Jean-Claude Biver Introduces the New Autavia (and the Past and Future of TAG Heuer)

On September 11 through 13, 2016, TAG Heuer hosted its first Collectors Summit of the Jean-Claude Biver era, at company headquarters in Switzerland. To open the Summit, Mr. Biver (CEO of TAG Heuer and President of the LVMH Watch Division) welcomed the Summit participants at the Hotel Palafitte, in Nauchatel.  The following day, Summit participants would be the first to see TAG Heuer’s new Autavia and, to open the Summit, Mr. Biver provided his introduction to the watch.

More than introducing the new Autavia, Mr. Biver’s remarks describe how TAG Heuer will use its unique portfolio of historic chronographs to inspire the development of new watches for the brand. His remarks introduce the new Autavia, but more importantly they introduce a new era for the TAG Heuer brand.

This posting is based on Mr. Biver’s remarks at the Summit, with these remarks edited as appropriate for a written posting.

Remarks of Jean-Claude Biver, Introducing the New TAG Heuer Autavia — Hotel Palafitte, Neuchatel, Switzerland, September 11, 2016

It’s not my responsibility now to speak about the past, because who am I to judge the past? I have to make the future. Sometimes the past can help to build the future, but one should never criticize what has been done before him.

Let me just say that when I see the past watches that you are wearing, I understand why it is so easy to be successful with TAG Heuer today.  Because what I see on your wrists is just phenomenal, and I’m very happy that you have those watches and that you wear them.

And I’m very pleased that the value of these watches will go up and that we will all make money! You’re going to make money with what you have on your wrist and TAG Heuer is going to make money with what we will sell.

Now, we gather because of the Autavia. The Autavia that you are going to see tomorrow is not a re-edition. It’s not a copy, and it’s not a replica, and it’s not done for you. And you should not buy it. It’s not made for that purpose.

A Re-Inspiration, Not a Re-Edition

What did we do? We made a re-inspiration, not a re-edition. This means that a collector will immediately notice that this is a re-inspiration, but it’s not the original.

There is nothing worse than remaking something that looks like the original, but is not the original. That is the best way to destroy value of the collector pieces. Whatever you will see on the new Autavia that is different from the original, this is done on purpose.

Prototype of New TAG Heuer Autavia, with Vintage Autavia (Transitional Model, circa 1965)

I insisted that it must look different, so that there should never be any confusion between the two. That’s the only way and the best way to preserve history. History cannot be remade. We can find a lot of inspiration in history. We can find a lot of lessons, but we cannot remake history. The inspiration, the DNA and the ideas are all coming from the past. But on this past, we have built something modern.

Prototype of New TAG Heuer Autavia, with vintage Autavia, Reference 2446 (“Rindt” Model)

I used to say to my people — and this is my personal theory — “no tradition, no future”. Then, I added immediately, “no innovation, no future”, which means we need both – tradition and innovation.

I was with another brand, many years ago, in which we had a rebirth. This brand is called Blancpain. At Blancpain we said, “our future is the tradition”. We had to bring back the tradition of the mechanical watch.

Adding “TAG” to “Heuer”

Now, we are in another brand, TAG Heuer, and I don’t say the same thing. I say we need the tradition, but we also need the innovation.

By the way, my name is Jean-Claude Biver. What is the name of Heuer? “TAG” and then “Heuer”. The brand has two names.

Somebody said, “Don’t call the brand ‘Jack Heuer’, call the brand ‘TAG Heuer’.”  Why do we have a name like “TAG”? Because we know the names Jack, John, Phillip and whatever, but we never heard a name like “TAG”. Watches are named Patek Phillippe, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger LeCoultre and so on. They said, “We have to add the name to Mr. Heuer. Mr. Heuer is not enough, so let’s give him another name like ‘TAG’, so that the name will be ‘TAG Heuer’. This will sound like Jaeger LeCoultre.”

The Meaning of Techniques d’Avant Garde

I found out that the name “TAG” has a significance. It means “techniques d’avant garde”. It is the Heuer Techniques d’Avant Garde or it is the Techniques d’Avant Garde Heuer. This name tells me that I have to be Heuer and that I have to be avant-garde. If I am not avant-garde or if I’m not Heuer, then I am not “TAG Heuer”. I’m either at TAG or I’m at Heuer, but I have to be at TAG Heuer. This means I have to marry techniques d’avant garde with Mr. Heuer, with tradition.

This is why also, tomorrow, we will have Jack Heuer come in. I wanted to make the new Autavia for Jack, to celebrate Jack. This is the best way to celebrate Jack Heuer and his 85th birthday, which is on November 19.

