TAG Heuer: Chevenez & the Calibre 1969

Only a few months after the plans were first announced, construction has started at TAG Heuer’s new factory in Chevenez in the Jura Valley. The build for the 2,400 square- metre facility will last about 18 months and eventually employ more than 150 people.

The headline news that you may have read is that TAG Heuer will transfer production of the Calibre 1887 from Cornol to Chevenez– but that is only half the story.

The real news is that TAG Heuer will also manufacture a new in-house movement at Chevenez, the details of which have been kept under wraps until now. The movement was developed under the code-name “Calibre 1888”, but will be known as the Calibre 1969. So let’s take a closer look at Chevenez, the Calibre 1969…and find out exactly what TAG Heuer’s CEO is wearing on his wrist.

New Chevenez Factory

Chevenez is a small village about an hour north of TAG Heuer HQ in La Chaux-de-Fonds. In early May, the new site was commemorated by TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Christophe Babin in front of a range of dignitaries, including Jack Heuer, the President of the Swiss Watch Making Federation, the local Mayor and Government Minister.

A Calibre 1887 movement encased in perspex marks the entrance of the new site.

Transferring production of the Calibre 1887 to Chevenez will allow Cornol to focus on making cases in higher numbers and increase TAG Heuer’s independence in terms of cases and movements.

While the new facility is of great significance to TAG Heuer, the most exciting part of Chevenez for watch fans is not the slick new building, but what will be made there alongside the Calibre 1887- the Calibre 1969.

TAG Heuer Calibre 1969

Calibre 11 had the chance to speak exclusively to Jean-Christophe Babin about the Calibre 1969 and the latest developments in the fast-moving world of movement supply.

Calibre 11: Congratulations on the inauguration of the new site- can you tell us when construction starts? When do you expect the first movement to be produced?

Jean-Christophe Babin: We have a very stretched road-map also because the movement is 100% new, internally designed, developed, prototyped and patented. We want to present the first functional prototypes at Baselworld 2013 and start manufacturing the first finished timepieces towards the end of Q4 2013.

C11: What can you tell us about the Calibre 1969? Is the new movement based on the Mikrograph base (i.e. two barrels) or is it entirely new?

JCB: It’s entirely new, but obviously will benefit from the expertise and certain components developed with the Calibre 1887 and the Mikrograph, because we developed these two movements with a long-term vision in terms of re-usable components. Having said that, the  architecture and dimensions will be totally different.

C11: Collectors are very keen to understand the dial layout of the new movement. Is it 3-6-9 (tri-compax), 3- 6 (bi-compax) or something different?

JCB: With the 1887 we have a 6-9-12 basic layout, so with the 1969 we will have a 3-6-9 layout in order to cover 100% of the chronographs potential architectures and layout.

C11: What price points will the new movement be used? Between 1887 and Mikrograph?

JCB: No, not necessarily. Like the 1887 it’s a sophisticated integrated chronograph, but unlike the Mikrograph it’s a single frequency chronograph. Therefore, the primary purpose is not to cover different price points but rather propose all lay-outs possible within a €4,000-€8,000 price range.

For the €8,000 to €15,000 bracket, we have the Calibre 36 developed on the El Primero platform and above that price range, the Mikrograph 100 and Mikrotimer 1000.

So more than ever TAG Heuer will dominate the high-complication world of chronographs with no less than five”engines”, complemented obviously by the movements bought to partners such as Dubois-Depraz, Sellita and ETA. No other brand can offer up to seven or eight totally different mechanical movements.

C11: Have you seen reduction of supplies from Swatch/ ETA in other areas (i.e. other than Hairsprings?) Has supply of the 7750 reduced, and if so has this been replaced by Sellita SW500?

JCB: Of course. ETA say what they do and do what they say with the blessings of COMCO. So yes, this year we’ll receive 15% fewer mechanical movements than last year from ETA. Thanks to our Calibre 1887 fast ramp-up and the Sellita SW500 for which we are a major “launch customer” we have the chance to more than offset the decrease from ETA and fuel our growth consistently with our ambitious strategic targets.

Mikrotourbillon S 100 Update

Regular readers will remember the last-minute surprise TAG Heuer showed to a handful of journalists at Basel- a double Tourbillon Chronograph accurate to 1/ 100th of a second- the TAG Heuer Mikrotourbillon S 100. So, is this just a concept watch put together to grab a few headlines, or will the watch be made?

The answer can be found on Jean-Christophe’s wrist at Chevenez:

We asked Jean Christophe for an update on the development of the Mikrogirder and Mikrotourbillon:

“The Mikrotourbillon with its amazing dual semi-flying Tourbillons, including one protecting a 360,000 bph regulator and rotating six times every minute, is well under development and we’ll sell the first ones in the fourth quarter of 2012.

For the Mikrogirder we are still at a concept stage better analyzing chronometry and performance over time prior to take a “go/no-go” industrialisation decision, a process we systematically follow with all our concept watches.”

The news that the Mikrotourbillon will be made is great news for collectors, and a further endorsement of TAG Heuer’s “Mikro” dual-frequency platform. The next 12 months will be an exciting year for TAG Heuer fans, with MikrotourbillonS and the Calibre 1969 both due to be launched.

You can be sure that we’ll follow the development of the both movements closely here at Calibre 11, so stay tuned..