It had taken 8 long years, but by 1994 TAG Heuer was back on a sound financial footing. The management team brought in after the acquisition by TAG had increased sales through a series of new watch lines- the Formula 1, S/el, 1500 and 4000 series. Having stabilised the finances, attention now turned to developing a flagship watch. The new series would offer premium case materials, including Platinum, 18k Yellow and White Gold, and be powered by a range of automatic movements, including a Chronometer. The new range followed the naming convention of the day and was christened the TAG Heuer 6000.
In addition to a diverse range, TAG Heuer released several special edition 6000 watches, many of which had a strong link to Formula 1. Perhaps the rarest of these is the special watch given to the owners of the McLaren F1 supercar. The 6000 was the ultimate version of the “Six Features” steel sports watch that had taken TAG Heuer through the 1980s and 1990s, but only one year after the 6000’s launch, TAG Heuer launched a watch that would spell the end of the “Six Features” era- the Carrera.
The responsibility for designing the new series fell to Jorg Hysek, the man who also designed the Kirium series. Like other “Six Features” watches, the 6000 features a unidirectional bezel, Sapphire glass (with cyclops on some models) and “Mercedes”-style hands.
The case has three elements- the base case (brushed finish), a thin upper bezel(a polished ring sitting under the unidirectional bezel that extends to the lugs) and then a unidirectional bezel that combined polished and brushed finishes, depending on the model.
One characteristic of Hysek’s efforts is the integration of TAG Heuer’s shield into the design of the watch. Take a look at the Chronometer 6000 above and you notice the Shield used in several places:
- Central lug- bottom of case
- Central lug- top of case
- 12 o’clock hour marker (upside down)
- 12 o’clock bezel pip
…add these to the TAG Heuer logo on the dial, the crown and the one engraved on the caseback and clasp and you have up to eight stylised TAG Heuer shields on the watch. Hard to mistake it for anything other than a TAG Heuer.
By today’s standards, the case is relatively thin, taking advantage of the low-profile ETA automatic movements. While the case expanded a little for the Chronograph version (above), the 6000 in any guise feels light compared to say a Carrera 1887.
There were three sizes offered: Full size (42mm), Mid-size (38mm) and Lady’s (31mm).
One element of the design that varied depending on the model is the unidirectional bezel. The launch versions in 1995 offered two styles:
- Grooved hash-marks at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11; embossed numerals marking out each 10 minutes (above); and
- Black filled grooves above plus black minute markers; engraved, filled 10-minute marks on the outer-edge(below)
Late in the model life the bezel design changed subtly to a more rounded design.
6000 Quartz Watch
The Quartz model is easily identifiable as the only model in the range to feature the script “Professional” on the dial. The watch uses the black-filled Bezel and baguette-shaped hour markers, except for the triangles at 6 and 9 o’clock and the inverted TAG Heuer logo at 12 o’clock.
The quartz watch was part of the launch collection in 1995 and remained in the catalogue for the entire production run without any significant changes.
The 1999 upgrade saw a new dial introduced, with Arabic numerals replacing the baguettes and the embossed bezel replacing the engraved version. The watch shown above shows the 1999 upgrade.
The two Chronograph versions of the 6000 appeared in 1997, with TAG Heuer branding the mechanical version as a “Chronometer Chronograph”. The dial borrows the lume circles and embossed bezel from the Gold 6000 and introduced the Arabic numeral design later used by the Chronometer model.
Another feature of the Chronograph is the use of an inner tachy bezel, which helps give the dial more visual depth. With the date moving to the 6 o’clock position, the cyclops is missing.
6000 1/ 10th Chronograph- Quartz
The quartz Chronograph shared the tri-compax lay-out of its mechanical brother, but in a 2-6-10 layout. Like other 1/ 10th quartz Chronographs offered by TAG Heuer in the late 1990s, the watch has a red-tipped 1/ 10th second hand in addition to the usual central chronograph seconds hand.
The quartz model gets its own Chronograph pushers- a different design to the mechanical version.
