TAG Heuer Link- The Ultimate Collector’s Guide

Last Updated on June 23, 2019 by Calibre 11

The Link is one of the most important TAG Heuer series, having been a critical part of the TAG Heuer collection since 1987 when it was launched as the S/el. When the watch was revamped in 1999, it was decided to change the name of the S/el, with the new name “Link” chosen to reflect the watch’s defining characteristic- the distinctive “double S” shaped links in the bracelet. Despite the change in name, the positioning of the watch remained consistent: “Sports Elegance”, which is where the “S/el” originally got its name.

In the first 20 years of the models life more than 2 million Links and S/els were sold, making it one of the most iconic watch series from any brand and at the time the most important TAG Heuer series- remember that back in 1999 the Carrera was a low volume retro novelty rather than a full-scale range.

TAG Heuer Link Quartz 1/10th Chronograph
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

Yet by 2013/14 it appeared as though there was no longer a place for the Link in the TAG Heuer line-up. The Carrera had expanded into the Link’s sophisticated-yet-sporty sphere, and other models such as the Grand Carrera were also crowding out that space. There had been few new Link models since 2011 and no sign of any impending redesign.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 7 GMT
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

The revival of the Link quietly began in 2016 when TAG Heuer decided to launch a new women’s series featuring an entirely new case. Even then there wasn’t enough confidence in the new range for it to be a global launch, with the 2016 Link Lady only launched in a few markets.

But the success of the Link Lady not only led to the expansion of that range- both geographically and with new dials and finishes- but the expansion of the new design language into the men’s series with the 2017 series launched last month at Baselworld. While it’s too soon to know whether this will signal the revival in sales, it’s a major new chapter in the life of the Link series and the inspiration to look back across the almost 20 year history of the TAG Heuer Link. And if you’d like to read up on the S/el before you get started, then take a look here.

First Generation- 1999

TAG Heuer Link ChronometerThe 1999 Link was the last watch launched by TAG Heuer before its acquisition by LVMH in September 1999. Yes, the Link used the same basic case shape as the 1998 S/el, but the pebble-like rounded nature of the S/el and its bracelet began to be squared off slightly, with flatter bracelet links and a redesigned crown guard and crown.

The most obvious changes to the Link were to the dial:

  • Mercedes hands replaced by sword hands
  • Oversized 12, 6 and 9 applied numerals
  • Stick hour-markers replace the oblong lume markers
1999 TAG Heuer Link
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

The first Link watches- such as the example above- do not have “Link” on the dial, with the model name being added to the dial in 2002.

At launch, there were four models in the Link range:

  • Calibre 7 Chronometer
  • Quartz watch
  • Automatic Chronograph
  • 1/10th second Quartz Chronograph

TAG Heuer Link Chronograph QuartzThe Calibre 16 (Valjoux 7750) model (below) was the only of the new models not to gain the oversized numerals, but the other changes did get picked up.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 ChronographThe Link was launched with a new, albeit short-lived, marketing campaign called “Beyond Measure”

TAG Heuer vintage ad
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

Second Generation- 2004

2004 TAG Heuer Link
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

The second-generation Link followed in 2004 and reintroduced an S/el design feature- a two-part dial. The new Link had a starburst small centre circle, while the outer circle featured a azurage pattern. The over-sized 3-6-9-12 numerals were dropped, as were the stick hour-markers, which were replaced by triangular-shaped applied markers. Completing the new-look dial were newly designed hands that were smaller and sleeker than the previous look.

The Chronograph models- such as the quartz model below- also gained newly styled pushers, dropping the cylinder-shape parts carried over from the S/el.

TAG Heuer Link Quartz ChronoCompleting the new look was an updated bezel design- larger and flatter than the previous models and with a polished finish and smaller flat teeth (as against the triangular shape that had been a hallmark of the series back to the first S/el).

There were more significant changes to the Calibre 16 Chronograph, even though the first generation model stayed in the range with a single reference Chronometer model (below- Ref. CT5110).

TAG Heuer Link Chronograph Chronometer
Photo by Watchfinder

The 2004 Link Calibre 16 launched a new look with a smaller, flat fixed bezel, as shown on Ref. CJF2110 below with the black dial.

2004 TAG Heuer Link CJF2110The smooth flat bezel was also adopted by the revised Calibre 7 range.

2004 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 7Overall the second-generation (the first developed by LVMH) was a significant departure for the Link. While the first Link can be seen as an S/el with a new name, the 2004 Link was much more thorough redesign with the ambition to move the Link series further upscale.

Third Generation- 2006/ 2007

2008 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 6 WJF211CThe redesigned flat bezel of the second-generation Calibre 7 and 16 models was adopted across the Link range for the third-generation series. In 2006 TAG Heuer rolled out the first of the new models, including another fresh look for the 42mm Calibre 16 Chronograph and a range of new 39mm Calibre 6 (ETA 2895) watches which have running seconds displayed in a small sub-dial at 6 o’clock.

