Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

TAG Heuer

Swiss luxury watch manufacturer

TAG Heuer was founded in 1860 by twenty-year-old Edouard Heuer in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. Originally known as Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer AG (Heuer Watchmaking Inc.), Edouard patented his first chronograph in 1882 and followed with the patented oscillating pinion in 1887, which is still used today in mechanical chronographs. Heuer created the first dashboard chronograph in 1911, known as the Time of Trip and used in both automobiles and aircraft. In 1914, the company launched its first wristwatch chronograph with the crown at 12 o'clock (adapted from earlier pocket watch chronographs). It wasn't long before Heuer's son, Charles-Auguste, entered the business and in 1916 he introduced the first stopwatch accurate to 1/100th of a second, the Mikrograph. The Semikrograph followed with a split-second function and a still impressive accuracy of 1/50th of a second. From the beginning, the brand specialized in chronographs and timing, setting the stage for over a century of auto racing and sports timekeeping. In 1985, the TAG Group holding company purchased a majority of the company, which became "TAG Heuer." It was later acquired by French luxury conglomerate LVMH in 1999 and industry veteran Jean-Claude Biver had been CEO for years.

tag heuer la chaux de fonds headquarters

The Carrera line is among the most famous of TAG Heuer’s collection, introduced in 1963 to honor the Carrera Panamericana Mexico Road Race. Designed by Jack Heuer, great grandson of the company’s founder and a race car driver himself, it was the first chronograph designed for motorsports. It was a clean, no-nonsense tool watch for drivers (and popular among enthusiasts as well) and evolved over the next twenty years with tweaked designs, materials and movements. The first generation (to 1970) was known as the reference 2447 and had signature elements including a 36mm case, straight casebands and faceted lugs. It launched with a single-tone silver aesthetic, but a two-tone Panda and Reversed Panda design quickly followed, along with other three, two and even single sub-dial models. The Carrera changed significantly in the 1970’s both mechanically and aesthetically, starting with the legendary Calibre 11 automatic with a micro-rotor. Heuer collaborated with Buren, Hamilton, Breitling and Dubois Depraz to launch one of the first automatic chronographs, and Carrera designs became larger and more colorful to keep up with trends of the time. Jack Heuer left the company in 1982 and the Carrera line was discontinued in 1984, only to be brought back in 1996 at the Monza race track. Jack Heuer returned to help relaunch the chronograph he created two decades prior, which was faithful in design to the original with hand-wound Lemania or automatic ETA calibres. New movements were later introduced, including the Calibres 1887 and 1969, and specialized models like the Mikrograph and Mikrogirder (with movements beating up to 7.2 million times per hour) elevated the line to a new class.

Another Heuer legend is the Monaco, introduced in 1969 to honor the Monaco Grand Prix (Formula 1). It was the first square cased chronograph and used the Calibre 11 (and later Calibre 12) from the previous Carrera line. Again designed by Jack Heuer, it became an icon in 1971 after Steve McQueen wore one in the film Le Mans, a fictional story of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His name would forever be associated with the Monaco line, starting with the original Monaco 1133. The collection only lasted for a handful of years, being discontinued in the mid-1970’s. In 1998, the Monaco returned as a limited production with the Heuer logo and again in 2003 with new calibres and the TAG Heuer logo. Specialized editions include the Monaco V4 from 2004, featuring belts and ball bearings instead of traditional wheels and pinions. Designed by Jean-François Ruchonnet and Philippe Dufour, the ultra-sophisticated movement was inspired by an automobile engine and helped push the company’s reputation to a new level of haute horology. The Monaco Sixty Nine had time displays on both sides, with a mechanical Calibre 2 on one and digital quartz readout on the other (Calibre HR03), and it won the Le Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève prize in 2005. Not quite as mainstream as the Carrera, the Monaco is nevertheless a legendary race-inspired collection with an unmistakable TAG Heuer aesthetic.

Guy Sémon, an engineer/pilot/physicist joined TAG Heuer and established a skunkworks program that developed hyper-fast calibres, including the Mikrograph at 360,000vph, capable of measuring 1/100th of a second, the Mikrotimer at 3,600,000vph, capable of measuring 1/1000th of a second and the Mikrogirder at 7,200,000vph, capable of measuring 1/2,000th of a second. The Mikrogirder’s central chronograph seconds hand sweeps around the dial twenty times per second, making it invisible to the naked eye. Developments like these keep the brand at the cutting edge, beyond its already well established reputation as a precision timekeeper in sports. There are a variety of current lines for both sports and fashion enthusiasts, including the Link, Autavia, Aquaracer, Formula 1 and Connected modular smartwatch series (and aforementioned Carrera and Monaco). Few brands have such a loyal following and consistent history, and TAG Heuer is synonymous with both racing and innovation.

History of TAG Heuer

Company is founded by Edouard Heuer in Saint-Imier, Switzerland
Edouard patents a keyless, crown-operated winding system for pocket watches
Edouard patents his first chronograph
Heuer patents the oscillating pinion, still used today in mechanical chronographs
Heuer patents one of the first water resistant pocket watches
The company patents a Pulsometer dial still used today by doctors
The "Time of Trip" is patented, which is the first auto/aircraft dashboard chronograph
The company starts producing women's wristwatches
The company's first wristwatch chronograph launches
Edouard's son, Charles-Auguste launches the Mikrograph, the first stopwatch accurate to 1/100th of a second
The Mikrograph becomes the official stopwatch for the 1920 Olympics
The company is the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games in Paris
The company returns as the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games in Amsterdam
Heuer introduces a dashboard timer for automobiles and aircraft, known as the Autavia
The "Flieger" chronograph for pilots is introduced
The 'Ring Master' stopwatch launches as a world's first with interchangeable rings of scale for timing various sports
Jack Heuer sets up the Heuer Timer Corporation as a subsidiary in the United States
John Glenn makes the first manned American space flight with a Heuer on his wrist (first Swiss watch in space)
The legendary Carrera chronograph launches as a tribute to the 'Carrera Panamericana Rally' of the 1950's
The Mikrotimer launches as the first miniaturized electronic timing device with a precision of 1/1,000th of a second
The Chronomatic launches as the first automatic chronograph movement with a micro-rotor
The famous Heuer Monaco launches in honor of the Monaco Grand Prix
Steve McQueen wears a Heuer Monaco in the 1971 film Le Mans, making it a legendary racing-inspired chronograph
Heuer launches a special edition of the Microsplit that is the official stopwatch of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games
Heuer becomes 'Tag Heuer' following TAG Group's (private holding company) purchase of a majority stake in the company
The company launches the TAG Heuer Formula 1 which combines steel and fiberglass
TAG Heuer is the Official Timekeeper of Formula 1
The Kirium series launches with a futuristic, integrated design
Tag Heuer is acquired by French luxury conglomerate LVMH
TAG Heuer is the Official Timekeeper of the Indy Racing League and Indy 500 Race
The Calibre 360 is the first mechanical wrist chronograph accurate to 1/100th of a second
The Tag Heuer 360 Museum opens in La Chaux-de-Fonds
The Tag Heuer Connected launches as a modular smart watch
Frédéric Arnault becomes CEO