With a cupboard full of patents, a more than honourable collection of firsts and an innate desire to be ahead of the game, TAG Heuer watches are now the established benchmark in the sports domain. From its roots as a family business with a passion for technical innovations and precision, the company has become a prolific player in its chosen field and, in addition, is now fourth in the overall ranking in the luxury watch market.
In today's troublesome economic climate, when the Swiss watch manufacturers appear to be sitting back waiting for an upswing in business and merely settling for changing the colour of their dials or bezels on existing models in their collections, TAG Heuer are surging ahead with a dynamic product development strategy and a highly creative corporate communications program.
Capturing the services of the charismatic golfer Tiger Woods as its worldwide ambassador was a scoop and his face and swing will be a familiar sight in this program. Currently on printed media product ads, his famous drive will soon be seen in cinema and television spots pitting the man against a Formula 1 car.
The forthcoming spots are a clear indication that TAG Heuer attaches as much importance to the brandname as it does to marketing its eye-catching products. But unlike many, the company is not sitting back on its laurels ho-ping that it will merely maintain and stabilize its market position. On the contrary, it is investing heavily in both product development and technical innovations.
Re-inventing an Icon
In 1969, Heuer (as it was until 1985 when it joined forces with Techniques d'Avant-Garde [TAG] to become TAG Heuer) launched the Monaco, a bold, square stainless steel chronograph. Equipped with a 'world first' - an automatic chronograph movement - the Monaco soon became a venerated timepiece and after it was adopted by the late lamented Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans it truly attained a mythical status.
This design icon has now been revolutionized into the Monaco Sixty Nine, a 'concept watch' with three intriguing features. The first is that the mechanical chronograph has disappeared to become a straightforward hours and minutes timepiece with a classic Monaco dial and a small seconds counter at 6 o'clock. The second innovation is a specially designed swivel system that turns the watch to reveal another timepiece on the reverse side. Thirdly and lastly, but by no means least, the reverse side houses a state-of-the-art high-tech digital display dial with a 1/1000th of a second chronograph function and hour, date, alarm, second time zone, lap times and best lap time.
The Monaco Sixty Nine is light years away from a simple re-edition of the Monaco. It has been completely re-thought and is more a revolution in watchmaking than an evolution of the original watch. The stainless steel watch now houses two contrasting technologies, a mechanical hand-wound movement and an ultra-modern quartz movement. With its combination of audacity, innovation and technical performance, the unique Monaco Sixty Nine looks destined to become yet another TAG Heuer icon.
The alchemy of perfection
In 1933, Heuer introduced the Autavia dashboard stopwatch for racing cars. The Autavia wrist chronograph appeared forty years ago. In celebration of this double anniversary, but with an eye to the future, the Autavia 2003 has now seen the light of day. With the special involvement of Jack Heuer, the Honorary Chairman of TAG Heuer, this tonneau-shaped chronograph with its round dial is a tribute to both the original watch and the company's dedication to precision.
The Autavia 2003 is equipped with a TAG Heuer Calibre 11 movement with a 40-hour power reserve - a slimmer heir to the Chronomatic that was used for the original Monaco. Designed as much for the driver's comfort as performance, the crown remains at 9 o'clock, with the pushbuttons for the chronograph at 2 and 4 o'clock. There is a choice of two dials, silver opalescent with the seconds counter at 3 o'clock and the minutes counter at 9 o'clock in black with blue hands, or a black dial with silver counters with orange hands.
There is also a Limited Edition of 150 pieces of the Autavia in 18 carat rose gold.
The Microtimer Concept Watch
TAG Heuer has had a lengthy involvement with Formula 1 and its drivers - Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard to name just a few. But the company's mechanical involvement dates back to 1916 with the first stopwatch that was accurate to 1/100th of a second, the Micrograph. In 1966, the company patented the Microtimer, the first miniaturized electronic timekeeping instrument that was accurate to 1/1000th of a second.
Now TAG Heuer has launched the Microtimer Concept Watch, a four-pushbutton wristwatch with a technology tailored to the demands of Formula 1 motor racing. A masterpiece of Swiss Made precision, this new sports chronograph has an accuracy of 1/1000th of a second with a lap-time memory and best lap calculation, a traditional chronograph with additional times and split times, a dual or second time zone, a perpetual calendar and a stand-by mode offering the possibility of cutting off the display to an elegant blank black screen.
Another worldwide exclusivity used for the Microtimer is the choice of materials. The case is made from Liquidmetal®, named after its amorphous atomic structure identical to that of liquid. Based on aerospace technology, Liquidmetal® is more resistant than titanium, has an extremely stable polish finish and is particularly scratch-resistant [the authors can verify this since they checked it out at Basel using both a diamond point and a Swiss Army penknife]. With a 100 metre water-resistance and a glareproof curved sapphire crystal, this watch is ideal for anyone involved with motor racing or other active sports.
All of these genuine state-of-the-art technol-ogies are combined with a contemporary watch architecture which make it an elegant and sophisticated timepiece.
And for the ladies ...
35% of Tag Heuer's watches are ladies' models but with the current trend being for large watches, 25% of the men's watches are bought by the ladies for themselves. Nevertheless, the most popular of the ladies watches remains the Alter Ego collection.
Launched In 1999, the Alter Ego collection combines contrasting sensual cases with the taut lines of the elegant bracelet. Created as a tribute to femininity, Inès Sastre and Marion Jones are emblematic ambassadors for the collection.
The latest addition to Alter Ego is the jewellery watch collection. There is a sophisticated version with a diamond-pavé case with a pink mother-of-pearl dial and second model with a half-moon of diamonds with either a chic blue or white mother-of-pearl dial. The watches are enhanced by hour markers set in square chatons.
The New Link
The New Link Collection, another of TAG Heuer's emblematic collections, now uses Tiger Woods as its ambassador. This best seller (35% of all sales) has now undergone an important face-lift. All the proportions have been re-designed: the men's quartz model is now 39 mm as opposed to the previous 42 mm, the bracelet is slightly less thick and not as wide and the links are more compact and flatter, offering a smooth, seamless line. The men's model has a polished steel bezel that contrasts with the brushed steel for the bracelet and the ladies' model (27 mm) has either a polished and brushed steel surface or is entirely brushed. The hour mar-kers are slender facetted trapezes, the hands are also facetted and the date appears in a bevelled window at 3 o'clock.
There is a famous motto by the architect Mies Van Rohe that TAG Heuer has used to define its redesigned Link Collection that says “Less is more”. However, if the company continues with its current philosophy of combining innovation, performance and precision with its dynamic marketing strat-egies, the future looks like progressing far beyond the “more”.