This is the first in a series of postings in which we will take some of the most interesting postings from the OnTheDash Discussion Forum, and present them here as blog postings. The following is derived from a posting on our forum on April 20, 2012, reporting on a March 2012 visit to the TAG Heuer headquarters, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. You can click on any of the 120 photographs to see a a high resolution version.
We sincerely thank Laurent (“Noodia”) for this fantastic posting and hope that you will enjoy his report.
August 13, 2013
Based on an initiative from Anthony Receveur, I’ve had the privilege of visiting TAG Heuer (TH) headquarters with some fellow collectors friends from the French forum “Montres Mecaniques”. This forum is our daily destination. Our day at TAG Heuer was loaded with:
- a visit at Artecad (Artcad is a dials manufactory owned by LVMH; they provide dials to TH among many others respected brands),
- Lunch at TAG Heuer headquarters,
- visit to the TAG Heuer factory, and
- visit to Anthony’s workshop
All these events were surrounded by an amazing surprise, which we will describe soon. The visit took place Thursday March 29th, 2012. Here’s a photographic report of what has been a magic moment in our collectors lives.
On arrival Friends are gathered.
And excited about our day!
We went straight to a meeting room . . .
Jack Heuer examined our watches! Passionate discussions start around the Heuer tidal watches (such as the Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer, shown below).
Should I mention that some Heuers made the trip?
Lunch with Jack Heuer
After the Artecad visit, we went back to TH factory for lunch with Jack Heuer. He is happy to share many stories with us.
He talks about his studies at the prestigious “Ecole Polytechnique de Zurich” where he’s been graduated as an electrical engineer, a different objective than managing a watch factory. He tells us when he was still a student, he spent some vacation time in NYC at the Abercrombie & Fitch department store. There, he was a salesman in the watch department, a nice opportunity to discover and study closely American customers. In the late 1950s, when he had recently graduated, he left for the US for some years, to set up the Heuer American subsidiary. There, he easily got introduced into the race cars circles where Heuer dashboards were highly successful.
Quickly, Jack Heuer gets connections with the very chic Sports Cars Club of America (SCCA). Jack Heuer explains that to become a member of the SCCA at that time, the only thing needed was to own a “Sports Car”. I shold mention that at that time any car imported from Europe was a “Sports Car”!!
Jack Heuer recalls even the famous Citroen DS was admitted at the SCCA (a very strange thing for Frenchies I must admit although the DS is a real legendary car). These were the times of cars races heroes where we could see many Gentlemen drivers away from the “full car business” we know nowadays. Heuer successes in this area is building his foundations, its timepieces will then go to the enthusiasts wrists and their friends and relatives.
Jack Heuer also met the young and talented Mexican brothers, the Rodriguez brothers, at Sebring.
The Rodriguez brothers talk about the Carrera Panamericana to Jack Heuer, a competition which crossed Mexico and which is certainly the most famous if we consider the dangers and the amazing average speed reached by the participants (it’s been cancelled from 1955 due to too many people killed – pilots and : spectators – but remained a true legend for years).
The Carrera Panamericana will give its name to what will become a legendary wrist chronograph, the Heuer Carrera.
Next, we discuss Jack Heuer’s relationship with Jo Siffert,
Jack Heuer recalls it’s a brewer based in Fribourg who advised him to meet and – why not – sponsor Jo Siffert affectionately nicknamed “Seppi”. This meeting will lead to an interesting relationship between the two men which quickly come out of a fruitful association and a development even more intense for Heuer into the cars racing world.
Jack Heuer remembers he discovered Seppi’s driving talents while traveling with him in a rental car from Fribourg to Geneve, a very fast memory, highly emotional if we understood well.
Jo Siffert was a great talented driver, he also was a an efficient salesman owning a Porsche garage.
During one of their first meeting, Jo Siffert told Jack Heuer that it twas time for him to own “a real car”, Jack Heuer obviously left Seppi at the wheel of a Porsche, we clearly understood he had no option…
Jack Heuer also reminds us that the famous white dial automatic chronograph (Ref 1163 T). Long after production of this watch had stopped, passionate collectors will give this model the nickname, the “Siffert” .
