First Look: 2012 TAG Heuer Formula 1 Quartz

TAG Heuer has taken the wraps off the new Formula 1 quartz Series ahead of its Pre-Basel launch event in Geneva. While the existing series ballooned into a dizzying array of models, the new series keeps things focused with three flavours- a Watch, a Chronograph and a Watch with an alarm function. Giving the series variety is the array of materials- including stainless steel, aluminium, ceramic and titanium-carbide- employed to give the different models their own look and feel.

Since its introduction back in 1986, the The Formula 1 has been TAG Heuer’s entry-level sports watch- always quartz and with a more colourful and adventurous approach to design than the rest of the TAG Heuer range. The challenge for the new series is to build on this heritage in the context of TAG Heuer’s continued push to build its reputation as the one of the most innovative manufacturers of high-end mechanical movements. The most expensive TAG Heuer watch today costs 65-times as much as the cheapest…a huge spectrum of the market to cover.

But the Formula 1 is an important series, as it’s often the “gateway drug” to the world of TAG Heuer as well as a model that reinforces the brand’s link to Formula 1 racing.


Think of the new F1 Series as being a “Left-brain” design: logical, reasoned and rational. The design philosophy behind the 2012 F1 series is consistent with the re-design of the 2011 Link and Carrera 1887: a more mature, elegant design with no gimmicks. No polyurethane bumpers, no branding on the side of the case and no over-styled dials.

The case itself stays true to the basic shape of the original and settles on a 42mm size for all models. The dials move away from the printed finish of the current models to applied hour markers and a large “12” just above the TAG Heuer logo. Complementing the revised dial is a new-look for the hands, which settle for a classic polished-sword design across the range.

The other change immediately apparent is the focus on improving the quality of finishing on the watch. While the first F1 series made do with a Fibreglass-coated case and basic mineral glass, the quality of materials has improved with each new series. The biggest change here is the brushed stainless steel finish on both the case and the bracelet, with detailed polished finishes, such as the outer-edge of the fixed-bezel and the crown.

There are two types of bezel offered across the range- a fixed bezel for the Chronograph and Alarm (either stainless steel, titanium-carbide coated steel or stainless steel with aluminium/ ceramic insert- the last two options Chronograph only) and a turning bezel for the Watch (stainless steel or titanium-carbide coated steel). The models with a titanium-carbide coated bezel have a matching black crown, while the stainless steel models have a polished stainless steel crowns.

All models are water resistant to 200m.

Formula 1 Watch

Perhaps surprising for a watch that is synonymous with colour, the Formula 1 Watch is available in only two dial colours- white or black. The design of the new model is a big step-forward from the existing Watch selection, which comes in a variety of styles (see below).

The new Watch has a similar lay-out to the existing Grande Date model (above centre)- running seconds being recorded on a circular register at the 6 o’clock position that also houses the Grande Date function. It’s perhaps the only part of the design that doesn’t work in my view- I prefer a simple 3-hand watch with a running seconds hand mounted on a centre stem.

Stainless Steel Bezel

The stainless steel bezel Watch is available in either White (WAU1113) or Black (WAU1112) and only on a stainless steel bracelet. The bezel has minute markings at 5-minute intervals.

Both dial colours have a black date wheel with white numbers, making the date a little hard to read on the black-dial watch above.

Titanium-Carbide Bezel

The models closest to the original 1986 F1 series are the black-bezel versions, which are available in White (WAU1111), Black (WAU1110) or Black with Red detailing (WAU1114). At this stage, only WAU110 is available on a rubber strap.

Formula 1 Chronograph

The Chronograph models are at the heart of the F1 range and perhaps represent the most significant change from the 2011 models, which in my view suffer from being a little over-styled- especially the Grande Date version (below left).

All 2012 Chronographs share the same 3-Register design with 1/10th second accuracy and a date register at 4 o’clock. The registers are:

  • 3 o’clock: Elapsed seconds (time)
  • 6 0’clock: 1/10th Second and Hour (Chrono.)
  • 9 o’clock: 30-minute counter (Chrono.)

Chronograph seconds are recorded on the central seconds hand.

Just as with the current models, the Chronograph pushers are very nicely integrated into the design of the case. The bezel for the Chronograph has a tachy scale, unlike most of the current series where there is a tachy scale on an internal bezel.

