myTAG- The story of me and my watch

Think for a moment about your favourite watch- is it your newest one? the most expensive one? It’s probably not. Many watch collectors keep aside certain watches that will never be sold, no matter what price is offered. And speaking of dollars, more of those will be spent keeping that special watch working than the watch is worth.

And to celebrate these watches, we’ve created a new series of articles about you and your Heuer or TAG Heuer watch- myTAG.

F1 myTAGSince the first Calibre 11 article almost 5 years ago, our focus has been on telling the story behind your watch- who designed it, why the watch looks the way it does and what was going on in the watch industry at the time your watch was launched. But now we want to flip this around and have you tell us your story. The story of you and your watch.

The first in our series comes from Michael Whayman, who got in contact late last year looking for help in tracking down a movement for his restoration project. We couldn’t provide much help, but got to know a little of the story behind the watch, which Michael was kind enough to share.

myTAG- 1989 TAG Heuer Formula 1 385.513

General Catalog 91

It was in 1989, I was 20 – and it was time to look for a real watch, something I could wear forever and something I liked.

In early January 1989 I went on a trip with my partner at the time, and my mum to Melbourne, we live on an island at the South of Australia called Tasmania and I live in the capital City of Hobart. It was a shopping trip for mum and my partner, but I was on the lookout for a new watch.

I remember that morning at Thomas Jewellers in Melbourne, I said to my partner and mum – That is the watch I want, and I intend to wear it forever, (there was no changing my mind). This was the intended mission for this watch, wear it for a lifetime. I remember at the time my partner “got why I liked it mostly”, but more-so my mother thought I was “a little unhinged” in my watch choice (a $1599 watch that looked like plastic!), she while in the background was also rather loudly pushing her opinion, “buy the BLACK ONE” and also other quotes from her I remember “so you’re going to wear THIS watch all your life”, she was not convinced, nor impressed. She of course did not realise the watch was built like a tank, accurate beyond belief, and the style really never does “goes out”.

I think now in 2013 she probably realises I made the right choice, especially for me.

Life with my Formula 1

The F1 classic Red TAG Heuer was a fantastic watch, I loved the look of it, and it was thin and strong. And very importantly to me was the easy to read, simple white dial, light weight and resin band, rather than metal.

The watch had to live through some harsh times, motocross, Aviation (mostly the fuel during re-fuelling splashing on it) car services and just general 24/7 wear (I worked in IT as well, so a lot of scratches and wear was from putting my arm into server cabinets/farms). I actually never removed the watch for more than a few hours in 23 years, lest I say I had a fairly white band of skin underneath after that long.

By the year 1999 the watch was still going perfect, except the external wear was bad, real bad (but I have to say, not as bad as in 2010). I was about to have it restored at that point but we suddenly had a family tragedy (my 26 year old brother was a passenger in a head on collision and was killed). This took a long time to get over, and restoring the watch was not even on my mind for a few years since then (I was still wearing it of course) but it looked ragged.

By this time the watch had also been through nine or so straps/bands. In my hometown TAG bands were getting hard to find by 1997, so after then non-standard bands where fitted in order for me to just keep on wearing my watch. Most of the non-standard bands fitted OK, and some were even red, but the latter ones fitted poorly and the colour was mostly black….more on this later (in total it had 18 straps put on it over the 23 years).

I have over the years, like many of us, taken hundreds of family & friends photos, and lots of video – my watch appears in photos from the late 80’s till now, this somehow is a little funny to me, and adds sentimentality.

Restoring the F1

After a few years and looking down every day at my very worn TAG, I realised I HAVE to get this restored (this was 2010 by now) – but I was in denial as well, how on earth was I going to find ALL the exterior parts to restore this thing to look like new! Especially since it was 23 years old.

