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10 Things to Know About TAG Heuer


TAG Heuer is one of the world’s leading luxury watch brands, offering a strong history of innovation, deep connections with sports timing and automobile racing, and more recently, a series of groundbreaking developments in the field of ultra-fast mechanical chronographs, an innovative tourbillon watch priced under $20,000, and the launch of a luxury smartwatch. Here are 10 other things you should know about TAG Heuer.

1. Sporting Roots

10 Things to Know About TAG Heuer
Left, founder Edouard Heuer. Right, the Autavia dashboard stopwatch for race cars.

Heuer Watch Company was founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer. His first watchmaking workshop was located in St-Imier, in the Swiss Jura region. The company soon built a reputation for quality workmanship and precision timekeeping. That, coupled with a series of technical innovations dating to the 1880s, led the company to become a specialist in the field of timing sporting events. During the 1920s, Heuer watches were used at the Antwerp, Paris and Amsterdam Olympics. In 1933, the brand launched the Autavia, the first dashboard stopwatch for race cars. Other more famous developments receive individual attention below. The affinity with precision timekeeping in sports, and with automobile racing in particular, continues to this day.

In 1985, Heuer was acquired by TAG Group (Holdings) S.A. TAG is an abbreviation for Techniques d’Avant Garde. TAG Group combined the TAG and Heuer brands to create the TAG Heuer company we know today. LVMH purchased the TAG Heuer subsidiary in 1999.

2. Simplifying the Chronograph

tag heuer oscillating pinion
Left, a drawing from the oscillating pinion patent, and an actual pinion pictured in front of a movement in a holder.

Back in the days when good engineering trumped marketing concerns, movement designers sought to develop calibers with fewer moving parts, to make them more reliable and easier to service. In 1887, Edouard Heuer developed and patented the oscillating pinion, which simplified the chronograph. This construction is still used by major movement manufacturers today.

In a nutshell, the pinion couples and decouples the chronograph, or stopwatch, mechanism and the regular timekeeping gear train that powers it. The pinion replaced a more complex system, simplifying manufacturing, assembly, adjustment, and service, all while delivering excellent timekeeping and reliability. This development allowed more mechanical chronographs to be produced at a lower cost, which sounds like a win all the way around.

3. Faster and Faster

TAG Heuer original Mikrograph stopwatch
The original Heuer Mikrograph stopwatch, which went into production in 1916.

Another major technical achievement came in 1916, when Charles-Auguste Heuer launched the original Mikrograph. It was the first mechanical stopwatch able to measure 1/100th of a second. To accomplish this, the movement’s rate was 360,000 vph – ten times faster than the 36,000 vph chronographs that we usually think of as “fast.” The original Mikrograph revolutionized sports timekeeping and served as the official stopwatch for the 1920 Olympics.

4. First Swiss Watch in Space

Heuer first Swiss watch in space
Astronaut John Glenn enters the Friendship 7 capsule wearing a Heuer stopwatch on his wrist.

When you think of mechanical watches in space, you think of, well, not TAG Heuer. But you should, because as it turns out, Heuer was the first Swiss watch in space.

Heuer first Swiss watch in space
A closer look at the Heuer 2915A, the first Swiss watch in space.

In May, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of the decade. The first step toward that goal was to put a man into orbit. That man was John Glenn, flying the Mercury “Friendship 7” mission on February 20, 1962. Glenn orbited the Earth three times wearing a Heuer 2915A stopwatch on his wrist, on top of his spacesuit, held in place by a custom-made elastic strap. The watch served as the mission back-up timer, and it was used in space. Today, the watch is kept at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

5. The Carrera

original Heuer carrera
An original Heuer Carrera, named after the Carrera Panamericana automobile race in Mexico.

TAG Heuer’s most iconic models are associated with automobile racing, and one of the most famous is the Carrera. Jack Heuer suggested the name shortly after taking control of the company from his uncle (more on this below). The name comes from the Carrera Panamericana, a dangerous race run on public roads in Mexico from 1950 to 1954.

Jack Heuer wanted to create a watch for race car drivers. It had to be perfectly legible and tough enough to withstand the vibrations drivers experience during a race. The result is a watch that has achieved cult status.

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10 Responses to “10 Things to Know About TAG Heuer”

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  1. Johnny Tank

    But why do they continue calling the company ‘TAG Heuer’, when it is no longer under TAG ownership? IMO the TAG logo, and name, looks cheap and takes away from the long, outstanding history of this brand. I will never buy a watch with the TAG logo on it.

    Reply
  2. OK, the article says 10 things about TAG Heuer, almost all of this is about Heuer and what a great watch company it was and the innovative things they did and I agree it was an iconic brand that did good stuff but Tag Heuer is a totally different company and not as revered by real watch collectors.

    Reply
      • Craig McBride

        I don’t agree. If you want to live in the past that’s ok, but if you can’t revere the mechanical brilliance of Guy Semon just because he’s in the age of TH rather than H then you’re a jewellery collector rather than a watch collector. I guess Breguet and Omega are on the nose too now that they’re owned by Swatch?

        Reply
  3. Dell Deaton

    TAG Heuer was, quite significantly, the first Swiss-made James Bond wristwatch with a quartz movement. Two models were worn by actor Timothy Dalton in his first movie appearance as Ian Fleming’s 007 in “The Living Daylights” (1987): PVD reference 980.031 Night-Dive, and 980.013 stainless steel. Jack Heuer has specifically cited the latter as having pulled Heuer back to profitability for the first time since the Quartz Revolution.

    Reply
  4. Richard Kalina

    I thought that Accutron was the 1st watch on the moon? I also thought Accutron was the mainstay of the Space program, guaranteed accurate within 1 minute a month. It was the 1st electronic watch-based on the adjusted tuning-fork vibration system and set the standard of accuracy at that time. It was made here, at home in the U.S.A. All U.S.A. made and assembled. Maybe watch brands should have to say where the components of both the movement and the case/dial/attachments were made and what was assembled where? Than we’d know what we were paying for.

    Reply
    • Mike Disher

      Hi Richard. Thanks for your comment. The reference in the article is to the first Swiss-made watch in space, not the first watch on the moon. Actually, the first watch on the moon was an Omega Speedmaster, on the wrist of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. (It is not Neil Armstrong because he left his Speedmaster in the Eagle because its on-board clock was not working properly.)

      Reply
  5. I just have to make this correction.

    The Steve McQueen movie Le Mans has nothing at all to do with Formula 1 racing in any way. The movie is about the 24 hours of Le Mans, a sports car race. Completely different disciplines. To a racing fan this is like calling a quartz watch an automatic.

    Reply
    • Mike Disher

      Hi Steve. Thanks for pointing out this obvious error. All I can say is “DOH!” I’ve removed the reference to Formula 1.

      Reply
    • Love the reference to Quartz and automatic, he is absolutely correct.

      Le Mans, 2015 here I come.

      Think I’ll wear the Monaco :)

      Reply
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