This weekend marks the anniversary of the passing of triple F1 World Champion Ayrton Senna at Imola, just one day after fellow driver Roland Ratzenberger died in a qualifying accident. For a sport that went twelve years without a fatality on a race weekend, those two tragic days in San Marino shook the sport and led to changes in car and circuit design to improve driver safety.
While the loss of any driver is tragic, to lose the sport’s brightest star arguably at the peak of his powers was a huge blow to Formula 1, and especially to his legion of fans in Brazil.
TAG Heuer and Ayrton Senna enjoyed a long relationship together, both during his life and since his death through the Senna Foundation. The first Ayrton Senna TAG Heuer watch was released in 1994, with several other special editions following. We’ve extensively covered the history of these watches here, and also looked the Ayrton’s personal TAG Heuer collection.
The latest Ayrton Senna/ TAG Heuer series was launched in late 2019 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of his death and consists of two watches- a Formula 1 Calibre 16 and a Carrera Heuer 02 Tourbillon.
While the latest Senna Editions maintain the link between TAG Heuer and the Senna Foundation, it’s easy to forget that for a decade, the partnership was limited to TAG Heuer’s range of sunglasses rather than watches.
Ayrton Senna and TAG Heuer
Senna’s relationship with TAG Heuer began when he moved to the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team in 1988. At the time, Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) owned 50% of McLaren International and all of TAG Heuer, with McLaren boss Ron Dennis sitting on TAG Heuer’s board.
But while Senna wore TAG Heuer watches during his time at McLaren, the first Ayrton Senna TAG Heuer watch appeared in 1994, after he left McLaren to drive for Williams. The deal with TAG Heuer was inked only days before that fateful race in San Marino and was the last commercial deal that Senna would sign.
But after a decade of releasing limited edition watches, the deal between TAG Heuer and the Senna Foundation ceased after the release of the 2004 Link. A new deal was signed that limited the use of Senna’s logo for TAG Heuer’s sunglasses, but there were no more TAG Heuer Senna watches for more than a decade, with Hublot taking over the licencing rights for watches.
We were there in Geneva in March 2015 when then TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver announced that the Senna/ TAG Heuer relationship would be renewed with a fresh range of watches and a new Ambassador deal. We asked JC Biver- also the Chairman of Hublot- this week why it was that licencing deal moved from Hublot back to TAG Heuer:
Ayrton Senna should have never left TAG Heuer, because of their history together. So, when I became in charge of the two brands, I brought the logic and true history back.Jean-Claude Biver, former CEO TAG Heuer
And that’s how the TAG Heuer relationship with Ayrton Senna was revived after a decade away and why we see Ayrton’s image more tightly aligned with TAG Heuer today than we did even back in the mid-1990s.
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Ayrton Senna Special Edition- Ref. CAR5A99
Starting with the top end of the latest range, we have 45mm Carrera Heuer 02T, this time with a matte black ceramic case and matching fixed ceramic bezel. The bezel carries the “Senna S” logo and name in bright, Brazilian yellow, with the same colour used for the TAG Heuer logo and the lume on the hour and minute hands.
The “Senna S” is also found on the 9 o’clock sub-dial, complementing what is a relatively subdued design- at least when viewed on the wrist.
Turn the watch around and the it’s a different story, with the sapphire caseback featuring a bright yellow image of Senna’s helmet, and again the Senna S. We would have gone a step further and finished the column wheel and text on the Heuer 02 movement in the same yellow, with the red text and colouring looking slightly out of place.
And speaking of the Heuer 02 movement, this if of course the top of the range Tourbillon variant, with the tourbillon cage highlighted at 6 o’clock on the dial.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition- Ref. CAZ2017
Next up we have the Formula 1 Senna edition, a steel 44mm Chronograph with the mechanical Calibre 16 movement. To keep a connection to the 1994-2004 Ayrton Senna collection, the watch uses the bracelet from the Link series, which was the basis for three out of four of those first LE watches.
The starburst anthracite dial is matched with “fire red” hour-markers and central chronograph hand and a white inner flange. The unusual design choice on this watch is the use of two white registers (9 and 6 o’clock) and one black register at 12 o’clock. While it may be an unusual layout, we really like the design- it’s different to the norm and the colours all work well together to give a harmonious overall look.
The fixed steel bezel features a tachymeter scale and a ceramic insert, as well as the Senna S in red at 12 o’clock, and “Senna” engraving in white.
The back of the watch has the same 25th Anniversary design as the Carrera, this time a solid steel screwdown caseback featuring Senna’s likeness.
Price and Availability- The 25th Anniversary Ayrton Senna Collection
The 25th Anniversary Carrera Heuer 02 Tourbillon is a limited edition of 65 watches worldwide (the number of pole positions won by Senna). The Formula 1 is a “special edition”, with TAG Heuer not disclosing a specific production number and is priced at US$3,200. Each watch comes with a bespoke box design, as featured below.