While we’re enjoying thoroughly Jack Heuer telling us these stories, we pay attention and are touched.
Jack Heuer keeps telling us the wonderful stories. The partnership with Ferrari is established in 1971. Heuer provides precision timing devices to the Scuderia
The Heuer shield is now on the Ferrari cars and the drivers’ racing suits (including Jackie Ickx, shown below).
An outstanding communication vehicle which brings Heuer greater legitimacy in the automotive world.
Jack Heuer recalls his relationships (sometimes tricky…) with the Commandatore and his awesome American dealer Luigi Chinetti. He speaks about the legendary 18 karat gold Carrera (Reference 1158 CHN).
This Reference 1158 quickly becomes the “Ferrari guys” watch, offered by the factory and is still worn by some of them. Mauro Forgheri, in his Ferrari days (on the left) and a few weeks ago (on the right), in both cases wearing his 18 karat gold Carrera!!
And Niki Lauda, among many other Ferrari drivers and team members, also wore this Carrera. (The photo on the right is from 2009, courtesy of Arno Haslinger).
The legend told by the collectors is that the case-backs are engraved with the racers’ blood types, for obvious reasons in case of a crash. Jack Heuer answers, with a smile, that it was actually done so that the racers would not sell the watches right away!
The story goes on with the Quartz technology, something the visionary engineer had anticipated with the Microsplit launch (first chronometer with digital display and a 1/100 sec precision). Here is a Microspllit that we saw in the Museum.
And the Chronosplit which will be also worn by Ferrari stars.
But Jack Heuer says his biggest achievement as a quartz watch will be the Manhattan chronograph . . .
Indeed, the Chronosplit only offers digital displays which implies a legibility constraint, the Manhattan offers a double display — analog/digital allowing an instantaneous reading. One understands better listening to the engineer Jack Heuer, the focus brought to the legibility of his productions.
Jack Heuer also says his satisfactory and his pride since 10 years the managing team of Tag Heuer pursues the factory innovation and avant-garde position relying on the foundations and values settled by himself and his team, we’ve had no doubt while hearing him.
Our host finally shares his vision of the “quartz crisis”. Here again, he tells us a different story we could have expected saying the technology delay by Heuer was somewhere around one year comparing to the Asian factories, something that could have been caught up fairly easily according to him. But the “quartz crisis”was essentially due according to Jack Heuer to the vertiginous drop of the exchange value of the USD versus the Swiss Franc. The US were a major country for Heuer, distributors had kept up buying watches to Heuer which quickly turned into unsold items, unpaid to the Swiss factory, many US distributors turned into bankruptcy implying a huge volume of unpaid goods for Heuer. Major losses for Heuer dramatically reduced its development capabilities at a crucial period. Meanwhile, Japan had indexed the Yen value with the USD. A totally different analysis compared to what we all have read before.
Visit to the TAG Heuer Museum
Then came the TAG HEUER MUSEUM VISIT led by Jack Heuer. What a joy, what an honour, what a day !!!
We keep going
Heuer roots in the automotive field
Early generation dashboard timepiece (Autavia, circa 1933) and the legendary Monte Carlo.
A fundamental aspect of Heuer legitimacy in sports timekeeping. As a start the Mikrograph, the very first chronometer capable of measuring 1/100 sec time launched in 1916 (!!!)
Some other beautiful stopwatches that we saw in the Museum . . .
And also some more recent models . . .
Details and comments from Jack Heuer to the passionate assembly
The very first Swiss product to have traveled into space, a sample of the type of stopwatch worn by John Glenn . . .
But also watches obviously
One of the Monacos worn by McQueen in the “Le Mans” movie
Jack Heuer tells us THE TRUE McQueen story — Heuer used to partner with Don Nunley who was Le Mans movie property master. Nunley decided to send a case with many Heuer, one of them should have to be worn by McQueen. When the choice of its watch for the movie was made, McQueen decided to choose the Monaco because… it was the only one available twice therefore, if one of them would have been damaged, he could wear the spare one.
