TAG Heuer is the quintessential gearheads’s watch. Not the Rolex Daytona, Hublot F1 King Power, or IWC Ingenieur (as IWC’s marketing department would now like you to think), but almost any TAG Heuer.
This piece won’t discuss car model-branded watches, as Michael Ballaban wrote about before, but rather watches for the proper car guy who likes to showcase his or her love of cars in general rather than something in particular.
A Brief History
Of course, TAG Heuer did not become TAG Heuer until 1985, when Mansour Ojjeh’s TAG Group bought the company because of the Quartz Watch Crisis of the late 1970s and 1980s, when the Swiss mechanical watch industry took a nosedive because of the cheap quartz watches from Japan. Mansour Ojjeh also happened at the time to own a large stake in McLaren Group, who also races cars in Formula One. The TAG Group also financed the engines (built by Porsche) for McLaren F1 cars from 1983 to 1987. This alone should make TAG Heuer the watch for gearheads. Eventually, TAG Heuer was sold to the LVMH Group, who make Louis Vuitton bags, Moët champagne, and Hennessey cognac, now with some watches thrown in, but don’t let that stop you from thinking of TAG Heuer as a watch for complete tools.
Why You Should Have One
When you wear a Formula 1, Carrera, but especially the Monaco, it is safe to think that you have a gearhead in front of you. (Though a Monaco owner may be trying to live out his Steve McQueen fantasies.) A Daytona owner will probably like cars too, but chances are he doesn’t know how to service them. (The exception is anyone who got their Daytona due to winning the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.)
Also, as gearheads, we have an appreciation of all that is mechanical, meaning all TAG Heuers with the exception of the Formula 1 have a proper mechanical movement inside. Is it going to be more accurate than a quartz watch? No. Will it have a countdown timer and tell me the date down to the year? Probably not. But it is a watch that marks people as gearheads and who most of the time are willing to talk about cars.
But here’s the pervasive reason. Numerous racers loved Heuer watches. Enzo Ferrari gave a gold Carrera watch to all of his drivers. Mark Moss over at Calibre 11 has a great article on the numerous F1 drivers who wore Heuer watches from Jo Siffert (who actually sold Heuer watches to other drivers) to Ayrton Senna. Furthermore, even Allan McNish, one of my favorite sports car racers, wears a Carrera (though his compatriot Tom Kristensen is a Rolex Daytona ambassador). (Pictured is Clay Regazzoni with his Heuer Silverstone.)
Even today, TAG Heuer sponsors a lot of motorsports and pushes the envelope with regard to proper chronographs. At Monte Carlo, you can see the TAG Heuer logo all over the track even though Rolex is now the official watch of F1. At this year’s Baselworld, TAG Heuer showed off the MikroPendulumS concept (yes, concept products exist for watches too, especially when they cost as much as a car), whose stopwatch timing is intended to be even more accurate than the race timers, with two tourbillons (one for telling time and one for the stopwatch).
Maybe a reason why not...
One thing I will say is that TAG Heuer has branched out into sunglasses, mobile phones, and clothing accessories. Do not buy any of them. They are a travesty and a waste of money that could be going into a motoring hobby. Frankly, I wonder how much profit actually comes from those products. (Pictured are the Ayrton Senna-branded TAG Heuer sunglasses. As much as most of us like Senna, please don't buy them.)
Overall, a TAG Heuer watch is generally the mark of a true gearhead, and it is something you’ll want to have for the rest of your life. It is something that pays for itself, as I found, and it is nowhere near as expensive as any Rolex or IWC. And you know it’s what the racers wear.
All photos courtesy TAG Heuer and Calibre11. Special thanks to Calibre11 for inspiring this article and doing the research.