Hands on Review- TAG Heuer Microtimer

It can be said that there are three types of watch collectors- the “traders”, the “flippers” and the “accumulators”. Accumulators will never sell a watch, even if it only gets worn once every leap-year. A flipper will buy today with the aim of wearing for a week, keeping the sticker on the back and then selling on at a profit. The trader, which describes how I collect watches, sits somewhere in the middle.

TAG Heuer MicrotimerI never buy a watch with the sole intention of making a turn on it (which is just as well as I’d be very disappointed!), but I do sell watches that I don’t often wear- partly to  stop the collection getting too large, but mainly to help fund something new.

Trading may be the most sensible way of managing a collection, but the downside of being a trader is the regret that comes with selling a watch that you still like. Often a few months pass and you see the same model up for sale and your mind starts to drift towards buying it back.

I’ve  succumbed to this temptation only once- buying back the same model I had owned and sold…and sure enough a few months later I sold it again. Which watch? It might surprise you:  a TAG Heuer Microtimer.

Origins- TAG Heuer Micrograph

The TAG Heuer Microtimer began life as the TAG Heuer Micrograph back in 2002, and was named after the famous Heuer Mikrograph of 1916- the first stopwatch to offer 1/100 second accuracy.

The Micrograph was initially offered as a limited edition of 999 watches and carried marking noting that TAG Heuer was the official timekeeper of the FIA F1 World Championship.

Like the original Mikrograph, the TAG Micrograph (Ref. CS111B) was accurate to 1/100 of a second. The watch won the 2002 Best Design Award at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve and there was enough interest to justify adding the watch to the permanent TAG Heuer catalogue, although not until the name was changed- to “Microtimer”.

As well as changing the name, TAG Heuer upgraded the quartz module to allow for accuracy to 1/1000 of a second and while this is an impressive technical achievement, there probably weren’t too many people who avoided the Micrograph because it lacked the ability to time within accuracy of 1/1000 of a second.

Apart from that, the TAG Heuer Microtimer (now Ref. CS111C) was basically the same watch as the Micrograph, although I have seen some speculate that the steel case differed slightly between the two models. From this single Microtimer, TAG Heuer have made a couple of other models, including two ladies versions- one with diamonds and the other on a white leather strap and with the LCD screen reversed (light background and dark numerals as against the original dark background and light numerals).

There was also this “Brazil” version of the Microtimer with a distinctive denim strap

Some eight years after its launch, the Microtimer is still going strong, although I’ve never had the feeling that its been a huge seller for TAG- however, it is a very distinctive, niche, cutting-edge design and is genuinely different to the rest of the TAG Heuer range. It was also a test-bed for the technology that TAG Heuer would later use in the Monaco 69 watch.

Why buy a Microtimer?

Microtimer (1)The main thing that attracted me to the Microtimer was its incredible design- the watch still looks cutting-edge more than 8 years after it was first released. To me its the same spirit that was behind the Heuer Chronosplit of the 1970s, but without the reliability issues.

The case itself is a beautiful “liquid-metal” design that almost looks like it was poured over your wrist. Set inside this case is the LCD screen, where the numbers seemed to float on a black background. If you like digital watches, this is one of the coolest made by anyone.

MicroTimerBoucleSecurite

The functions are all there- dual time-zone, a myriad of timing and date functions and a cool “black” screen effect where you can turn off the screen, similar to the night-running feature that Saab cars used to have. The rubber strap fits the look of the watch perfectly. That raised ridge down the middle of the strap? That is supposed to look like the grooves on the tyres used by F1 cars during the 1999-2008 period.

There are some days when you get sick of wearing retro, classical watches and instead want something a little more cutting-edge. The Microtimer fills that role perfectly.

Reasons for Selling?

So, a distinct design and a bullet-proof movement- why the doubts? For almost all Microtimer owners the frustrations are the same- the case can be a scratch-magnet.

I should say that I never got a scratch of either of my Microtimers, but the fear of doing so meant that I was very careful when I wore it- which takes away part of the beauty of owning a quartz watch- you can usually pick it up and wear it without thinking twice or having to set the time and date.

Below is a used Microtimer with a couple of years of average to above-average use…by no means “beaten-up”, but certainly not “Like New”. That shiny surface just doesn’t look the same with a few scuffs and scrapes.

The problem is not that the metal itself scratches any more easily than other types of steel, but rather that the high-shine finish shows up every mark, scuff and knock and if anything seems to amplify even the smallest mark.

And for me that was enough to move on to a different watch, which is a real shame.

I doubt that sales have been strong enough to justify TAG Heuer changing the case composition this late into the model’s life cycle- maybe the Microtimer II if it ever comes out will address the issue.

So if you are the type of person who never bumps a watch, or doesn’t care when you do, then the Microtimer is certainly worth a look, because it genuinely is a special design and a true avant-garde watch.

If however you fret over any small mark to your watch, then you may find the Microtimer ownership experience as frustrating as I did- always loving the look of the watch as it sat in the box, but fearful that a rogue brick might leap out at your wrist as you walk down the street.

But the true watch-lover forgets these “minor” issues over time..maybe its not that bad…I’d be more careful this time…and  they are quite reasonably priced..

Perhaps I need to stick the photo of the scratched Microtimer on my desktop to stop me from finding out if it’s a case of third time lucky.

2015 Update

TAG Heuer Microtimer

 

What can I say? Here we go again!

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Photos:

1) TAG Heuer

2) oldskool retro

3) TAG Heuer

4) H. Lindholm