The hallmarks of the third generation models are:

  • Slimmer polished fixed bezel
  • Slimmer, more shapely crown guard with square-end crown
  • Vertical streak dial design for all models except the Calibre 16

The 2006 Calibre 16 Chronograph saw a fixed polished bezel with a tachymeter scale (formerly on the inner flange) and an intricate new dial design. The silver rings surrounding the sub-dials were removed, while two new colours were offered- anthracite and blue.

TAG Heuer Link Chronograph Calibre 16 Anthracite
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer Link Chronograph Calibre 16 BlueMore changes came in 2007, with the adoption of sapphire casebacks and the launch of several new 42mm models:

  • Running changes to the Link Calibre 16
  • New Calibre S Chronograph
  • New Link Calibre 5
  • New link Calibre 5 Day-date

Despite the anthracite and blue Calibre 16 models being only a year old, the 2007 black dial Calibre 16 model was subtly changed, with silver rings added to the sub-dials…adding and then removing these rings seemed to be a popular strategy of the TAG Heuer designers to mark a new model.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

While the Calibre 5 Day-Date continued the look of the new series, the 42mm Calibre 5 date model was something of a throw-back to the second generation series.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5 Day-DateAs you can see below, the 2007 Calibre 5 watch featured the older bezel and dial design, but with updated hands and hour-markers.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5While the quartz Chronograph model remained in the range in 2007, it was phased out in 2009 when a more radical battery-powered Chronograph arrived- the Link Calibre S

Link Calibre S

TAG Heuer Link Calibre SThe Link was the first series to use the new in-house TAG Heuer Calibre S movement. You can read all about the movement here, but essentially the Calibre S is an electro-mechanical movement. It has 230 components, yet is powered by a battery.

As former CEO Jean-Christophe Babin told Watch Time’s Joe Thompson in October 2006

“It is more complex than most mechanical movements. You have five engines, all bi-directional. Each engine drives four wheels. You have more wheels in the Calibre S than in a mechanical watch. So even if the heart of the watch is quartz, the Calibre S is much closer to a mechanical product. The assembling of the hands on a bi-directional axis is very delicate, one of the most difficult hand-assembling jobs you’ll find.” 
TAG Heuer Calibre S Movement
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

Fourth Generation- 2011

2011 TAG Heuer Link Chronograph Calibre 16By the time the fourth generation Link arrived in 2011 TAG Heuer’s range had changed significantly. From 2005 onwards, the focus of TAG Heuer became the Carrera, which moved away from being simply a retro-themed chronograph to cover some of the territory that used to be the Link’s exclusive domain.

So the 2011 redesign focused on making the Link a more sophisticated design. You can see the evolution of the Link design below

  • The case has been updated, with slightly shorter lugs, a shorter crown and re-designed, smaller Chronograph pushers
  • Dial now features vertical streak effect, including the Calibre 16
  • Thinner hour markers and inner flange
  • Flatter S Links on the bracelet

The design sketches below highlight these new features, especially the revised cushion-shaped bezel.

TAG Heuer Design Sketch TAG Heuer Design Sketch TAG Heuer Design SketchWhile the Calibre 5, 6 and 7 watch cases remained at 41mm, the Chronographs increased in size to 43mm. The case no longer had a fully brushed finish, now featured a contrast of fine-brushed horns and polished and rounded sides.

2011 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5 Day-Date 2011 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 6Despite these detail changes, the overall look of the Link remained consistent with the 2007 models, as you can see below.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 Chronograph Comparison

2013 Calibre 18

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 ChronographFollowing the launch of the fourth generation series, there were few new models or changes in the years that followed. However one of the more interesting Link models was launched in 2013- the Link Calibre 18, shown above next to the Calibre 16 Chronograph. The Calibre 18 was the first two-register Link Chronograph and offered a new look for the series, especially with its smaller case (40mm vs. 43mm for the Calibre 16) and thinner bezel.

Fifth Generation- 2017

2017 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

In March 2017 we saw the new men’s Link  series, which for the moment consists of a single Calibre 5 watch offered with three dial colours. The new 41mm case is a totally new design. Yes, the cushion-style bezel has been enlarged and now is a dominant design feature, but that and the (again re-designed) iconic Link bracelet are the only nods to the heritage of the series.

2017 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5
2017 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5
2017 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5

Should the new Link prove to be popular, we would expect to see other movement variants- especially a Chronograph- as part of the 2018 TAG Heuer range.

