Hands on Review- TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Chronograph

Let’s get one observation out of the way early: the sub-dials on the new TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 can appear a little too close together. Not by much, but when you’re working with a watch that has a diameter of only 40mm, these small details do make a difference.

We mention this up front, because putting this design question to one side- don’t worry, we’ll come back to it in detail- the new slimline chronograph is our new favourite in the TAG Heuer Link range, and on the wrist feels like no other current TAG Heuer chronograph.

In fact, the combination of its lithe case, smaller diameter and bi- compax layout means that the Link Calibre 18 has more in common with the feel of a Heuer chronograph from the 1970s than it does a contemporary TAG Heuer Calibre 1887/ 16/ 17/ 36/ 72 chronograph.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 B&W DialThe trend towards smaller watches has accelerated over the last 12 months, as the watch industry reverses the move to bigger, chunkier watches. This is partly due to the “bigger” trend having topped out as models hit the 44mm mark, and partly because of the desire to offer   chronographs that appeal to the vital Chinese market, where there is a preference for smaller watches.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 6Irrespective of the reasons why the Link Calibre 18 exists, it’s the smallest TAG Heuer chronograph we can recall since the vintage-style 39mm Calibre 17 Carrera chronograph launched in 2002.


TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Silver and BlackThere is no doubting the new chronograph’s connection to the other models in the Link range, which was refreshed in 2011. In addition to the slimline profile, the Calibre 18 model offers a unique dial design, thanks to the bi- compax (two registers at 3 and 9 o’clock) layout- the first time that the Link has offered this layout in its 26 year history.

The dial is composed of three elements- an outer-ring featuring deep vertical streaks, a Starburst inner- dial and then two dished sub-dials that seem to float over the top of the inner dial.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18The dial also features elongated hour markers, providing further visual difference to other Link models.

And then there are the registers- running second at 3 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph counter at 9 o’clock. We reckon they’d look better without the silver rings- there’s a lot of polished silverware on the dial (hands, hour-markets, TAG Heuer logo), and one less item would probably look better. And while we’re taking things off the dial, we’d also be tempted to remove the “Chronograph” text.

And what of the sub-dial positioning? Are they too close together? Interestingly, the placement of the registers looks better on the Black dial model- placing the two dials inside the distinctive starburst centre dial helps does draw the two registers together visually on the Silver dial.

So are we imagining things? Take a look at the image below, which superimposes the new Link with the Calibre 17 Jack Heuer Carrera- this shows that its the smaller diameter of the sub-dials that make them appear closer together on the Link- on both watches the position relative to the centre stem is about the same.

Link CarreraOverall, the Calibre 18 Link is an attractive, very clean design- next time, we’d love to try this one on a Black Alligator strap for something different.

Link Silver Dial- Ref. CAT2111

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 4Like many recent TAG Heuer models, the new Link is available in a limited number of dial colours- at this stage, only Silver (White?) and Black. Still, given the up-market feel of the new watch, these are the dial colours that make the most sense.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 3The Silver dial looks great, the lighter colour highlighting each minute detail on the dial- details which tend to get lost on the Black dial.

2014 TAG Heuer Link

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 6

 Link Black Dial- CAT2110

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second model- CAT2110- with the Black dial shows off the polished steel features nicely. The inner-dial has a flat finish, rather than the metallic finish on the Silver model.

2013 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Black Dial- CloseThe depth of the sub-dials is also less noticeable, appearing flatter on the Black dial.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Black DialComparison with Link Calibre 16

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 vs. Calibre 16The photo above shows the new Link Calibre 18 (left) and the 2013 Link Calibre 16 (right). The Calibre 18 chronograph shares the same case and bracelet design as the Calibre 16 model, but in a slimline package. The case is not only thinner:

  • Link Calibre 16- 16.1mm
  • Link Calibre 18- 14.4mm

…but also boasts a smaller diameter

  • Link Calibre 16- 43mm
  • Link Calibre 18- 40mm

These differences are fairly obvious when the two watches are placed side-by-side.

2014 TAG Heuer Link range- Calibre 18 and 16The other key differences are:

  • Two register vs. Three register chronograph
  • Longer, more pointed hour markers on the Calibre 18
  • No external tachymetre scale on the Calibre 18
  • Minuterie on the inner flange of the Calibre 18
  • Smaller crown

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 7The casebacks are fairly similar- the Calibre 16 caseback (below left) is the new 2013 Blue dial/ DiCaprio Link model, which features a smoked caseback.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 CasebacksMovement- Calibre 18

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 RearThe new Link is the first time that we’ve seen TAG Heuer use the Calibre 18 movement. The Calibre uses a Sellita SW300 base with a chronograph module from Dubois Depraz- the DD 2223. The movement is nicely finished, with a Cotes de Geneve rotor and perlage finish applied to the plate.

