Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer 1500

The TAG Heuer range in 1990 was totally unrecognisable from the range offered during the golden era of the 1970s and early 1980s. Gone were the great Motorsport- inspired names- Monaco, Carrera, Autavia, Jarama, Montreal, Silverstone– and gone was the innovative mechanical Chronomatic movement. In their place was a range of watches with numerical names that were organised in a clear hierarchy of good (1000 Series), better (4000 Series) and best (6000 series). This range, with a couple of exceptions, was entirely quartz powered, and instead of the Chronograph being at the heart of the design, the new watches were based around the “Six Features” dive watch template.

A large part of the reason for the move towards this look was the huge success of the original “Six Features” watch- the TAG Heuer 1000 Series, which was introduced in the late 1970s. But by 1990 the 1000 was beginning to show its age, and so TAG Heuer set out to replace the iconic dive watch, with a new model- the watch that would become the TAG Heuer 1500 series.

Design

As the name implies, the design of the 1500 is a hybrid of the 1000 Series (above left) and the 2000 Series (above right). The 1000 Series was very much a “Tool Watch”- a large, thick, 70s- style case with broad shoulders and a deeply recessed dial.  The 1500 picks up several design touches inspired by the 1000 Series:

  • “Mercedes” hands (admittedly a feature of all TAG watches at the time)
  • A combination of circular and rectangular Baton hour-markers (note that the 1500 reverses the pattern used on the 1000- circles at 9 o’clock and 6 o’clock where the 1000 has batons)
  • Triangle-marker at 12 o’clock on the dial
  • Triangular marker on the bezel at the “0” position (in fact, the steel bezel version above uses six triangles on the bezel)
  • “Jubilee” style bracelet
  • Circular case

But despite these similarities, the end result looks more like a modified 2000 Series, especially with a much lighter case design and thinner lugs.

TAG Heuer clearly wanted the 1500 to be seen as a more sophisticated watch than the 1000 Series, with many models featuring gold highlights and the option of a leather strap- never an option on the Diver-orientated 1000.

Models

Like the 1000 Series, the 1500 was only available as a 3-hand watch- no Chronograph version was ever offered. Buyers did have a choice of bezels, with either a steel bezel with minute-markers (above left) or a black diver-style design (above right).

When it came to case size, there were three options- Men’s size (~40mm/ 21mm lugs- below left), Mid-size (~38mm/ 19mm- below centre) and one Lady’s design (below right).

Unlike the 1000 Series, there was no “over-size” (~42mm) option for the 1500.

Dials

In addition to the usual Black and White dials, TAG also offered a rare “Night Diver” model with a luminous dial, a model only available in the mid-sized case with a black dive bezel. This is my favourite of the 1500 models, probably because it’s the 1500 that is the closest in looks to the 1000 series.

Perhaps the most unusual dial offered on the 1500 (and a contender for the most unusual on any Heuer or TAG Heuer) is the “granite” finish dial that you see below. It’s the trademark dial of the 1500 series, and something that was never offered on any other series.

Movement

Being an “entry model”, the 1500  was only available with a quartz movement. Watches have either the Swiss-made ETA 955.112 or the Thai-made ETA 955.114 movement. Both movements are the same 7 Jewel design, with the only difference being where they were made.

Series Evolution

Despite being on sale for almost 10 years, the 1500 series of 1998 is basically identical to the 1990 launch version- as already mentioned, there was never a Chronograph nor an Automatic version added during the model’s life.

Changes to the range were minor, for example:

  • The full-size model was discontinued in 1994
  • Later models have additional polished finishes- the centre links on the bracelet, the triangles on the Steel bezel and the outer-edge of the black dive-bezel
  • Detail changes to the bezel on the Steel/ Gold models, with later versions losing the gold inner-ring
  • A  blue-dial/ blue-bezel model (above) was added in 1996

Barack Obama and his Watch- TAG Heuer 1500

While the 1500 was quietly phased out at the end of 1998, there was a spark of interest in the watch 10 years later when Jeff Stein of Onthedash.com noticed that a certain Senator from Illinois was wearing a 1500 during the build-up to his Presidential campaign.

Obama’s model of choice was the white-dial 1500- the stainless steel/ Gold watch that you see below.

Obama is not the first US President to wear a Heuer/ TAG Heuer- as Mark Moss told us a few weeks ago, President Eisenhower wore a Heuer 2447.

Legacy of the 1500 Series

Until the discovery of the Obama-connection, the 1500 Series had slipped gently into relative obscurity, never being as well-known or well-loved as either the 1000 or 2000 Series. This wasn’t really a reflection on the watch itself, but more that the 1500 suffered from a lack of a clear identity in the TAG Heuer family.

Many people today refer to the watch as the “TAG Heuer Professional”- an easy mistake when that is all that you see on the dial. There is no “1500” badge on either the dial or the case, something that admittedly was also the case with other TH models of the same era.

No, the real issue is that the 1500 is too close in design to the 2000 Series. Sure, the case is not quite the same and the dial markers are a slightly different shape- but these are differences that only people reading a watch website will notice. To most people the two series are basically the same. You can see the 2000 series on the bottom left below, with the 1500 to the right. Now imagine the 1500 with the same white dial as the 2000…

It’s a shame that in wanting to modernise the 1000 series, the result was something that, while perfectly attractive in its own right, lost the “tool watch” feel of that original series that distinguished it from the softer 2000 series.

The upside of this for collectors is that USD500 will buy you a near-perfect 1500 today, while you can get a nice, if somewhat worn, example for around half that amount. That’s a bargain in anyone’s language.

To see a copy of the launch catalogue for the TAG Heuer 1500 series, click here.

 

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Photos

Obama: Moose/AdMedia/Sipa Press/0711191805

ETA movement- jpmwatches: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/TAG-Heuer-New-Old-Stock-Quartz-Movement-955-112-/190554264879