The New Movement — Heuer 02

What we did — and this is also something that is probably totally unique — we developed a new movement for the Autavia. An Autavia with a simple Valjoux or a simple TAG Heuer movement would not have been enough.

We believe that if we take the inspiration of the Autavia, we must give this new Autavia all the prestige and all the credibility. We believe that we should put a new movement into this new Autavia, a house-made movement. This new movement will be our second chronograph movement, so it is called “Heuer 02”. The Heuer 02 movement will be presented in the new Autavia.

Inspiration, Rather than Imitation

We give birth to something totally new, inspired by yesterday, but there’s no confusion possible. Some collectors wrote to us, “Please, we don’t want a date. Please, we want manual winding.” I said, “This is great, guys, but if I do that, I will copy the past, and I will dilute the value of what you own.” Never dilute. We will just take the inspiration, and we will work on this inspiration as a basis, but we will build up from this basis.

The Autavia is new — from the size, from the sapphire glass, and from the movement, and from the indication. By the way, the movement is automatic and the movement has a date, which is a big sin compared to the original. But again, we’re not copying the original. We just take inspiration, and because of this, I believe in the value of this watch.

This is a new watch that is bold. We have a new movement. We have new features, but we have a traditional inspiration, which is the Autavia that Jack Heuer made in 1965.
Tomorrow, we have a program for the Summit. We hope to make the program easy, we hope to make it fun, and we hope to make it comfortable for you.

The New Movement Factory — At Chevenez

You will see the movement factory and you will see the case factory. Because now I have been at TAG Heuer for 21 months. In 21 months, we had very little time to make all the projects we had in our heads for the future. Nevertheless, we had time to rebuild our movement factory and to have it equipped now to make 50,000 movements. Next year, we are going to increase it in order to produce 100,000, and we have also re-equipped our case factory.

And the Case Factory — At Cornol

We are very proud of the case factory, because we have become the biggest supplier of cases for Hublot. Hublot never ordered any watch cases from our case factory because the standard and the quality were too low. Now, the quality has increased to a level that our best customer has become Hublot. We, of course, also deliver cases to the Richemont Group and others.

You will visit the case factory. You will visit the movement factory. You will have no time to visit our dial factory. Between the dial factory, the movement factory, and the case factory, we are, more or less, 80% independent, which is also great, because when you are at home, you can develop. You can innovate.

In-House — A Key to Innovation

When you have a supplier, the supplier can innovate for you, but when you have your own facilities, the innovation, the creativity, is much easier, because it’s in-house. That is the big advantage.

The advantage of having in-house is not just that you control supply, but you control innovation. It’s always easier to innovate when you have the production facilities at home rather than at the third party.

That’s the program, more or less, for tomorrow. And that’s the idea of the new Autavia. You will see the first Autavia tomorrow. I have never seen the finished product. I have seen part of it, but I have never seen it assembled. I think they will assemble it tonight or tomorrow.

Tomorrow, you will really see for the first time the new Autavia. I don’t know at what time it will be ready, but you will assist with the very first Autavia that comes out. You are very fortunate. 100% made in-house. So it’s quite an event.

I’m very excited to see how a new product is born, because although it is named “Autavia”, although it is inspired from yesterday, it is still quite young and new. It’s 100% new. It’s like when my first child was born – he looked like me, but he was new!

We have the child of the marriage of Mr. TAG and Mr. Heuer. They have a child now and the child is named “Autavia”. It’s beautiful!!

Jean-Claude Biver and Jack Heuer, at the Heuer Collectors Summit (September 2016)

All right, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much again.

Jeff Stein
February 13, 2017

Heuer Logo (White on Black)

 

Regarding the New Autavia

The photos in this posting (above) show the prototype of the new Autavia, which we saw at the Heuer Collectors Summit (September 2016).  In January 2017, TAG Heuer showed a revised prototype of the new Autavia, which we show below.

Thanks

Thanks to MTF at PuristsPro, for the permission to use the photos in this posting that have the PuristsPro watermark. PuristsPro published three excellent postings covering the Heuer Collectors Summit:

  • Part One (the opening of the Summit),
  • Part Two (the new Autavia), and
  • Part Three (visits to the TAG Heuer manufacturing facilities).

Thanks to Fred Mandelbaum, one of the Summit participants, who recorded and posted the video of Mr. Biver’s remarks.

Related Postings

Here is an interesting interview published by Watches by SJX — Jean-Claude Biver on How He Turned Around TAG Heuer.