10 Things to Know About TAG Heuer

6. The Chronograph Race

Heuer Calibre 11
An original Heuer Calibre 11, one of the first automatic chronograph movements.

When automatic winding wristwatches reached the market, they sold like hotcakes, leaving manual winders languishing on retailers’ shelves. Recognizing the need for an auto-wind chronograph, three companies and consortiums undertook to develop such a movement, none apparently aware of the others’ efforts. This set up a competition to see which company would reach the market first.

One of the competitors was Seiko, another was Zenith, and the third was a collaboration involving Heuer, Breitling and Buren. The collaboration developed a movement, and planned to announce it at the Basel watch show in March, 1969. By that time, they would have enough working prototypes to demonstrate serial-production capability. Then in January, 1969, Zenith announced its El Primero. Heuer and its partners held to their schedule, making their announcement at Basel in March. As planned, they backed up their claim by presenting hundreds of working watches, demonstrating serial production, or industrial, capability. At the show, Zenith had only a few prototypes (though, to be fair, the Zenith El Primero caliber was more sophisticated).

Heuer launched the movement as the Caliber 11 and staked its claim to history as a developer of the first automatic winding chronograph caliber.

7. Let’s Go Racing

McQueen wearing Monaco in Le Mans
Steve McQueen wearing the Heuer Monaco in the film Le Mans.

Several timepieces are closely associated with automobile racing, perhaps none more closely than the Heuer Monaco, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. Steve McQueen made the watch famous when he wore it in the 1971 film Le Mans. To play the role of driver Michael Delaney, McQueen sought advice from his friend and racing driver, Jo Siffert. In the film, McQueen wore Siffert’s driving suit, which carried the “Chronograph Heuer” logo. When it came time to chose his watch for the role, McQueen went with the Monaco, and the rest is history. Today, the model 1133 carries the collector nickname “McQueen Monaco.”

8. Jack Comes Back

Jack Heuer
Left, Jack Heuer as a young man, and after his return as Honorary Chairman of TAG Heuer in 2001.

After taking control of the company that bears his name in 1962, Jack Heuer led it until the acquisition by TAG Group in 1985, after which when he left to join the electronic industry. Jack’s stewardship encompassed the years that put the brand on the map. Among other things, he oversaw the Carrera development and launch and the Calibre 11 development program. He was there when Steve McQueen donned the Monaco for the film Le Mans. He presided over Heuer between 1971 to 1979, when the company served as the official timer for Formula 1 racing. (N.B. The Heuer logo is seen often in the recent feature film Rush, which chronicles the epic 1976 battle between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.)

In 2001, Jack Heuer returned to the company bearing his family‘s name as Honorary Chairman, and following his return, TAG Heuer again reached new heights. We’ll discuss a few of the notable achievements below.

Jack Heuer retired from TAG Heuer on November 18, 2013, the day before his 81st birthday. Asked why he chose that date, he replied that he’d promised himself that he would not work beyond the age of 80. Jack is a gentleman, loved by all, and a legend in the industry he helped build.

9. Monaco V4

TAG Heuer Monaco V4
The Monaco V4 vaulted TAG Heuer into the league of cutting-edge movement manufacturers.

The Monaco was famous enough, but in 2004, TAG Heuer took it to a new level with the launch of the Monaco V4 concept watch at Baselworld. CEO Jean-Christophe Babin intended to make a statement with the V4. The statement was that TAG Heuer will climb to new heights, developing cutting edge, avante-garde mechanical movements.

The V4’s birth was not an easy one. It took a few years to perfect the design, but perfect it they did, and the first Monaco V4 sold at the 2009 Only Watch charity auction, appropriately held in Monaco. Since that sale, several limited-edition series have sold out.

The Monaco V4 proved such a challenge because its movement represented a major break from traditional watchmaking. Rather than the usual gear train and wheels with teeth, the V4’s movement is belt-driven, and the design is inspired by an automobile engine. Many people thought it would never work. That TAG Heuer solved the problems is a testament to the brand’s newly developed capabilities, much of which is thanks to a man named Guy Sémon.

10. Ultrafast

TAG Heuer Mikrograph, Mikrotimer, and Mikrogirder
Left to right: the Mikrograph, Mikrotimer, and Mikrogirder.