McLaren F1 Edition
Read about the McLaren F1 edition 6000 here.
6000 White and Yellow Gold Chronometers
At the top of the 6000-range is the 18K Gold automatic Chronometer (The Lady version is not COSC- certified), which has a unique dial featuring small lume circles marking out the hours, separated by TAG Heuer-Shield markers at 12, 6 and 9 o’clock. The Gold watches have an angled inner bezel, as per the Chronographs, but with a minute-scale.
6000 Platinum Chronometer
One of the rarest TAG Heuer watches is this Platinum 6000-Series, of which only 99 were made. You could customise the dial color of this watch, so the 99 examples are not all the same. Only a couple have appeared at auction in the last few years, but they are rarely seen.
Bracelet & Straps
The bracelet is highly complex, with 255 individual pieces. While an attractive design, it is also the Achilles heel of the watch. Bracelets on the first 6000 watches were fixed to the case with small screws, rather than by using springbars. These bracelets are fragile, especially towards the top of the bracelet where the links meet the case.
Later versions (denoted by the “-2” after the model number on the back of the case) have traditional springbars and are more robust.
As you can see above, there is no shortage of choice when it comes to straps, with a variety of Crocodile and Calf-skin options. While more conservative, I prefer the Crocodile-leather, with the design of the Calf-skin versions have dated somewhat.
Like all 1990s-era TAG Heuers, the 6000 series is powered by ETA- Swatch Group.
- Automatic watch and Chronometer use the ETA 2892/A2 (above), still used today by TAG Heuer as the Calibre 7
- Automatic Chronograph is the ETA 2894-2, again used today by TAG Heuer as the Calibre 17
- Quartz watch: ETA 955.112
- Quartz chronograph: ETA 251.262
As the flagship of the TAG Heuer range, it made sense to use the 6000 as the basis for several Limited Edition watches released in the late 1990s/ early 2000s. Here are some of the best examples.
My favourite 6000 watch is this McLaren- branded 6000 Chronograph (quartz), which is unusual in that its the only 1/ 10th quartz chrono. to use two rather than three registers, the third making way for the applied McLaren logo. To read more about the McLaren/ TAG Heuer watches, click here.
Another LE linked with McLaren (this time the road car division rather than the Formula 1 racing team) is the 6000 Chronometer given to owners of the McLaren F1 car, each watch featuring the chassis number on the dial. To read more about these watches, click here.
Double-Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen has a pair of 6000 Chronographs with his name on the dial, the black version above and a model with a White dial that you can see here.
The deal to create the Senna-edition 6000 series was signed on 29 April 1994- 2 days before Senna died at Imola. To get the complete story of the Senna TAG Heuer watches, click here.
6000 Formula 1
Bernie Ecclestone commissioned 500 examples of this TAG Heuer 6000 Chronograph to mark the 50th year of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1999. Not originally sold to the public, the watches were given out to sponsors and partners of F1, although I hear that some watches were sold at the F1 Paddock Club at selected races.
While the TAG Heuer 6000 was designed to be the ultimate TAG Heuer range, it was discontinued around 2002, meaning a life-span of only seven years. This is no reflection on the quality of the watch but rather that the TAG Heuer brand was moving in a different direction, as signalled by the huge success of the Heuer Carrera re-edition launched in 1996. The “heritage” strategy was clearly one that resonated with LVMH, because within a couple of years of acquiring TAG Heuer, most of the “Six Features” watch lines were discontinued.
The 6000 is sensational value today, with most versions being sold for less than $1000, although as you’d expect, there is a large premium for the Gold and LE versions.
The shape of the 6000 has aged well, perhaps better than the Kirium series that was launched two years later.
While the flagship of the 1990s is a far cry from the $200,000+ flagship of today’s range, the TAG Heuer 6000 did demonstrate that there was demand for mechanical movements again, starting the long road back to TAG Heuer regaining its position as a true manufacture.
To see the TAG Heuer 6000 launch catalogue from 1995, click here.