Founded in 1860, it took just more than a century for Heuer (afterwards TAG Heuer) to locate its horological market — era-defining sports-focused steel-cased chronographs which have become a byword for 1960s and 1970s trendy.
This fact alone continues to afford TAG Heuer a rare reputational benefit in the vintage market (see the Phillips purchase of the Crosthwaite & Gavin collection of 41 classic Heuer chronographs last year), but was still a long way off when Edouard Heuer established his workshop at Saint-Imier, Switzerland.
However, it would take the coming into the company of Edouard’s great-grandson, Jack Heuer, in 1958, to add the precocious layout and provocative innovation needed to ensure its survival in the decades to come.
Heuer was no stranger to firsts. Back in 1887, Edouard developed the oscillating pinion — a pioneering approach to coupling the different elements of a chronograph function along with a chronometer that is still used now. In 1962, an Heuer stopwatch became the first Swiss-made timepiece into orbit when John Glenn flew on the very first US manned spaceflight.
The exact same year, Jack established the now-highly collectible Autavia — followed 12 months later by the both legendary Carrera — thereby inaugurating what’s considered the heyday of Heuer, in which its sporting chronographs enjoyed a near-symbiotic connection with motorsport.
But it had been the launch of possibly the world’s first incorporated automatic chronograph movement — christened the Chronomatic — in 1969 that made the brand’s name: the following year, Jack unveiled the square-cased Monaco, a watch that would go on to define a decade later it looked on the wrist of Steve McQueen from the 1971 movie Le Mans.
A timekeeping association with Ferrari would likewise secure Heuer’s affiliation with world class motorsport (it’d continue to become an official timekeeper of F1) but the business itself was trouble — contested by the quartz revolution it’d helped develop and also the near-collapse of this integrated sector that comprised high-end Swiss watch making. Back in 1982, Jack was forced out and the family-owned firm sold to a consortium headed by Piaget and Nouvelle Lemania. Three years later it was sold , to Middle Eastern investment house Approaches d’Avant Garde (TAG), who renamed the brand”TAG Heuer”.
The new moniker introduced a new approach: beginning with the debut of a new Formula One set, clearly inspired by the achievement Swatch was now enjoying using its plastic-cased, pop-coloured quartz-run pieces.
Plus it was in the business of motorsport that the brand could continue to dominatebuilding on Jack’s marketing genius with a highly successful association with Ayrton Senna that definitely found favour with LVMH, which required control of their newest in 1999.
Ever since then, there has been a coordinated effort of rereleases as well as”reimaginings” of heritage pieces, including the cushion-cased Monza (based on a Carrera model) and the Targa Florio (inspired by a classic pilot watch and so bearing no connection to the famed Sicilian street race for which it’s named).
Evolutions within the Carrera and Monaco collections have been even more pronounced. Back in 2005, TAG Heuer declared a renewed devotion to high-precision watchmaking with the Carrera notion 360, the earliest mechanical wristwatch capable of timing to 1/100th of a second. And in 2012 it introduced the Mikrogirder, a hairspring-less, magnet-driven movement capable of measuring to 1/2,000th of a second. Underlining this bandwidth are now anniversary bits celebrating this year’s 55th birthday of the Carrera: a true-to-form 36mm date and time version and its first in-house GMT chronograph placed in the striking new COSC-certified Heuer 02 collection.
The Monaco collection has similarly hosted some radical thinking (the belt-driven V4 from 2004) while serving as a”hero merchandise” — now telegraphed in heritage-inspired dial and strap iterations along with a third party”makeover” by Bamford Watch Department.
And because 2015, TAG Heuer has been one of the few”conventional” watchmakers to offer you a high-performance steel watch., the latest iteration of that was launched earlier this year. Now focusing strictly on the sporting world with that it originally made its reputation, the new Connected timepiece — complete with bespoke”dials” plus a series of similarly proprietary onboard apps — might seem a ways from lap timers, but in fact it simply underlines the new principles — what you might call”speed under stress”.
TAG Heuer Connected
TAG Heuer was the very first — and nearly the last — luxury Swiss watchmaker to undertake the smartwatch business, starting the original Connected model in 2015. Five years is an aeon in technology, so it’s unsurprising that the next-gen edition comes with considerably upgraded hardware but also a generally more elegant”feel” up to and including a collection of bespoke”dial” layouts. And whereas the original searched for an actual lifestyle”purpose”, the new Connected Watch flourishes with a range of tailor-made apps for its sporty clientele it obviously seeks to entice.
Carrera Heuer 02 by Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara
For the next alliance with the Godhead of Japanese streetwear and the man they call the”king of Harajuku”, TAG Heuer encouraged Hiroshi Fujiwara to rethink its C-shape case layout from the 1960s and 1970s — the heyday of the kind of motorsports for the original Carrera layout was conceived back in 1964. Together with the brand new overhaul provided by Fujiwara, the most recent TAG Heuer x Fragment variant provides an in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement.
The biannual road race might not have gone this year, but TAG Heuer watches marked the event in grand style with this limited edition of this watch that bears its name. The Monaco has passed to horological history as the very first watertight square-cased chronograph (equipped with an integrated self-winding movement to boot), however in its 51 years its also been the carrier of a number of inventions — as well as design codes — for the brand. Last year, to mark its own half-century, it generated a run of true-to-form small variations, but for our money this version is the nicest.