Notable Models & Limited Editions

2002 Calibre 36 CT511A/ CT511B

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 36 CT511A 2002
Photo by parkersjewellers.co.uk

One of the best-loved Link models is this Calibre 36 (El Primero) model launched in 2002-3. The design is based on the Calibre 16 Chronograph of the day, and while that model was updated in 2006, the Calibre 36 versions stayed basically unchanged in the range until 2008. There were two variants- the black and white dial options you see here.

The Calibre 36 models have the classic 3-6-9 sub-dial layout and feature skeletonized hands and a clear sapphire caseback.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 36 CT511B 2002
Photo by Watchfinder

2011 Roman Numerals Models

2011 TAG Heuer Link Roman NumeralsThere were a number of Roman Numeral models made, many for the Japanese market. The watch above is from 2011 and was available globally. The 2011 fourth-generation series had a couple of models with roman numeral bezels.

2012 Link DiCaprio Edition

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 Leonardo DiCaprio
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

As part of Leonardo DiCaprio’s marketing deal with TAG Heuer, a limited edition of 2000 was produced in 2012. Reference CAT2015 is a 43mm Calibre 16 Chronograph with the actor’s name marked on the sapphire caseback.

Ayrton Senna Link Collection

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

While the first of the Ayrton Senna edition TAG Heuer’s was a 6000 series, the remaining four watches from the original collection are based on the Link. You can see the full collection here. Shown above is the 2003 Link Senna, while below is the 2004 model, the last of the original TAG Heuer Senna series.

While today’s Senna collection is based on the Formula 1 and Carrera series, the bracelet offered on both watches is based on the Link design as a nod to the original series.

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna

2001 Searacer

2001 TAG Heuer Searacer
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

The Searacer is one of the better looking Link variants, even though it’s not officially a Link model. The quartz-powered watch was launched in 2001 and marketed as a yachting watch.

2002 Link Oracle Racing Ref CT1118

TAG Heuer Link Oracle Racing Ref CT11118Another sailing-related watch based on the Searacer was this Oracle Racing limited edition from 2002

2002 TAG Heuer Link Oracle Racing CT11118
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

Tiger Woods Editions

TAG Heuer Link Tiger Woods
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

The face of the Link series was golfer Tiger Woods. TAG Heuer began working with Tiger back in 2002, and over the next 9 years there were six limited edition Tiger Woods Link editions. While the first four are well-known, the last two models didn’t have the same level of publicity, due to Woods’ well documented problems that began in 2009. At that time TAG Heuer began to scale back the marketing of Woods, dropping him from US marketing. The partnership was finally terminated in August 2011 when the contract expired.

Each of the watches is finished with “Red Burgundy” highlights, apparently Wood’s favourite colour.

2003- Link Tiger Woods Calibre 6 Ref. WJ2110

2003 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 6 WJ2110 Tiger Woods

2004- Link Tiger Woods Calibre 7 Ref. WJF2113

2004 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 7 WJF2113 Tiger Woods
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

2006- Link Tiger Woods Calibre 6 Ref. WJF211D

2006 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 6 WJF211D Tiger Woods
Image courtesy of TAG Heuer

Limited edition of 5000.

2009- Link Tiger Woods Calibre 7 GMT Ref. WJF2115

2009 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 7 GMT WJF2115 Tiger Woods

2010- Link Tiger Woods Grand Date Quartz Ref. WJF1010

2010 TAG Heuer Link Grand Date WJF1010 Quartz Tiger WoodsLimited edition of 6000

2011- Link Tiger Woods Calibre 16 Ref. CJF211C

2011 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 CJF211C Tiger Woods
Photo by Rakuten

Limited edition of 4000.

2011 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 CJF211C Tiger Woods
Photo by Rakuten
2011 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 CJF211C Tiger Woods
Photo by Rakuten

Link Mobile Phone

TAG Heuer Link Mobile Phone Android

One of the lesser known Link models is this Android smartphone. When the fourth generation Link series was launched in 2011, part of that collection was a Link-branded mobile phone and Link-branded sunglasses.

Looking Back on the Link

TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16 Chronograph Rose GoldThe Link holds a unique place in the TAG Heuer range. While the Carrera, Formula 1 and Monaco are clearly linked to Motorsports, the Link has no such cool linkage and has to live with being the “sensible” watch in the TAG Heuer range. No colourful limited editions, no skeletonized dials and no headline grabbing concept watches. The more sombre positioning of the Link, combined with a “love it or hate it” bracelet means that for many enthusiasts it is the forgotten part of the TAG Heuer range.

But it is a vitally important part, because with the ever-growing Carrera line heading more towards the avant-garde, the Link now has the right design and size to be successful in the dress watch segment of the market, which is especially strong in Asia.

Has this article been written two years ago it would have been looking back on a series that seemed to have no future, but with the fantastic redesign of the fifth generation series, there’s a great opportunity to create a new chapter in the story of the TAG Heuer Link.
TAG Heuer Link Gold


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