Stainless Steel Bezel

There are two models available with the stainless steel bezel- the black dial model (CAU1112) and the Indy 500 edition (pictured at the top of this post).

The Indy 500 version ( CAU1113) is probably my favourite of the new range and has a fantastic star-burst anthracite dial and contrasting sub-dials.

Titanium Carbide Bezel

There are four Chronograph models with the titanium-carbide bezel- white (CAU1111), black-dial on either rubber strap or bracelet (CAU1110), Black with red detailing (CAU1116- above) and what we’ll the Formula 1 Stealth (CAU1114- below).

The F1 Stealth model is the antithesis of the original colourful F1- the only hint of colour on this model is the Red-tipped Chronograph hand.

The detailing on the Stealth model is fantastic- note the black lume and black-gold finishing on the hour markers. The case is still stainless steel, but with a titanium-carbide coating.

High-Performance Materials

At the top of the 2012 Formula 1 range are two models with what TAG Heuer called “high performance materials” as bezel inserts- ceramic and aluminium.

The ceramic version below is perhaps the most interesting, as it’s the first time that TAG Heuer have offered a ceramic bezel on any of its men’s watches- and hopefully not the last. The finish matches beautifully to the anthracite dial- the same colour as the F1 Indy 500.

The Ceramic F1 is available with either a standard stainless steel bracelet, or the Steel and Ceramic bracelet that you see above.

Last but not least is the Black and Red Chronograph (CAU1117) below, which uses the Stealth model as a base before adding bright red detailing and a bright red aluminium tachy bezel. This version is a dealer special-order, so not a limited edition, but also not part of the regular on-going range.

Formula 1 Alarm

Rounding out the new F1 range is the Alarm version. Of all the new series, this is the model most like the existing series (see below)

The Alarm F1 is available only with the Fixed stainless steel bezel and in two dial colours- Black (WAU111A) and White (WAU111B).


The Formula 1 series has always been a quartz-powered series and nothing changes here. For the first time, there are no ETA quartz movements in the range, with movements instead supplied by Ronda. Ronda was one of the movement suppliers for the very first Formula 1 series, and each of the movements in carried over the from the existing range:

  • Chronograph: RONDA 5040
  • Alarm: RONDA 4120
  • Watch: RONDA 6004

At this stage, there is no Calibre S version of the new series, which is interesting given that the Calibre S is TAG Heuer’s own in-house quartz movement.

TAG Heuer Formula 1- Price and Availability

The new Formula 1 range starts at CHF1200 in Switzerland for the black-bezel watch and extends up to CHF1800 for the Black and Red Chronograph. Stainless steel-bezel Chronographs are priced at CHF1500.

The new watches will be in the stores almost right away, so expect them to be available by the end of January/ early February.

Live Photos

To see more photos of the new F1 range, take a look in our special gallery here.

In Summary

The new TAG Heuer Formula 1 series is a very strong upgrade to the existing model range- a “Left-brain” design that keeps the Formula 1 in step with the TAG Heuer strategy of moving up-market and fits with the more elegant, sophisticated look of the rest of the range. Yet, there are enough design touches that hark back to the original to still be a Formula 1 watch. Whereas I find some of the models in the existing range to be a little “toy-like”, I’d be happy to wear any of the new designs.

Despite the successful re-design,¬† I wonder what a “Right Brain” re-design would have looked like: Composite cases (metal alloys? ceramics? plastics?), Chronometre-grade, thermo-compensated quartz movements (these feature a sensor that adjusts to variations in temperature ensuring superior accuracy) and bright colours. A watch that looks like no other model in the TAG Heuer range. Sure, something like this would be more expensive and appeal to fewer people, but maybe it would be a case of charging twice as much to sell half as many.

It will be interesting to see how the range evolves over the next couple of years. More than any other TAG Heuer watch, you associate the Formula 1 with colour- yet there are only three dial colours (white, black and anthracite) on offer here, and none of them move beyond the conservative end of the colour pallet. A blue dial Chronograph with white sub-dials and a blue ceramic bezel would look great.

Until then its certainly worth checking out the Formula 1 in person, because the changes are impressive and go beyond a simple re-style.