It used to be that a 36,000 vph movement, capable of measuring tenths of a second, was considered fast. Then an engineer-pilot-physicist named Guy Sémon joined TAG Heuer, and the world changed. After solving the V4’s challenges, his skunkworks inside TAG Heuer has released, in rapid succession, the Mikrograph (360,000 vph measuring 1/1ooth of a second), the Mikrotimer (3,600,000 vph, measuring 1/1000th of a second), and the Mikrogirder (7,200,000 vph measuring 1/ 2,000th of a second).

Sémon accomplished these ultrafast rates by designing what he calls “dual architecture” movements. Each movement has two separate mainspring barrels powering separate gear trains regulated by separate escapements, each with a different frequency. The slow one handles regular timekeeping, and the fast one controls the chronograph. The Mikrogirder goes a step further, replacing the traditional escapement with a series of three tiny, ever-faster oscillating blades to measure time at rates that would have sounded comical a few years ago. To get an idea of how fast it is, consider that the Mikrogirder’s central chronograph seconds hand spins around the dial 20 times per second, rendering it invisible while in motion. Sémon has ushered in a new era in mechanical chronograph development.

This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.








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  1. Two months back I was gifted a brand new Tag Golf watch, which was bought from the factory-owned shop at full list price. First-up I noticed that the watch is made in China, so much for the “Avant-Garde Swiss” brag line that Tag uses. It didn’t work out of the box, had no instructions, so after much fiddling, I took it back to the dealer, who then proceeded to waste a couple of hours trying to make it work, I had to stand around as he needed access to my iPhone. He then eventually swapped it for a new watch.

    It then worked for three weeks during which I found that a) the battery life with the GPS is less than 6 hours, b)difficult to read the screen in sunlight, which is when I play golf, c) the GPS disconnects if you receive a call, restarting it is fiddly, not ideal on a golf course, d) Unlike my Garmin which has 1,000s of golf courses preloaded, you have to individually download the course onto the watch from your phone/Wifi,e) unlike Apple or Garmin this watch is not intuitive and has no instruction manual.

    Now the watch has stopped working again, I took it back to the dealer who fiddled with it again whilst I stood around with my phone. After a brief struggle, he sent it off for repair. I am back using my three-year-old $200 Garmin for golf, which is simply awesome, as opposed to the Tag that costs 18x more. I otherwise love my Rolex GMT for regular wear. The dealer thus far refused to refund my money. I am seemingly stuck with this junk, I have never spent so much time fiddling around with a damn watch, life is too short for such struggles.

    I may sell this on eBay, hopefully to a Tag junkie- any takers?

  2. A J Hall

    The worst product I have ever bought with even worse aftercare I bought my Tag Monaco watch at the end of October and it went wrong after day two it’s been back six times since I have emailed them at Paris Switzerland and even the chief executive, not a reply from any of them, this is a 6,000 euro watch, I would council everyone not to trade with them, the product and the company are rubbish

  3. Leonardo Mastache

    Sported the Black Coral ’81. Looking forward in having a companion on my wrist to guide me in the sport of diving. Graphite black

  4. Oliva Boco-Young

    For 30yrs I’ve been saving for a women’s tag h watch, but as a single mom my son’ educational expenses takes priority. Now am 68 yrs and my dream to own such good quality watch is almost impossible. Is there a way I can get good discount?

  5. Colin hawkins

    My tag watch 2116-0 has no 200 MTs on the face but on the back is this usual

  6. stephen Day

    I have a Link and blue face morocco. I am not wealthy but have fallen for the technical beauty of watches. I live life by not giving in or giving up to my disabilities. I visited la loce area in Switzerland recently but missed getting to the Tag Heuer factory. I will probably never have that opportunity again unfortunately. Thanks Tag Heuer for two great watches and never give in

  7. Robin L Robson

    How many different movements does TAG produce; how many of the movements or different calibers are COSC certified.

  8. Paul Carroll

    I have a Tag that only keeps good time when I ware it and it is battery powered Any explanation?

  9. Gwendolyn Jones

    I am new to the jewelry business and will be working at a location that sells the most beautiful piece of wrist art, Tag Heuer, So glad Tag was my first connection to what is great in watchmaking. Your article is very informative and to learn all of these trivias about the birth and blooming of Tag Heuer is so exciting for me. I can only wish I could own one!
    Thank you!

