TAG Heuer Movement Strategy

Calibre 11 has covered the key developments in TAG Heuer’s movement strategy over the last 18 months and today we can bring you a detailed look at what is happening in 2012 and beyond. And the news is significant: more in-house Calibre 1887s, a new high-end mass production movement and a continued move away from ETA, Nivarox and the rest of the Swatch Group.

New in-house Movement

The most significant news today is that it has confirmed that it is tooling up to manufacture a new high-end in-house movement. The movement is 100% designed and assembled at a brand new green field site in Chevenez. The Chevenez site will not only produce many components, but will also assemble the new movement.

As we understand it, the new movement will be positioned above the Calibre 1887 and more in the segment of watches currently powered by the Calibre 36.

While nothing is official, our guess is that the new movement is based on the Mikro-platform, the innovative dual-chain Chronograph movement that has powered the Mikrograpgh, Mikrotimer, Mikrogirder and Mikrotourbillon.

Calibre 1887 Update


Production of the Calibre 1887 will move from its current location at Cornol (Cortech) to the new site in Chevenez by the end of 2013. Cortech will now focus soley on producing cases.

Volumes of the Calibre 1887 will be expanded so that the movement can be offered across the TH range- not just the Carrera.

The other piece of news on the Calibre 1887 regards its hairspring. Nivarox (Swatch Group) informed TAG Heuer in January of this year that they would not renew their contract to supply hairpsrings for the Calibre 1887, forcing TH to look elsewhere. You can read more about the background to this decision here.

To replace the Nivarox Hairsprings, TH will source Hairsprings from a both Atokalpa (Switzerland) and Seiko Instruments Inc (“SII”) , whose TC78 movement forms the base for the Calibre 1887. We see this as an interim step and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see TAG Heuer- either on its own or as part of LVMH- making its own hairsprings in Switzerland within the next 10 years.

Also note that the rotor on the 2012 version of the Calibre 1887 has been updated to the design shown above- part of the changes and improvements that continue to be made on the Calibre 1887.

Haute Horlogerie

TAG Heuer will continue to manufacture its haute horlogerie movements at La Chaux-de-Fonds. This covers the Monaco V4, Mikrograph, Mikrotimer and new for 2012 the Mikrotourbillon. These movements and watches are basically hand-made at TAG Heuer HQ in small numbers, and this will continue in 2012.

Other Movements- Sellita

Regular readers will know that Swatch Group has started to put the squeeze on competitors such as TAG Heuer for finished movements as well as key components, with the movement most impacted in 2012 being the Calibre 16 (ETA 7750), which is found in the Carrera, Link and Aquaracer.

For the first time in 2012 TAG Heuer will begin to use the Sellita SW-500 as the Calibre 16 to supplement the ETA 7750. As we understand it, there will be no differentiating feature on the watch to indicate which movement is being used (recall that the two movements are almost interchangeable).

When we met with CEO Jean-Christophe Babin in January, he mentioned that the Sellita SW-500 has recently been upgraded and had now been homologated for use by TAG Heuer.

Conclusion

None of these changes will be a surprise to regular readers of Calibre 11, and indeed the news of a new in-house movement plus the move to bring more components in-house is great news for TAG Heuer. The drift away from Swatch Group continues to grow momentum, and while Swatch Group’s desire to control finished movements is understandable, it does surprise that it has been allowed by the Swiss regulators to cut back on the supply of components for which it has a virtual-monopoly. It is also not a surprise that one of the first contracts terminated by Swatch Group is that of its major competitor.

Of course, these changes will impact the smaller brands much more than TAG Heuer, which is able to use its financial strength to build new in-house capabilities. It’s an exciting time to see the innovation and progress that the brand is making on its mechanical movements, and there is little doubt that the pace of innovation shows that TAG is more than capable of building a new range of movements that are superior to those supplied by ETA.

 

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Photos

1887 Movement & Mikrograph: Abel Court