Then (after still having put it off) we come to early 2012 – I was putting my hand in my pocket, and the force of the watch catching on my deep pocket jeans broke one of the lugs off the case, the pin had pulled/broke through the fiberglass – the watch could no longer be worn, this forced my hand – the watch now had to be restored in order to function, and I needed a Case. Even when I was intending to restore the watch in 1999, I was going to do the case as well – it had a fair amount of wear damage, and even the words “Formula 1” had been scratched away significantly which you can see on the lower part of the writing “formula 1” in the before picture.

BeforeI want to defend the watch at this point – it was an incredibly strong watch, and the lug breakage was a lot due to using non-original bands. The non-precise fitting thick bands (with non-standard pins that needed “adjusting” to fit into the lugs) added stresses to the lugs that true original TAG straps/bands would not have.By 1999 the watch had gone through about 6 TAG original bands, and 4 non original (which where fitted in the later years) and it was the poor fitting non-original that were on the watch at the time the lug broke. This was my own doing and fault, and I partially knew the risks, the non original pins especially seemed to dig and stress the resin lugs. But as I have noted, due to so much cosmetic damage, I needed a case anyway.

I’d like to point out that at this point the watch had massive sentimental value to me personally, I’d been wearing it 24/7 for 23 years and my original intention was to wear it for life. Not to mention how much I like the look of the thing.

Anyway – not one for giving up – I started the search for the parts, and of course the case was the hardest part to find. I ended up searching 2 years for a TAG F1 red case in new condition (I would accept nothing less), I was lucky enough after 2 years to find two 385.513/081 black band models in mint condition (not cheap either) – one I just decided to get as a spare, the other I used for parts, to use the case for mine.

All other parts (bezel, red bands, bezel springs and glass) I was able to find new and original TAG parts also – and now I was armed also with 2 mint cases – I could now fully restore the watch.

afterThe internal movement, dial and hands are original from my 1989 watch. My local watchmaker did the swap and he did a fantastic job.The watch is 25 years old now, never missed a beat (the first battery lasted 11 years, The watch so far after 25 years has used 5 batteries.) and I intend to wear it the rest of my life.

We tested it last year against the mobile phone cellular network clock, synchronising at start of year, and at the end it was only 3-seconds out.

As a footnote, I have a mint condition I wear (with my movement, my original watch effectively etc.) but while I was at it – I ordered 3 of everything, I have 3 spare red strap sets, 2 new bezels, 2 sets of springs and 2 stainless steel backs, but only one spare mint case.

Along with all the sentimental values I have already mentioned, a particularly important one is looking down at the watch face EVERY day, checking the time many times a day as we do, and seeing that friendly dial, the same dial (and of course movement) that a quarter of a century ago timed events you lived, and was with you all the way.

During the 2 years I was unable to wear the RED TAG , in the meantime I purchased a 2011 F1 white dial but ordered with the black resin straps. Nice watch, but for me a little too deep/high and heavy and the dial is larger than I personally like.

TAG CABINET ARTICLEI also created and redrew some artwork, and designed a display case to house the old parts of the watch (the entire exterior) and installed a movement out of one of the 2 mint spares I purchased (black band/red case models) so it looked as an entire watch, also the reason my old watch has black bands on it (in the case) as that represents the last it looked before the lug failure, as I had a non-original black band on it when it broke, I have however put a black TAG band on it for the display case – my watch came originally full red.The cabinet also acts as a small wall clock as well now. Also in the display case is a full red TAG (lower part of cabinet), however this is another mint black band version I purchased for spares, and I have put my new 2nd set of red bands/straps onto it (I have 2 spare sets of red bands) – Keeping in mind the mint condition one I wear is my original 1989 movement, hands and dial.

I’ll be wearing my Red TAG Heuer for a long time to come.

1990 TAG Heuer F1myTAG

Would you like to share the story of your watch? It doesn’t matter if its Dad’s 1960s Autavia, your TAG Heuer 1500, or a TAG Heuer Monaco V4- tells us why you love your watch

Send us an e-mail with 500-1000 words telling your story and include a few high-res photos.

Email: myTAG@calibre11.com