2013 was a banner year for TAG Heuer. At SIHH in January the brand announced the Mikrogirder 2000 which is the first mechanical watch to measure time with 5/10,000th of a second precision; this surpasses even the best quartz watches. At Baselworld in the spring, they continued their assault on modern chronographs with the Carrera MikropendulumS, which can not only measure time with 1/100th of a second precision, but does so with a new escapement mechanism based on magnets–yes, the very thing that was once the sworn enemy of mechanical watches. To top this the MikropendulemS also includes two tourbillons escapements (one running at 4Hz and one at an incredible 50Hz.)
As the year was also the 50th anniversary for the brand’s most popular model: the Carrera, a slew of new versions were also announced, including some with the new 1887 in-house movement as well as a reissued model in honor of the man who pretty much single-handedly created the Carrera: Jack Heuer, since the previous 80th anniversary limited edition model sold out immediately last year when it was introduced. To top all this, TAG Heuer also announced a brand new (completely in-house) column-wheel chronograph, the Caliber 1969, and a modern manufacturing facility in Chevenez that will allow them to create these movements in the quality and volume necessary to meet the demand for the popular brand.
TAG Heuer and aBlogtoWatch hosted a special event to close-out 2013 at their new Silicon Valley boutique in San Jose. Since I am local, Ariel asked me to proxy him and MC the event as I can virtually bike to that store and have been there when it first opened to add a rubber strap to my Grand Carrera 36 RS Caliper.
We invited aBlogtoWatch fans to the TAG Heuer event only a week in advance of the party. I arrived at the store a bit early to meet the staff and was greeted by store manager Rachel Zerilla, the store staff, as well as TAG Heuer Director of PR and Events, our friend Lindsay Hymson, who made the trip from New York just for the event. And Lindsay did not disappoint as she also brought with her not only all the new Baselworld 2013 models (that were not already at the boutique) but also the coveted Monaco V4 — yep the one with the micro belts.
Soon after I arrived, watch geeks from all over the valley started flocking in. As the champagne (Moet) and whiskey (Glenlivet) was flowing to each glass to greet the guests, I tried to personally chat with everyone. I quickly found out that many are long time readers of the blog, some longer than I have been associated with it. While surprising at first to see so many passionate mechanical enthusiasts from the valley, when you think a bit about it, it makes perfect sense. This is what aBlogtoWatch is all about — a place for and by lovers of modern technology who still see a place in their lives for the best of what is the original men’s gadget: a timepiece. This is very distinct from how most traditional media cover watches as a pure fashion item. Watches are fashion items to the extent cars are fashion items. We are lovers of beautiful machines.
Sure when you think of Silicon Valley, what immediately comes to mind is the unsurpassed tradition of electronics and software innovation and we love that as well. The majority of the guys in this part of the world drive hybrids and increasingly EVs. You can hardly drive ten miles without seeing a Tesla or Nissan Leaf around here. So you’d think that guys here would be wearing fancy quartz watches, or one of the so-called “smartwatches”, or worst, nothing at all and use their smartphone. However, from my own experience attending watch-related events and the small sampling of guests attending this event, I can say that “geeks” here are like most guys who will never loose the passion that comes with listening to a roaring V8 or V12 engine even if their day-to-day ride is electric. So once introduced to real mechanical watches, I’d venture to say that, likewise, guys in the Bay area quickly get what the watch collecting passion is all about and become WIS (watch idiot savant.)
And what other brand is most representative of this racing / driving passion with the kind of innovations that seems straight out of Silicon Valley more than TAG Heuer? I’d say no other brand. A little history will justify this statement. First, Heuer was and remains the brand most associated with chronographs. This is also the complication most useful for car racing. Think counting laps and timing pit stops.
It’s no surprise that Hollywood comes calling to TAG Heuer when it wants its stars to look the part. At the boutique you can still buy one of the replica leather jackets as worn by the king of cool himself: Steve McQueen, which he wore in the movie LeMans. More than one of the guests at the event spotted their old school Heuer chronographs, and still looking as cool as the movie is 40 years later. And recently when the producers of the F1 movie “Rush” (2013) wanted to have the actors have the authentic 1970s and 80s look of old F1 legends, guess which vintage timepieces they borrowed: TAG Heuer’s.
Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, you should not be surprised to learn that about 40 years ago (when the quartz revolution that so many in the watchmaking industry would want to forget now) was about to take hold, Jack Heuer visited Silicon Valley and met with some of the forefathers of this region. Folks like Fairchild Semiconductors’ co-founders Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, who later went on to found Intel Corp., and what he saw immediately alerted him to what was to come. While his insights were not enough to help avoid a dark chapter in the Swiss watch industry, it definitely help reinforced the notion that innovation is key to long term success in all technology companies. Sure mechanical watches do not enjoy innovation curves like those of the semiconductor industry, there is no Moore’s law for watch making, however, like for all technology-based companies, the ones who survive and do well are the ones who incessantly innovate.
I was super stoked to get to experience hands-on all of the new Carrera models at the event. And getting to do so in an environment where I could geek out with fellow watch lovers was just the cherry on top. So I really want to thank all of the attendees and especially the staff at the boutique and especially Lindsay and Rachel, for quickly putting together the event and inviting us to be part of it. Based on the innovative models that we got to handle and that TAG Heuer has been releasing in recent years, I think it’s fair to say that the innovative spirit that once made Heuer chronographs the de facto timing device of race car driving legends around the world, is alive and well today. As we like to say here in Silicon Valley, it is that way because it’s in TAG Heuer’s DNA. And I for one cannot wait to see what new innovations the brand will unleash at SIHH 2014 and Baselworld in the spring as I am positive that they are sure to wow us again. tagheuer.com