Many of the posts on Calibre 11 focus on the deep relationship that Heuer/ TAG Heuer has with motor racing- and in particular with Formula 1. You only have to look through a Heuer catalogue from the 1970s to see model after model named after famous racing tracks scattered around exotic parts of the world.
But despite this motor racing focus, Heuer/ TAG Heuer also has a rich history of supporting other sports where exact timing is essential, such as Diving, Skiing and in particular, Sailing. Of course, there are many parallels between motor racing and sailing- cutting edge technology, the quest for speed and the ability to rapidly consume vast quantities of cash.
In addition to requiring standard chronograph timing functions essential for motor racing, Sailing also lends itself to other complications such as tide indicators and specialised timing functions, so it’s no surprise that Heuer produced several Sailing watches.
The Heuer/ TAG Heuer association with Sailing includes several notable America’s Cup campaigns, starting with providing chronographs to the victorious Intrepid in 1967 and running through to the support of Team China in the 2007 campaign. As with all good sporting associations, there have been several watches inspired by the sport and featuring timing mechanisms specific to the needs of yacht-racing.
Heuer’s Sailing heritage extends back to the first Heuer Solunar (Solar/ Lunar) of the 1940s that featured the ability to monitor high and low tides. The Solunar name was resurrected by Heuer in the late 1970s in a Calculator-style case and is one of the rarest of the Heuer watches from this period. This “Solunar II” is one of the only mechanical Heuer watches from the 1970s not to use Heuer’s Chromomatic movement- instead relying on the Venus 2790 movement.
In addition to the Solunar, Heuer produced three other Sailing series:
- Heuer Mareographe: Two distinct generations of Mareographe were produced- the first based on a Carrera-style case and the later version based on the Heuer Autavia 2446. The Mareographe was also sold in the US by Abercrombie & Fitch as the Seafarer
- Heuer Regatta: Based on the five-circle rotating-disc system pioneered by Aquastar, the first Regatta was based on the Aquastar design, while later models were based on PVD versions of the Autavia case. These “Autavia Regatta’s” use the Lemania 1345 movement. The Lemania connection extends to third version of the Regatta sold in the 1980s that was based on the design used by Aquastar, Lemania, Tissot and others
- Heuer Skipper: The first version (the infamous “Skipperra” that was obviously signed off while the design-team was out at lunch) was Carrera-based and again, the later version was derived from the Autavia, including the Calibre 15 example shown below.
The TAG Heuer Era
The new TAG Heuer management decided very early on to continue to promote TAG Heuer as a sports watch- and there was a lot of effort focused on supporting Sailing teams and events, including the TAG Heuer Maxi World Cup. The vision that guided TAG Heuer product development through the 1980s was the “six features” principle, focusing on six features that would be common to all models. One of these was being water-resistant to 200m, and as this feature had little application to motor-sports, Sailing became a key plank of the TAG Heuer marketing strategy.
TAG Heuer Searacer
The first of the TAG Heuer Sailing watches was the Searacer series, a watch that TAG Heuer released as both a variant of the 2000-series and the S/el- Link Series. The first generation Searacer was based on the 2000 Series and available in thee stainless Steel (Ref. ) version pictured below.
The distinctive feature of the Searacer is the Regatta function, with its inner-bezel numbered from 1-10. The Searacer features a black central sweeping seconds hand for the chronograph functions and two sub-dials. The left sub-dial is a 12-hour counter while the right sub-dial shows 1/10th second for the chronograph. It’s the central red hand that is the Regatta function.
To engage the Regatta function, the top-right Chrono pusher is held down, switching the watch into Regatta mode. At this point the 12-hour sub-dial points downwards to indicate Regatta mode. The Red hand then counts down from 10 minutes and once it reached the 10 minute mark, the Yacht is assumed to have crossed the start line and so the standard chronograph function automatically engages and starts timing.
The second generation Searacer was based on the S/el- Link case and again came in two versions- one branded S/el and a later series branded Link. Apart from this obvious difference, there are also small details changed between the two second-generation Searacer models, for example The S/el Searacer has an applied TAG Heuer logo in silver, while the Link has the logo printed on the dial.
TAG Heuer’s modern relationship to the America’s Cup began through its link with New Zealand Skipper Chris Dickson, who led the 1995 syndicate NZL-39 TAG Heuer Challenge. While ultimately unsuccessful, Dickson would later move to the BMW Oracle Racing squad in 2002, and TAG Heuer followed.
This association ended after the 2003 series, when TAG Heuer entered into a partnership with Team China. As with most aspects of the America’s Cup, nothing is as it seems: While Team China is back primarily by Chinese funding, the yachting know-how comes from the French group Le DEFI, a group who formerly challenged for the Cup as the French entry.
Unfortunately, the America’s Cup is a bit of a mess these days- how many people even knew that the most recent America’s Cup was held in February 2010? Still, TAG Heuer remain linked with Team China, but when the Cup will again be open to multiple challengers is something that will probably be left for the Courts to decide.
TAG Heuer’s sponsorship of America’s Cup challengers has produced two limited edition watches. The first of these was the 2002 Oracle Racing Searacer (Ref CT11118), which was a Limited Edition of 1500 watches based on the Link.
The second America’s Cup watch is the China Team Limited Edition (CAF7112; 2000 pieces) that was launched in 2006.
Like the Searacer series, the Aquaracer Calibre S also features a Regatta function which is engaged by rotating the crown. This watch demonstrates the flexibility of the Calibre S movement, which is a quartz-mechanical hybrid movement- albeit more of a quartz movement with mechanical complications: TAG Heuer claim that there are 230 mechanical components in the Calibre S movement.
2011 Partnership with Oracle Racing
In November 2011, TAG Heuer announced the renewal of the partnership with Oracle Racing, the team that will defend the America’s Cup in 2013 in San Francisco Bay. TAG Heuer logos can be seen on the boats, and TAG will also supply watches and sunglasses to the team
Oracle Racing Aquaracer 500m Chronograph
To mark the partnership, TAG Heuer will release a special edition of the Aquaracer 500m Chronograph, the only visual change being the small logo added beneath the date window. TAG Heuer also mention that the special edition Aquaracer comes with a watersports lense, a blue polarized, hydrophobic and oleophobic lens with 5 layers of anti-reflection.
Sailing watches seem to be a constant part of the Heuer and TAG Heuer catalogue, albeit a niche part that in recent times is heavily focused around the America’s Cup. Given the trouble that series has experienced over the last few years, and the lack of a well-known alternative Blue Riband event, that niche status is unlikely to change.
But niche or not, the Heuer and TAG Heuer Sailing watches offer an interesting alternative to the far more common diving and motor-racing chronographs that dominate the catalogue.
1) NZL39 www.cupineurope.com
2) 2000 Searacer: www.hasegawa78.jp
3) -6) TAG Heuer