Had it not been for that fateful weekend at Imola in 1994, Ayrton Senna would have turned 52 a couple of weeks ago. One of the first stories written on Calibre 11 back in 2009 was an overview of the Senna TAG Heuer Limited Editions, a post that is still popular, no doubt thanks to the renewed interest in Senna’s life and career in the aftermath of the brilliant movie Senna.
This time we’ve got something special to share with you- the stories of two TAG Heuers that were owned and worn by Ayrton Senna in the early 1990s. Senna’s relationship with TAG began with his move to McLaren- Honda in 1988 and continued through to 1994, even after he left the McLaren team (as regular readers will recall, McLaren boss Ron Dennis was a shareholder in TH).
In fact, it’s likely that the last commercial deal Senna ever signed was his agreement with TAG Heuer to produce a range of watches using his name. The story of the 6000 Senna is detailed in the book Mastering Time by Gisbert Brunner.
TAG Heuer and Senna finally reached agreement to launch the 6000 Senna watch on Friday 29 April 1994- only two days before that race. Following Senna’s death the project was put on hold for a few months, and it wasn’t until October 1994 that TAG Heuer and the Senna Foundation decided to go ahead with the project. TAG Heuer donated CHF500 for each watch sold to the Senna Foundation.
The best known of Ayrton’s personal watches is this early 1990s TAG Heuer S/el, Ref. S25.706C. The watch features a 1/ 100th second Chronograph, powered by an ETA 251.251 quartz movement. Unlike most of the S/el range, this model is often seen with a brown leather strap.
My father worked for Mclaren for over 10 years. In that time he has worked with many of the great drivers including, the greatest in my opinion, Ayrton Senna.
As a joke one day he asked Ayrton to swap watches with him if he won the 1993 world championship. Unfortunately Senna didn’t win but did wear the watch through the Monaco GP which he won and arguably Senna’s greatest race in the wet at Donnington in a poor performing McLaren MP4/8.
At the end of the season in front of several other staff at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, Senna gave My dad his watch, a TAG Heuer S25.706C with modified brown leather strap. I think Senna would have been overjoyed to receive the Casio my dad was probably wearing.
I remember my dad coming home with the watch and couldn’t believe what he had. Being around racing all my life you hear of things like this happening and it all seems so usual, but I didn’t really appreciate how much of a fantastic thing this was to have happened.
When Senna was killed the watch had a strange aura around it. Of course this was an actual item owned by the man and very valuable to us but also served as a stark reminder that he was gone and would never be around to joke with about the watch again.
You can read the full story of the watch here.
The watch was sold by Bonhams in May 2007 for 48,000 Euros/US$69,000 (before Buyers premium) and is the actual watch pictured in the photos above and below.
The second of Senna’s watches is this TAG Heuer 6000 WH5151 from 1993. While the first Senna edition was also a 6000, it was a different design to the model Senna wore himself.
Senna wore the Chronometre version of the 6000, powered by the ETA 2892.A2. The WH5151 is a stainless steel watch with 18ct. Gold highlights on the lugs, bezel, crown and bracelet.
The Automatic 6000 watches have a deeper case than the quartz versions and were available with either a complex bracelet (such as the example below) that had more than 250 parts, or a leather strap. Despite the connection to Senna, the perfect example below was bought a few months ago for less than USD1000- a bargain.
Senna was obviously not a fan of metal bracelets, because just as with his S/el, he chose a leather strap for his 6000- the watch you see below is Senna’s personal 6000.
Ayrton wore this watch in 1993-4, a period covering his last season at McLaren (pictured below with the watch) and his time with Williams-Renault.
The watch is still in great condition, with only a few scuffs on the top-side of the case
The case-back and original leather strap are also in great condition.
Senna’s TAG Heuer 6000 was given to a business partner, who is now selling the watch through Collectors Studio. The watch has an asking price of “around $50,000”- more details here .
Pricing Senna’s Watches
Given that the 6000 WH5151 can be bought for less than USD1000, the “Senna premium” would seem to be around $50,000. Big dollars, but it seems pretty reasonable when you look comparable memorabilia prices.
In December last year, the driving suit worn by Steve McQueen’s in the movie “Le Mans” sold for USD984,000. This is the same suit that McQueen is wearing in the promotional photos that TAG Heuer use today to promote the TAG Heuer Monaco series.
Even if you put aside the massive price difference, would you rather have the suit of an actor pretending to be a racing driver, or the watch of perhaps the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time? No offence to the “King of Cool”, but I’ll take Senna’s watch every-time.
–   TAG Heuer
–     Collectors Studio
–   TAG Heuer Catalogues
–  Ron Pallet as posted on Watchuseek
–  Bonhams: http://www.bonhams.com/eur/auction/15487/lot/50
–  Mark Turney: http://watchfreeks.com/view_topic.php?id=25000&forum_id=93#