The Heuer 1000 series came at a pivotal time for Heuer. By the late 1970s, the majority of the brand’s successful mechanical Chronomatic chronographs had been discontinued as the quartz crisis took hold. In fact, it had been Heuer’s stopwatch and timing business that kept the company afloat for as long as it had, so the company needed a sales hit. Badly.
The answer came in the form of a diving watch, but its launch was low-key. Heuer experimented with several quartz diving watches in the late 1970s, some of which only lasted a few months or years in production. but of these one stood out- Reference 844.
The 844 formed the basis for what would become the Heuer and then TAG Heuer 1000 Professional series- and from the 1000 came the 1500, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 6000 series. For almost 20 years, these watches would dominate the Heuer and TAG Heuer catalogues and came to define the brand’s look. But none of that would have happened without the success of the 1000 series.
A few years ago, Jack Heuer told us the story of how he designed the 1000 series, a story he later expanded on in his autobiography:
“ISPO is Europe’s leading international trade fair for sporting goods and sports fashions, and for several years Heuer had taken a stand at the fair in Munich where we often found ourselves next to manufacturers of skin-diving products. They were mostly American firms and while chatting with their representatives at the 1979 fair I heard about the difficulties that they had buying private-label watches for underwater sports. They had had some bad experiences with watches bought from an importer in New York – in next to no time the watches let in water and they had had to deal with many angry customers.
That gave me the idea of trying to enter this market with a range of sturdy, Rolex-style diving watches with quartz movements, which would avoid overusing the winding crown as was inevitable with mechanical movements. To our great surprise our new diving watches were very well received by the market. We could not imagine then that this model – we called them the 1000 Series would be the very watch that was to help the company recover and get back into the black following the takeover by Piaget in 1982.
The following year, we extended the series to four sizes: two large ones for gentlemen’s watches and two small sizes for ladies. We also added a special piece to the metal bracelet so it could be stretched to fit over the sleeve of a wetsuit. All four models had a rotating bezel and extra-luminous dials, both features that TAG was to include a few years later in the full TAG Heuer range of sports watches.”
The Early Days- 844/ 8440
The reference 844 (automatic movement) and its quartz counterpart, reference 8440, first appeared in the 1979 Heuer Catalogue. These early watches were made in France by G. Monnin, a contract manufacturer who made watches for other brands, including Forbel and Bessa. Monnin was based in Charquemont, close to the Swiss border and only 25 kms from La Chaux-de-Fonds, the home of TAG Heuer today.
The movement on these early models were also French made, with the automatic FE 4611A being made by France Ebauches, at the time the largest French manufacturer of ebauche movements. FE was formed in 1965 and at one stage owned Glashütte Original. FE tried to survive by manufacturing movements in East Germany using low-cost labour, but sold Glashütte Original in the early 1980s.
The earliest models featured a 24-hour dial (like the example above), as well as Cathedral hands, which were quickly replaced by the Mercedes hand design used on TAG Heuer’s range throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
By 1980, the 8440 was renamed as the 980.006 (below left) and the design of both the 844 and 980.006 updated to remove the 24-hour markers on the dial. It also heralded the switch of production from France back to Switzerland, which is why these later watches carry the familiar “Swiss Made” text on the dial.
You can see above the distinctive case design of the 844/ 980.0XX watches- indeed, it’s very different to later 1000 series watches and comes only in a 42mm case. The two distinguishing features of the case are the shape of the crown guards and the soft, round lugs.
The 844/ 980.0XX continued all the way through to the end of the 1000 series in 1990, with both automatic and quartz options being available throughout the model’s life. And speaking of quartz, there was also this Analogue/ Digital model that used the same case as the 844.
Under New Ownership- The range expands
The Heuer 1000 (although not yet called by this name) collection really took of under the ownership of Piaget/ Nouvelle Lemania, who acquired Heuer in 1982. It’s likely that at this point all 1000 series watches were made by Roventa-Henex, a Swiss contract manufacturer who continued to be a major producer of watches today.
New sizes were introduced, with the family now taking the following dimensions:
- Full size (844)- 42mm
- Men’s size- 38mm
- Boys size- 32mm
- Lady’s size- 28mm
Each of the three smaller sizes share the same case design- sharper/ more pointed case lugs and less pronounced crown guards.
1984- The 1000 Series
The range now consisted of over 30 different models in stainless steel, two-tone, PVD (black, pewter and green), gold-plated and black and gold finishes.
While the early Heuer cases are thick steel, later Heuer models gained the “L” suffix and a thinner case.
1986-1992: The TAG Heuer 1000
The 1000 made a seamless transition to life as a TAG Heuer with only a few small changes. Apart from the obvious new “TAG Heuer” logo on the dial, the “1000” and “Professional” text moved to the lower part of the dial, while the “quartz” text was deleted.
Later TAG Heuer-branded watches have a “N” suffix, which are the same cases as the “L” cases. The last series have “B” suffix cases, although it’s not clear what the differences are between the N and the B models.
The 844 Automatic was discontinued in 1990, while the rest of the quartz 1000 series lasted until 1992.
- Early 844-FE 4611A
- Early Quartz- ESA 536.121
- Later 844- ETA 2872
- Later 1000- 964.114 or ETA 955.114/ 112
Price Highs and Lows
While the key to the success of the 1000 series was its reasonable prices, there was a luxury version of the watch- the solid gold models that you see above. These models- easily identified by their “nipple” hour-markers are 18k Gold and have a unique bezel.
At the other end of the scale is this watch, the 980.043, which has a distinctive 24-hour dial. This is what was called an “economy” model, and is only water-resistant to 30m thanks to its crown which doesn’t screw-down like the rest of the 1000 range.
The Legacy of the 1000 Professional
Many people have a special love for the TAG Heuer 1000 as it was an affordable way of getting into the world of quality Swiss watches- for many, it was their first “proper” watch and offers great value for money.
And today it’s still affordable, with prices typically below $1000 for all-bar the early Monnin watches which command a handsome premium. These are pretty tough watches that generally can take a fair beating and still look good- it’s really only the bezel condition that gives away what sort of life a watch has led. Sadly, these are also very difficult to replace with correct TAG Heuer parts, although there are several aftermarket options available.
And as you can see above, the look of the 1000 continues to influence more modern TAG Heuer’s. The watch above is the 2010 Aquaracer 300 Calibre 5, which has several clear links with the 1000 series- the black bezel is back, as are the circular hour markers. The watch still has the crown guard and has a very similar overall case design to the original Heuer 844.
The TAG Heuer 1000 still offers a lot of watch for your money and make a great choice as a Heuer/ TAG Heuer to wear as a daily wearer where you won’t be continually worried about scratches or scrapes. It’s the perfect watch to wear with a NATO strap, or the original jubilee and is one of the very best modern TAG Heuers.
Join the Discussion
- Paul Gavin, who has researched these watches for years and drove the 1000-series reference table at On The Dash
- Stewart Morley from Heuerville with perhaps the most comprehensive cataloguing of the 1000 series with some outstanding photos
- john87300 from Watchuseek, who researched the origins of Monnin