The Calibre 18 is closely related to the Calibre 17 movement, that we profiled last week. The two modular chronographs share the “same” base movement (ETA 2892 and its clone the Sellita Sw300), but with different chronograph modules.

We’re not sure what the meaning of “18” is, but have heard that when this movement was first planned, it was known as the “Calibre 4 SL”, presumably for “Slimline”.

On the Wrist

2013 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Wrist 2My first reaction when I put the watch on is that it felt more like a vintage Heuer than a newer TAG Heuer. The classic Carrera of the 1970s had a 39mm diameter and a similar thickness.

I can’t think of  another modern TAG Heuer with the same feel- yes, there are several smaller diameter models, but those tend to offer deeper cases.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18You can see the profile of the Calibre 18 Link below- it sits quite flat on the wrist.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Wrist ShotOne of the more interesting elements of the Link design is the square-edged bezel (below) that contrasts with the round, soft design seen on the rest of the watch

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Chronograph- Black DialThe famous “Double-S” Link bracelet is standard on all models, although given that the watch features traditional lugs (earlier S/ el and Link models had an integrated end-piece), there would be no problem fitting a leather strap as an alternative.


TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Black & WhiteWe’ve always been open that the Link series is not our favourite TAG Heuer series, but the new Link Calibre 18 is certainly an exception- we love the size of the new model and the more traditional dial layout. Over the course of a week, the size/ position of the sub-dials became less noticeable and instead you come to enjoy the watch for what it is- a distinctive addition to the Link range that reminds you of the vintage Heuer chronographs.

Hopefully, this will see similar efforts to slim down the Carrera Chronograph to something closer to the classic size. And for those that hate the trend to small watches? Don’t fear: there are still several 43/ 44mm models in the range.

The Calibre 18 Link is priced at a meaningful premium to the Calibre 16 model- about CHF1,000 in Switzerland. We think that the new model is different enough to command that type of premium thanks to its different design and more interesting movement.

2013 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 Black

Further Reading




  • Dan Dahl

    Great review as usual, David.

    My only issues are the small crown and its shape which makes it difficult to handle. Also, I'd like to see the more rounded bracelet make a comeback with this new rounded case shape.

    The trend is back to smaller watches but I wonder if this is too small for a chrono. I think they should use the day/date Link case (42mm?) this would be a perfect size for me.

  • Dan Dahl

    I would also make a small suggestion. Is it possible to make short videos of these watches? Ive seen some videos where the watch is on a turnstyle, rotating to show all aspects of the watch. Your 2D pictures get better each time but to see the watches in 3D video gives a whole new perspective.


    • Thanks Dan. Video is interesting. I've never really seen the point, unless you do something like Hodinkee did with John Mayer, which was fantastic. But yes, I agree that you get to see the watch in "real life".

      I'll give it some thought, although adding video editing may just test the skills!


  • This is the only Link model that I will consider purchasing. I love the smaller and thinner case. I hope TAG Heuer continues to offer smaller case options. The 41mm Carrera chronograph is about as big as I can go on my wrist, but the case is still rather thick.

  • DM

    David, as you might recall, this is one that I am very interested in and I suppose I fall into that catagory of Chinese consumer that is very size conscious.

    I have yet to see and try this one on my wrist but your report sounds very promising. Of course, the 1969 still has a more favourable position because of the dial layout and the potential use in a Carrera case.

    Back to this watch, I think what it needs, is a taller/deeper/bigger Carrera style rehaut that would reduce the space between the edge of the dial and the outside edge of the sub-dials. That would reduce the squished together look of the sub-dials, especially if the rehaut is prominently marked with a tachymeter Carrera style.

    • HI DM. Yes, I think that we'll see the Calibre 1969 in a Carrera first- will be a great way of rounding out the 50th anniversary year.

      There have been a couple of recent models where the sub-dials look a little close together…in fact, I remember that being a criticism of the Jack Heuer Carrera 80- but now that watch is out in the wild, I haven't heard it mentioned again


  • Wilfreb

    Too small for my taste as I prefer 43-44mm watches, otherwise these are gorgeous.

  • Philmo

    I hadn't noticed the size trend reversal, though I have noticed that we all accept these fashion changes eventually, just at different rates!
    The two sub-dial layout definitely better balanced than three and IMO supplies adequate data for vast majority of people. I still prefer the 1887 V2 though. Never keen on designs with sub-dials overlapping larger circles.
    Agree Dan's comment re bracelets – the original S/el bracelet was the most comfortable ever made, closely vying with the 6000 for that title, excepting for the pressed steel clasps of that era – modern solid clasps far superior!
    Agree a slightly larger crown desirable for older, less nimble fingers, say a smaller version of the Cal 1 crown which grips well?
    Still, overall quite an attractive piece!

  • Hi Philmo- agree that two reg chronos are the best compromise between offering a complication, but still leaving the dial clean and simple