Hands on Review- TAG Heuer Formula 1 Gulf & Grande Date Series (Ref. WAH1012, WAH1013, WAH1116 CAH7011)

The Formula 1 series gets a new look for 2011- four new designs with three different quartz movements.

The Formula 1 watch was the first watch developed by TAG Heuer after the change of ownership in 1985. Most of the early TH range was made up of Heuer-developed watches with the new logo, but the Formula 1 arrived in 1986 followed by the S/el in 1987 as the paths between the old Heuer and the new TAG Heuer began to diverge.

The Formula 1 was a watch for the ages- new, low-cost materials (notably, Fibreglass), a bright array of colours (à la Swatch) and a new budget price ($145 in the US). The Formula 1 series brought TH a new customer base and was a smash hit, with more than 3 million being sold between 1986 and 2000 when the line was discontinued.

In 2004 the Formula 1 was totally re-designed and re-launched with Kimi Raikkonen as the face of the new watch. The new 2004 series was a much larger watch (basic watch was 40mm versus 37mm) and significantly stepped up the quality of materials- out went the plastic bezel and mineral glass, in came a steel bezel coated in titanium carbide and a sapphire crystal.

Since 2004 the refreshed Formula 1 series has been tweaked a few times- many models today have lost the polyurethane “bumper” of the original 2004 models- and given that the model line is more than seven years old, you can expect a new Formula 1 series in the next 12-18 months. But until then, we have the updated 2011 range.

I’ve shown photos of each of these watches before, but this is the first time that I’ve been able to borrow the watches to see what they are like in the flesh.

Formula 1 Gulf Edition Grand Date (Ref. WAH1013)

Probably the biggest surprise of the 2011 F1 line is this Gulf Edition model- the first time that the Gulf brand has been used on anything other than a Monaco.

The Formula 1 Gulf is based on the Grande Date F1 and so uses a 44mm case and is powered by a Ronda 6004B Quartz movement. The watch is available on either a rubber strap, or the bracelet that you see here.

While I think that the Gulf Monaco is a little played out, the stripes do look cool on the F1 and fit well with the rest of the design. I like that the bezel echoes the shape of the original series, but is a step up in quality. The only part of the design that I’m not sure about is the black crown guards, which¬† sit almost like a “flying buttress”- a standard integrated steel guard would look better in my view.

Formula 1 Gulf Edition- Pricing and Availability

Lets get the bad news out of the way first- as I understand it, the F1 Gulf won’t be available in the US, Spain or Portugal. For other markets, expect the watch to be available in Q4 2011, with a price of around A$1300 in Australia.

Formula 1 24 Calibre S (Ref. CAH7011)

Next up is another striped F1- this time a Calibre S Chronograph.

This is the first time that I’ve reviewed any watch with the Calibre S movement- and does offer a very interesting alternative to a standard quartz movement. Pressing the crown changes to the watch to from Time/ Date mode to Chronograph mode, with the hands moving to the positions that you see above. As you press the top Chrono. button to start timing, you only see the central second hand move. When you press the top button again top stop timing, the two sub-dial hands move into place to indicate the 1/10th of a second (left-hand register) and 1/100th of a second (right register).

When the watch is in Time mode, the two registers show the date, with a retrograde perpetual calendar. By its nature the Calibre S is a quasi-retrograde date function (“Retrograde” usually means that instead of a date wheel completing a full 360 Degree rotation, it instead goes through 180 degrees and then flies back) and “Perpetual” means that the calendar takes into account the days of each month, including leap years.

The Calibre S 24 has a gun-metal gray dial with a broad silver central stripe, complemented by a small silver strip and a red stripe with silver outline- a similar theme to the Gulf Edition. Overall, I prefer the look of the Gulf Edition, but I prefer the Calibre S movement to the basic Ronda.

This Calibre S Chronograph also uses a 44mm case, but this time with a fixed stainless steel bezel.

Formula 1 “24” Calibre S- Pricing and Availability

The Calibre S Chronograph “24” goes on sale from October 2011 and has an Australian price of A$1600.

Formula 1 Grande Date (Ref. WAH1012)

This Orange F1 Grand Date is the sister watch to the Formula 1 Gulf- same case and movement, but with a bright orange dial. Orange seems to be “the” colour of 2011 for TAG Heuer, with the Carrera MP4-12C, Monaco Twenty Four Racing and Monaco Calibre 11 all using liberal splashes of Orange. I don’t know if there is a particular reason, but if there is it would be the connection with McLaren, whose traditional color is the same shade of Orange you see below.

I like seeing bright colours on the F1 series- to me, it’ what the series is all about.

Formula 1 Grand Date Orange- Price and Availability

The Formula 1 Grand Date in Orange should already be in the stores, at a price of just under CHF (Swiss Francs) 1,000.

Formula 1 Watch (Ref. WAH1116)

Finally, we have the Formula 1 at its simplest- the Formula 1 watch, with orange highlights on a black dial. The watch uses a 41mm case and an ETA F06.111 movement.

The bright Orange works really well on the black background- the colours stand out without going over the top. In fact this colour scheme is almost the exact inverse to the Orange Grande Date

Like the other models reviewed, the Formula 1 watch is available on either a bracelet or a rubber strap- and just like the other models, I’d go for the rubber strap every time.

Formula 1 Watch- Price and Availability

The Black and Orange Formula 1 watch is available now and priced just below CHF (Swiss Francs) 1,000.

Summary

The TAG Heuer Formula 1 watch is the first watch that I can remember knowing the name of- and I suspect that it’s the same for many of us. The key to the Formula 1 series has always been bright colours and a watch that is perfect for younger buyers, or as a sports watch. Given that, the pick of the bunch for mine is the Black and Orange Formula 1 watch, which at 41mm also feels like the right size.

Yes, the Formula 1 Gulf is tempting, and I do like the Calibre S movement, but to me the simple, bright Orange is the watch that best fits the spirit of the Formula 1 range.

For more photos of the Formula One range, take a look in the Gallery.

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