  10. How can you mention 10 things about Tag Heuer and omit discussion of the Monza? The 2016 version won various awards and is absolutely comparable to a entry level Rolex, Omega, or Breitling.

  11. João Bosco @webRelogio

    Fantastic pioneering in Car Racing and the Olympics, but very unknown about the Space experience…

    • GenBeck

      Do you mean +5 a day or week? COSC specs are -4/+6 per day.

    • Matt wightman

      Automatics tend to drift a little from what I understand. You may need to take it in for adjustment.

  12. Roy Joseph

    Thanks .., for the information , last day i got an heuer 140th millennium 2001 edition .. I like to know more about that model .. Waiting for your valuable reply .., have a NYC day pal.. Thanks ..

  13. James Pearce

    I have a lady’s pocket Wallthamwatch, 14k gold, triple covers, floral/ shell patterned back and front covers, mfr. showing as Dueber, Special, No.4452062.
    This was given to my grandmother in England
    sometime between 1880 to 1894. I believe as an engagement or marriage gift.
    I have searched the Walthem sites but unable to find any information or photos of a similar watch.
    I would appreciate comments and possible value estimate.
    Thank you.

  14. How many times do we have to see the same old Steve McQueen image? Exercise some creativity and create something new please.

    • Bill levine

      Amen…we all get it…it is a great watch,but let’s move on..I am not one to judge a watch,by what celebrity wears it…

  15. Kathryn Campesi

    My husband bought me a Tag Heuer for Christmas 2016. I truly am disappointed in this watch. It has spent most of the time in the shop. The clasp comes undone constantly. The crown will not tighten. I hate it!!! I also own a Rolex and a Breitling. They are so much better than this Tag piece of junk!! Do not waste your money on this marketing scam. Take my adivice buy another brand. Breitling is great! My Rolex is probably over 20 years old and is still working. This Tag Heuer is a piece of junk!!!

    • Larry Jenkinson

      I agree.the winding mechanism on my 2016 aquaracer is junk compared to my 2000 Rolex.
      The tag is going in for repair on Saturday.
      Pity as the Tag makes the Rolex look plain

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

      • 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?

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

    • 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.)

      • Randy Rogers

        Great clarification Mike, the article clearly states “in space” not the Moon as to the claim Richards claim. The confusion comes about, as Accutron first conceived I the early 1950’s, had been from the beginning part of the Kennedy and NASA Space Program. I would wager in fact that on John Glenn’s wrist was an Accutron Astronaut, the then Timepiece worn by all in the Space Program. The Space Program was moving very quickly in these years following JFK’s goal of placing us on the Moon and, the ‘delivery system’ was still an open issue, following Freedom 7 by a few Months, placed Bob White in outer space on the first winged aircraft, the X-15. To the Moon Landing and “One Step”, an Accutron to this day resides in the Sea of Tranquility placed there by Apollo 11 Astronauts, the same redundancies that NASA employed for safety, are most probably the source for the Omega Speedmaster in this argument, as I know one was worn, as presented by the Norman Morris Co., then the U.S. Distributor of Omega Watches. For the USA, this continued the history of Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 flight across the Atlantic wearing a Bulova. But I digress, it is TAG-Heuer which is the subject and their contribution to Timekeeping which is equally historic.

  20. 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.

    • 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.

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

      Le Mans, 2015 here I come.

      Think I’ll wear the Monaco :)

      • I own a Carrera,Monaco,Formula 1 (quartz) and recently got a Tag Huer Connected 45. I have never had any problems with any of them other than my Carrera Chronograph. It’s an automatic and I have epilepsy and had a grand mal siezure and I guess I pounded it as hard as I could for about 4 minutes on concrete. It’s also the Juan Fangio limited edition. The sapphire was fine but I had to send it in for some internal work. So I guess what I’m trying to say is a watch is like a companion. Everybody is going to like certain things and not like certain things. As far as Steve McQueen , he made the watch partly the icon it is today. Kinda sad we don’t have role models any more. Thanks for correcting the F1 comment. Very true. Big fan.

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