I recently visited my nephew, Sam, for a long weekend. I was wearing my brand new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01. Sam was really blown away by the 01 — it was the first watch that ever captured his imagination and he told me how he dreams of owning a TAG one day. Sam’s dad actually owns two TAG and Sam already recognises them as aspirational things. Sam reminded me that TAG Heuer is still a grail to many. TimeCaptain has more often been associated with another big brand name, but his current watch collection contains four TAG pieces. While TAG gets no love on watch forums, I am always drawn to their watches and my nephew now reminds me many TAG watches deserve grail status.
So you’ve decided to buy your first TAG Heuer. That’s a really exciting moment. Perhaps this is your first expensive watch purchase and you are drawn to TAG’s association with motorsports. Perhaps you are a veteran collector seeking something sporty that offers great value. Perhaps you are fascinated by the new Heuer 01 movement. Perhaps you just want to make your friends jealous. The good news is that TAG Heuer has all of your bases covered. Let’s explore some of the options.
I suppose a little TAG history wouldn’t hurt. Rather than elaborate too much here, I will suggest that you click and read my past blog on TAG Heuer. To summarise, the original Heuer brand was always associated with motor racing and also developed some really important mechanical timekeeping innovations. In the 1980’s, TAG was bought by Techniques Avant Garde, a company making some really high-end engine components. The watchmaker was renamed TAG Heuer and became a very successful luxury brand. I always think of TAG’s sponsorship of Formula 1 and their racing chronographs. Unfortunately, the TAG Heuer brand has been harmed (in the eyes of watch snobs) because of their entry-level quartz watches and their availability in shopping malls and cheap jewellery stores. The brand lacks some prestige and exclusivity, although even their least expensive product easily qualifies as a luxury item. For the record, I love TAG Heuer.
There is a good chance that you are seeking your first TAG to be your first expensive watch. I was thrilled when TAG introduced automatic versions of the Formula 1 models. If this purchase is your first serious watch, then check these models out. If you have an entry-level budget in the $2,000-$3,000 range, then you want to consider the TAG Heuer Formula 1 range- now with automatic movements. Sure, the quartz models are less expensive, rugged, reliable and tough as nails. But I can never endorse a quartz- especially as your first luxury timepiece. The Formula 1 gives you the brand, the F1 tribute and a proper mechanical movement. You can find models on stainless steel bracelets offering versatility. There are also models on rubber straps offering a full-on sporty look. For the best combination of style, racing feel and value, I would go for WAZ2011.BA0843 with its Calibre 5 movement.
In the same $2,000-$3,000 range, you have the new Aquaracer lineup. These are an incredible value and perfect if you want a real sporty tool watch. In particular, the 41mm models with nylon straps and ceramic bezels offer impressive quality at an entry-level price point. I have tried on quite a few of these and they are stunning on the wrist. The straps are super cool. I highly recommend WAY211A as a first TAG Heuer if you want a very sporty diving style watch. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll spend far less that on many comparable watches.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, TAG Heuer offers an in-house tourbillon! A tourbillon is not really a “complication,” but it is the most highly-esteemed piece of engineering in watchmaking. A tourbillon by one of the top houses in Switzerland can easily cost six figures. Earlier this year, TAG Heuer unveiled their own tourbillon for just over $15,000 US. In relative terms, this Carrera Calibre Heuer-02T is a bargain. However, a tourbillon chronograph is still one helluva piece to add to any collection. The Heuer-02T models are racing-inspired sporty chronographs, but there are variations that can be dressed up really “pop” with a business suit. Check out CAR5A5Y.FC6377 with its gold accents. If you want a first TAG to add to an already-serious-high-end collection, then this HAS to be it.
What if you are a woman? Check out the ladies Carrera WAR101A.FC6367. This stunning 41mm beauty is powered by a quartz movement, which makes it perfect for a watch that you’ll grab a couple of times per week for fancy occasions. I am not really into quartz, but it makes perfect sense in cases like this and the beauty and coolness of this watch makes up for its lack of mechanical power. I love it. I want one for my wife.
Perhaps you are buying a TAG Heuer because you attracted to the history of the old Heuer watches — the Carrera, Autavia, and so on. In this case, you might like something retro and vintage-inspired. TAG Heuer offers a number of models that evoke its classic racing watches of the 1960’s and some even use the old Heuer logo. These watches are classic 39mm and 41mm sizes. One expensive example would be the Carrera Calibre 7 WAR2140.FC8159 in solid gold. This is a $10,000 piece, but it offers an elegant retro racing vibe in a statement-making gold 39mm case. For something way less expensive and much more versatile, try the 39mm Carrera Calibre 5 WAR211A.BA0782. This timepiece offers incredible value and really gives that classic Heuer flavour. You can find many different Carrera models that express the Heuer DNA and combine elegance with racing passion.
If in-house movements are important to you, TAG Heuer has you covered. We discussed the Heuer-02T above, but for less than half the price, you can buy a Carrera Calibre Heuer 01. There are quite a few variations and they are all motorsports-inspired racers. Calibre Heuer 01 is a true in-house movement that is based on the Calibre 1887, which was originally a Seiko design. You can debate whether the 1887 is a TRUE in-house movement because it has Seiko roots. However, the numerous Calibre 1887 and Heuer 01 models offer watch fans the bragging rights that come with an in-house movement. Think about it — if you have an attractive and well-made chronograph from a brand with history AND with an in-house “engine”, what more do you need?
You can’t really discuss TAG Heuer without at least considering an iconic Monaco. Check out CAW211P.FC6356, which is what Steve McQueen made famous. This Heuer-branded square beauty is probably THE definitive TAG Heuer and the original version was the world’s first automatic chronograph. These are expensive watches — over $7,000 CAD. But if you’re looking for THE TAG Heuer, then the Monaco chronograph might be your piece. It screams retro racing and glamour. For a full hands-on review of the Monaco CAW211P, click here. If the chrono is too much for your budget, TAG Heuer offers non-chrono 37mm Monaco models at around $3500. I actually bought one, twice!
So now that you have a little sense of TAG Heuer’s history and legacy, and you have lots of ideas for your first TAG, the question becomes WHERE to buy your first TAG Heuer. My complaint against TAG has always been that they are too widely available. Low-end jewellery stores at shopping malls carry TAG Heuer and you often find salespeople who don’t even know the difference between automatic and quartz. Come on! Don’t buy your first TAG Heuer in that awful environment. Find an authorised dealer with some real watch guys working there. When I bought my Carrera Calibre 6, my sales guy gave me a whole explanation of the COSC certification and the history of the Carrera line. That’s the kind of experience you want for your first TAG Heuer. I should mention that TAG Heuer watches depreciate badly, so you might want to look for pre-owned examples if you can forego the AD experience. Try a watch forum such as our partner forum, Canadian Watch Collector, to find a deal on your dream TAG. There is nothing wrong with a pre-owned watch if it is in fine condition. Finding a great pre-owned deal could stretch your budget and get you a TAG that was otherwise impossible.
Good luck with your mission to acquire your first TAG Heuer watch. Do your research, but be ready to rock ‘n’ roll when the right opportunity presents itself. Have fun. As always, the fun is in the search…