When we wrote our review of the Link last year we noted that for a few years it seemed as though the Link collection was coming to an end. After the refreshed range was launched in 2011, there were precious few further additions over the next five years and it seemed as though the expansion of the Carrera range would subsume the position formerly held by the S/el and then the Link. But now we not only have a totally new and improved Link design, first seen in the men’s collection with the Calibre 5 at Baselworld in 2017, but an expanded range with this new model: the Link Calibre 17 Chronograph.
The Calibre 5 Link is one of our favourites in the current TAG Heuer range, and one of the only TAG Heuer models today that isn’t heavily inspired by a historical model. The Autavia, Carrera and Monaco are of course based on Heuer case designs from the 1960s, while the Aquaracer is based on the Heuer 2000 from the early 1980s. Even today’s Formula 1 case is a close copy of the third-generation Autavia case of the 1970s. But the Link? A totally new design, that not only doesn’t reference any historical TAG Heuer or Heuer model, but also bears no real visual connection to the S/el of Link models of the past, with the exception of the famous “Double S” bracelet. And not only is the case design a new one, it’s also very attractive to our eyes, with the cushion case blending together the best aspects of the Camaro of the 1960s and the Monza of the 2000s, without ever being a re-edition of either.
We selected the blue dial model- reference CBC2112- for this review, a watch that continues TAG Heuer’s run of beautiful star-burst blue dials. So let’s see whether the new Link lives up to our admittedly high expectations.
A brief History
The Link story goes back to 1987 when TAG Heuer launched its S/el (“Sports Elegance”) series, the history of which you can read here with our Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer S/el. The watch was renamed to the TAG Heuer Link in 1999, with the basic design continuing for the next decade with a few tweaks here and there. And yes, we’ve got you covered on the history of the Link as well, with the Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer Link.
The last revamp of the Link was back in 2011 when the range received a more modern look, but that was the last set of changes we saw for around 5 years, and it seemed as though the Link was languishing in the back corner of the TAG Heuer line-up. For the first time we can recall, it was actually the success of the TAG Heuer Link Lady design from 2016 that inspired the relaunch of the men’s model in 2017. Bracelet aside, the look was entirely new. Perhaps TAG Heuer had low expectations of the revamped women’s series, as initially it was only on sale in a few markets. But today, both models are part of the global range.
The blue dial is one of two options- black being the other- available on the new Link Chronograph, with the 3-6-9 layout reflecting the use of the Calibre 17 movement, rather than the 12-6-9 layout of the Calibre 16 used on historic Link Chronographs.
And speaking of sub-dial design, each of the three registers on the Link has an intricate pattern. The sub-dials are slightly sunken with an azurage circular pattern. The centre of each register is raised, with a tighter azurage pattern than the outer-ring, given the dial a nice three-dimensional feel. We also like the use of alternating long-short markers on the 9 o’clock register. Yes, there is plenty going on with the look of the sub-dials, but it’s a design that works well and contrasts beautifully with the metallic dial.
Perhaps our only complaint about the dial is the size of the applied hour markers and the hour/ minute hands, each of which could be slimmed down and shortened by 10% to give the dial a more elegant, refined look.
Some won’t appreciate the date positioning, but we’ve been a fan of the 4.30 o’clock date window since the Calibre 17 Monza of the 2000s, so no issue here from our perspective. In fact, given the relatively small diameter of the watch (41mm), it would have been tough to fit the date at the usual 6 o’clock position without removing the hour-marker.
As discussed at the start of this review, the case of the Link series marks a total break with the former Link-S/el designs. The stainless steel cushion case is topped with a polished fixed steel bezel, giving the watch a round dial but with a square-ish case, which as we said has echos of the Camaro and Monza.
The case has a combination of brushed and polished surfaces, but we feel that there is no enough of the former and too much of the later, which can give the Link an overly “shiny” feel. This is a subtle, understated watch, and in our eyes that should mean more brushed steel surfaces, with the polished elements there to add the occasional flash of contrast.
Pleasingly, the case remains at the same 41mm diameter as the Calibre 5 watch, which is perfect for a watch like this, given its relatively slim profile.
In fact, the only real change from the case on the Calibre 5 Link are the nicely integrated chronograph pushers- otherwise, the 3-hand watch and the Chronograph are very close in look and feel.
The case design really is spot-on. Enough to separate the watch from the Carrera or any other TAG Heuer, the case has more in common with the Patek Philippe Nautilus or the Piaget Polo S, without being derivative of either. The only point to note on the case is the use of a single fixed central lug, which will make fitting a leather strap a real challenge, unless TAG Heuer decide to make a bespoke strap as they did for the S/el- Link in the 1980s and 90s.
If you like leather straps on your watches then you’ll need to look elsewhere, as the Link can only be bought on the famous “Double S” link bracelet. In fact, you’ll struggle to fit any other strap or bracelet given the shapely central fixed lug. The bracelet is the latest iteration of the Link style (flatter links with prominent 3D faceted edges) and is well finished with brushed and polished surfaces, albeit still a little on the shiny side for our liking.
The bracelet remains one of the more comfortable steel bracelets on any watch and, let’s face it: it wouldn’t really be a Link if the watch was on any strap other than that famous bracelet.
Caseback and Movement
The Calibre 17 is one of the few automatic chronograph movements that TAG Heuer still source from Swatch Group, with the 2894-2 calibre being provided by ETA. A slightly smaller calibre than other comparable movements others used by TAG Heuer (28.6mm in diameter vs. 30.4mm for the Calibre 16 and 31mm for the Heuer 02), the Calibre 17 has a power reserve of 42 hours, which is the same as the Calibre 16, but significantly less than TAG Heuer’s in-house Heuer-02 calibre.
The caseback is highly polished with a sapphire crystal to show off the decorated rotor on the Calibre 17.
On the Wrist
The key point that needs to be made about the Link Calibre 17 is that it wears like no other TAG Heuer. It goes without saying that the “new-generation” Carrera Heuer 01 and 02 wear significantly larger, as do the more classical Calibre 1887 Carrera watches. In fact, even the smaller 39mm Carrera case feels larger on the wrist than the 41mm Link.
The secret is the combination of a modestly sized case, a slim, flat case profile and the integrated Link bracelet. All of this means that while sliding some TAG Heuers under your shirt-cuff can be a challenge, the Link Chronograph will slip under comfortably and without any issues.
All up, we loved wearing the Link and while the watch may not have the instant presence of say a Carrera Heuer 01, it’s an elegant design that works perfectly with a suit. At a minimum, the new Link offers a real alternative to the Carrera, and we’d recommend that anyone looking to buy a Carrera try on the Link, if only to see the contrast of the two designs. While we love the Carrera, if it were a choice between a modern Carrera Heuer 01 and the Link, we’d go for the Link…that’s how much we like the newest TAG Heuer chronograph.
Price and Availability- Link Calibre 17 Chronograph Blue Dial (Ref. CBC2112)
The new TAG Heuer Link Calibre 17 Chronograph is already on sale and priced as follows:
- North America: US$4,500
- Great Britain: £3,650
- Europe: €4,450
To give a sense of perspective, the men’s link Calibre 5 is priced at $3000, so that’s a fair premium for the Chronograph, but around US$400 less than you’ll pay for a Calibre 16 Carrera.