel.
But among all these attendees there’s no doubt who the most popular person was: Jack Heuer. It was great to see Jack at the pavilion where I had a few minutes with him talking about the new watches, and a little about this website. Jack had a skiing accident over the Christmas holidays, and while his doctors have put a stop to his post-dinner glass of wine, he was in good form and happy to take a look at my Calibre 17 Carrera. There is no question that the fire still burns!
The first surprise was that TAG Heuer had changed the name of the Calibre 1969 to Calibre CH80. Over the course of Basel, I heard several explanations as to why, but I suspect it simply came down to someone senior feeling that the new name suited the movement better than the old one.
People I spoke to did feel that it would make it easier to sell the movement to other LVMH brands, which presumably would mean the branding of the movement would be consistent irrespective of which LVMH brand is using the calibre.
It wasn’t only the name that changed- there have been several parts upgrades since the original Calibre 1969, which has allowed the power reserve to be extended by 10 hours to 80 hours.
While work continues on TAG Heuer’s new 3-hand watch movement, there was an interesting development at sister brand Zenith, with the speculation that it was dropping its in-house Elite movement and replacing it with the Sellita SW300 (TAG Heuer’s Calibre 5- below), which would be branded as the Zenith 3000.
The Elite is a relatively modern movement, having been launched in 1994, so there is certainly no problem or issue with the movement itself. Officially, the reason is to allow Zenith to expand production of the El Primero, but certainly cost would have come into the equation. Adding to the intrigue, Zenith also showed the El Primero Synopsis, which is a non-Chronograph version of the El Primero, so perhaps we will see the El Primero expanded into 3-hand watch movements.
Either way, its a further endorsement of the Sellita movement and it will be interesting to see whether this is the first move away from the industry’s in-house obsession back to a more pragmatic mix of in-house and third-party suppliers. Having said that, this week’s news that Zenith CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour has jumped ship to head up Rolex could see the strategy change.
2014 TAG Heuer New Models
Putting aside the new Carrera watch range which we’ve already showed you, let’s step through the 2014 TAG Heuer models presented at Basel.
Carrera Calibre CH80
Without doubt the big news from Basel, a beautiful Panda-dial duo using the new Calibre 1969. As noted when we first showed you the watch, there has already been a small change to the design of the watch from the original press photo (the crown), and a few more are planned. More on those potential changes shortly.
The 2014 Aquaracer 300m is a gentle update to the existing model and is available with both quartz and automatic movements. The case slightly smaller than the Aquaracer 500m range, coming in at 40.5mm.
The bezel is an improvement on the exiting model, with sharper edges and a more angular design.
Expect to see the Aquaracer 300m in stores in Q3 (third quarter) 2014.
Formula 1 Automatic
The sales hit of the Basel show for TAG Heuer was this watch- the new Formula 1 Automatic series, which consists of a Calibre 16 Chronograph (shown above), with a 44mm case and a 3-hand Calibre 6 version with small running seconds at 6 o’clock (41mm). Feedback on these was extremely positive, and I agree that with a price starting at CHF1600 (Swiss price), it’s a very competitive offering.
The only question in my mind is whether the watch is really a Formula 1. While the new model keeps the Formula 1 name, the case design has nothing to do with the existing F1 series, and is instead based on the Heuer Autavia design of the 1970s. This is a shame because it loses the consistency of the Formula 1 range and probably reduces the chances of us seeing the Autavia return to the catalogue, given that its case has now been used elsewhere.
The Monaco V4T celebrates the 10th anniversary of the first Monaco V4 Concept from 2004- amazing to think that a decade has past. The watch looks incredible in person and is a much sportier iteration of the V4.
Link Calibre 7 GMT
An interesting watch that I didn’t expect to see was the Calibre 7 GMT Link . The second time-zone is displayed in a small inner-circle indicated by the Red GMT hand. There are three models, all of which are 42mm: Black dial, Silver dial and an Anthracite dial with Rose Gold indexes and detailing. Expect more news on the new Link in the next few weeks.
Monaco Calibre 6 Full Black
Expect a significant review of the Monaco range for 2015- but for the moment, the only new Monaco for 2014 is this “Full Black” Calibre 6 Monaco- one of the first new Men’s Calibre 6 Monaco models for several years. It’s a cool looking watch, and one that shows that the new team at TAG Heuer believe that the Monaco can be a lot more than just a re-edition of Steve McQueen’s watch from Le Mans.
Finalising the Carrera CH80
For me, the star of TAG Heuer’s new range were the Carrera Calibre CH80 panda twins- two new Carreras inspired by the 2447 Carrera of the 1960s. But despite the strong reception that these watches garnered, it soon became clear that the design for the Carrera CH80 was not set in stone.
I spoke to a number of key TAG Heuer people about some of the design elements that might change and have extrapolated that into an updated design, with the help of Brice Goulard from Monochrome. Several of these changes are similar to those made to the Carrera 1887 before it went on sale, for example, the addition of the traditional tachy bezel and giving the watch dial more depth.
Here is the Basel prototype (left) with “our” CH80 (right).
- Replaced the inner- bezel/ flange with more angled tachy bezel
- Removed pulsations scale from inner-bezel
- Removed the Red detail from the Crown
- Removed the Red tips from the sub-dial hands
- Changed the text “Calibre CH80” to White
- Increased the depth of the sub-dials by extending the azurage pattern to the edge of each register and adding small lip to outer-edge of each register
One aspect of the watch that I now think is unlikely to change is the depth, or thickness, of the case. The constraints are not the movement, but the need to offer both 100m water resistance and a sapphire case back. Despite this, I’m still hoping that a solution is found to shave a few millimeters in height from the case. Having said that, as I type this, I am wearing a Calibre 17 Carrera which has the same case dimensions as the prototype Carrera CH80, and and I’ve never felt that this watch was too large. I think ultimately, it’s less thay people feel the current case is too thick than it is a feeling that given the movement is thinner, the case should be thinner too.
Imagining a Carrera Calibre CH80 in Blue
And while the talented M. Goulard had Photoshop open, I asked him to try a blue-dial model, this time in McQueen colours for a bit of fun. The Carrera never came in this colour combination in the 1970s, instead using a darker, more metallic blue.
Still, I reckon the powder blue looks great and would be a worthy addition to the range, as well as a nice break from the monochrome colours of late.
Without doubt, 2014 is the year of the 3-hand watch at TAG Heuer. Take a look at the scope of the new models that we’ve seen since January, and there is really only one chronograph- the Carrera CH80. On the watch side of the ledger we have multiple new Carreras, a new Aquaracer and a new Link model. This is probably more to do with balancing out the existing range than it is a change in view that TAG Heuer is, at its heart, a chronograph brand. We should also keep in mind that the new team, led by Stephane Linder, has only been in place for a few months, not really long enough to make significant changes.
But, for many of us, the real excitement will be to see what the final version of the Carrera CH80 looks like. While the new Carrera looks good on paper, I’m keen to spend a few days with it in a proper review before reaching a final verdict on the new chronograph. Rest assured that we’ll be keeping an ear to the ground for any Carrera CH80 updates to bring you the news first.
Photoshop by Brice Goulard of Monochrome