Diamond Life: TAG Heuer and Precious Stones

A few weeks ago, Mark Moss wrote a couple of great stories that chronicled Heuer and TAG Heuers use of precious metals over the years. I’ve always thought of Heuer and TAG Heuer as makers of sports chronographs, so my taste in case materials doesn’t usually extend far beyond stainless steel…although I will gladly accept a Rose Gold Monaco V4 if pushed!

Still, there is no getting around the fact that some like their watches with a little more bling, and so if a Gold case is not enough, there is always the options of adding diamonds.

Of course, using diamonds on ladies watches is a long-established approach to design, but this article will focus on the Men’s range of TAG Heuer watches that have had that extra sparkle. And for those of you who can’t think of anyone would want a few carats on their Carrera, bear in mind that Lewis Hamilton wears a custom-made Carrera with diamonds. Then again, he is World Champion, so he’s probably allowed a few more liberties with fashion than most of us.

The 1990s

Diamonds were not used on any of the well-known Heuer watches- in fact, I can’t find a single example of a diamond-encrusted Heuer. This makes sense when you look at why the Swiss brands were suffering in the 1970s/ 80s: they were simply not cost competitive with the Japanese quartz watches. Given this environment, adding extras like diamonds was not something high on the priority list.

The first example that I can find of a Men’s Diamond TAG Heuer is the 6000 Chronometer from 1994-6, Ref. WH234F (the white-dial model above). This watch only uses diamonds on the hour-markers, and so was subtle- at least to the extent that a 18k yellow Gold watch can be called understated.

The early 2000s

It was under LVMH ownership that the use of diamonds really accelerated. Recall that one of LVMH’s strategies when it acquired TAG Heuer was to increase the prestige of the brand. Given that introducing new up-market series takes time, the quickest way of injecting a little premium luxury into the line was to add precious stones to existing models.

The Microtimer above, the Link and 2000 Series below were each blinged up- the 2000 as noted before went all out with diamonds and sapphires on a 18k gold case.

Even the Carrera chronograph got the precious stone treatment. Many models like the one below are what I’d consider uni-sex watches, in that they use a men’s size case, but often with a mother of pearl dial.

Many of these diamond watches were special orders rather than being part of the mainstream line, which reflects both their niche appeal and the additional cost.

One of the more prominent series with precious stones was the “Absolute” TAG Heuer series that consisted of a Monaco and a Kirium. The Monaco is the most appealing because it went the furthest in terms of designing a bespoke model, rather than simply laying diamonds around the perimeter of the case.

Monaco Absolute

One of the rarest versions of the Monaco is this watch from 2003- the Monaco Absolute. The case is set with 48 baguette cut diamonds covered by a sapphire crystal.

But the most interesting part of the watch is the custom dial, with the circular hour and minute markers applied onto the flat black dial. It gives the watch a great 3D effect, and with its circular sub-dial design, a look unlike any other Monaco. Note also the black inserts on the stainless steel hands.

The Monaco Absolute is the most successful design to my eyes- probably because it’s the least obvious or overt of the diamond watches. There was a second Absolute Monaco released- the Absolute White Monaco, although that model did not feature any precious stones.

Kirium Absolute

The Absolute series was also available as a Kirium, this watch being a limited edition of 50 examples. Based on the Kirium Ti5 Chronograph, the Absolute model adds 40 baguette diamonds, of VVS clarity and F/G colour, totaling more than four carats to the titanium case, and then finishes the look with a ruby at the 12 o’clock position.

While not as interesting as the Monaco, there is a great mix of materials being used on this watch: titanium, carbon-fibre and rubber as well as precious stones.

The Kirium Absolute (Ref. CL1183) was priced around USD35,000 when new, and come up for sale only occasionally.

TAG Heuer Diamonds Today

The use of diamonds on the flagship men’s watches seem to be a thing of the past for TAG Heuer. The Mikrotimer, Monaco V4 and Mikgrograph all use exotic case materials, but no precious stones. And as I mentioned at the start of this article, that’s a move that is more in keeping with the sporting heritage of the brand- I just don’t see diamonds as being “sporty” on a men’s watch.

Nonetheless, there are still a couple of Men’s watches with diamonds, most notably the Grand Carrera Calibre 6RS and Calibre 8RS

2012 will be a year of focus for TAG Heuer’s ladies collection, so expect to see plenty of diamonds on offer from TAG Heuer, but few if any on men’s watches.

And that will suit the majority of TAG Heuer collectors just fine, although there will always be a market for people looking to customise their watch to make it stand out a little more from the crowd. The only precious mineral that most of us want on our watches is the sapphire in the crystal.

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Photos:

Courtesy TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer Link Diamond: Portero