Gerhard Berger is one of the more engaging Formula 1 personalities of the last 30 years. A very fast and capable driver in his own right, Berger always seemed to have the right balance between being 100% focused while in the car and being 100% focused on enjoying life when he was out of the car.
After his driving career finished, he moved on to a senior role with BMW Motorsport (having driven Touring Cars for BMW back in the ’80s while already an F1 driver) and at one time owning 50% of Toro Rosso. While he is not involved in Formula 1 at the moment, you feel that it’s only a matter of time before he finds his way back.
Berger spent three seasons at McLaren (1990, 1991 and 1992), out-qualifying Senna eight times, including in his first race for the team. Like many McLaren drivers, Gerhard wore a TAG Heuer watch during his years at McLaren and, as we’ll see, continued his association with TAG Heuer even after he left McLaren at the end of 1992.
Formula 1 Career
Berger began his Formula 1 career in 1984, joining the small ATS team. His performances were enough to attract the attention of Arrows, and after a year there he moved to the Benetton-BMW team for the 1986 season where he won his first race (Mexico). Berger had close ties with BMW (winning the 1985 Spa 24 Hours Touring Car race in a BMW 635CSI) and each of his first three teams were powered by BMW engines.
His performances at Benetton caught the eye of the Scuderia, and Berger joined Ferrari for the 1987 season. In 1990 he swapped positions with Alain Prost and moved to the dominant McLaren-Honda team where he partnered Ayrton Senna.
After McLaren, Berger’s career was the mirror-image of his early career- he went back to Ferrari and then back to Benetton.
After retiring in 1997, Berger took a few years out of the sport before returning as the Sporting Director for BMW Motorsport, partner of the Williams team.
Berger and TAG Heuer
During Berger’s years at McLaren, the team’s race cars and driver suits both carried TAG Heuer logos- not surprising considering that team boss Ron Dennis was a shareholder in TAG Heuer.
We know that Ayrton Senna wore a TAG Heuer as his daily watch- so what about Gerhard Berger? Well, a little detective-work is required.
The photo above shows what is almost certainly a TAG Heuer S/el on a leather strap- the gold/ stainless steel combo, metal bracelet link between the case and the strap and the shapely case being the clues. And thanks to the clearly visible pushers, we can conclude that this is an S/ el Chronograph- just like Senna wore.
And the most appropriate S/el Chronograph for an F1 driver? The 1/ 100th second quartz S/el Chronograph, Berger’s looking like it has the charcoal dial, shown below. The watch came on either a bracelet, or the tan leather strap chosen by Senna and Berger.
Again, with a little guess-work based on the distinctive shape of the lugs and the strap stitching, we can see a TAG Heuer S/el Ref W12111, this time powered by an ETA automatic movement (the same movement TAG Heuer call the Calibre 7 today).
TAG Heuer 2000 Chronograph 1/ 100th quartz
While the other watches may be educated guesses, there is no guess-work required to identify the watch above- a TAG Heuer 2000 1/ 100th Chronograph (Ref. CE1122) . Like the S/el, the watch has a ETA 251.XXX family movement that combines an analogue watch and digital Chronograph read-out.
The watch above was one of around 20 that Berger commissioned and gave to Ferrari team members after the 1994 season and is inscribed “Grazie Gerhard Berger” on the caseback.
The watch above was sold by a specialist Formula 1 and motor racing memorabilia shop. I don’t know whether the F1 drivers of today make the same gestures to their mechanics, but let’s hope so.
There are a number of TAG Heuer watches with real Formula 1 provenance (such as Senna’s own watches and the Red TH Formula 1 worn by all McLaren mechanics), and the watches worn by Gerhard Berger add to that list. There are several watch brands who like to associate themselves with F1, but in reality do nothing more than write Bernie a cheque. TAG Heuer is fortunate that its history with Formula 1 and leading drivers extends a lot deeper than that.
- GB sitting in McLaren: Pascal Rondeau/Allsport
- Berger/ Benetton: Wikipedia
- Senna and Berger: https://womotor.wordpress.com/tag/bruno-senna
- TAG Heuer 2000: http://www.thememorabiliaexperience.com/about-us.html