Historic wrist shot for one of our friend
And thanks to the kindness of Marie, our guide for the entire day — lucky us!! — we see the Jack Heuer 80th Birthday Carrera, to be issued later in 2012.
Aware of the privilege which is made to us here, the watch is manipulated with high attention.
Here again we’re lucky to enjoy Jack Heuer’s generosity to share with us, here’s what we learned from his own comments regarding the watch. The case is clearly inspired from the classic 60s Carrera (diameter is 42mm as far as I remember). The watch was initially made to be waterproof up to 300m but Jack Heuer wanted a thinner watch, the water resistance has been reduced to 100m to allow a 3mm reduction of case thickness, who could complain?
Note the “80” on the scale to celebrate the birthday.
Indexes are simply beautiful.
The watch is powered by the in-house Cal. 17 which explains the date at 6 another reference to the 1153 range maybe?
The 80th Birthday Carrera production is restricted to 3,000 samples, all sold now. The first four watches produced have been reserved for the Heuer family. The case back shows the Heuer family shield with Jack Heuer signature.
Best things must stop at some point, we leave Jack Heuer full of stories told with generosity and kindness, we’re all very touched and hardly realize we’ve just been through 30 years of horological history with one of its major player, a real privilege for collectors.
The visit goes on through the Tag Heuer premises where the historic references are everywhere . . .
Walking down the halls of TAG Heuer Headquarters, posters showing racing images are everywhere . . .
Customer Service — Vintage Department
We finally reach the Customer Service where after sales services are handled, this is also the place at Tag Heuer where vintage watches are brought back to their previous factory condition. As soon as we get in, a display attracts us
People are kind enough to show off what we can see inside. In the Service Department, we see a very nice Autavia Reference 3646 and an Autavia GMT, Reference 11630 . . .
Super Autavia dashboard with amazing dial layout and beautiful movement . . .
Scarce 1970s Autavia, with “Exotic” dial
On the workbench here and there
Cal. 12 being serviced
The famous G-F bracelet
Calibre 15 movement . . .
Wow! A couple of interesting boxes of parts . . .
While visiting the Customer Service we were able to chat with Benoit, manager of the workshop, and Christian Francesconi, Director of the Customer Service. No doubt, these gentlemen pay high attention to collectors.
Best things being supposed to stop at some point, it is time for us to leave, our visit would have been simply outstanding, we leave, amazed and full of emotions.
Well done Tag Heuer ! Thank you so much and maybe see you next time!
Visit to Anthony’s Workshop
But enjoyment does not stop here, we get back to our cars to jump to Anthony’s workshop. There we can’t release the passion and we all go to a crazy wrists shots session
Then we go for table shots sessions and the combination of watches from the friends . . .
Then, we prepare for the final shooting session . . .
And it goes for a “Vintage Heuer Porn shot”
Visit to an Exhibition of Automobiles
And since there are no Heuer event with no reference to cars, on our way back to Paris we make a stop at an exhibition where beautiful cars could be seen. Here are some of the cars we’ve been lucky to admire:
The three friends end up with this photo to pay tribute to their journey
Reflections on the Day
At the end, if there’s a single word we should remember after this memorable day it is certainly “pride”. The pride we felt all day long from people at Tag Heuer when they showed us what they were doing in building these beautiful timepieces or others in the Customer Service department bringing back beauties to their previous glory.
I must confess we felt the same pride being part somewhere of the “family” of vintage Heuer lovers. The key part of the day was obviously meeting Jack Heuer. He was very kind to us in sharing so many stories and spending so much time with us. I’ve always had a great admiration for him over these last years while learning about the company history. He brought an unusual way of managing a “Watches Company” and is a key figure of the history of contemporary watches.
Thank you so much Mr. Heuer to have fed our passion in such a friendly and welcoming way!
This report is intended to share all the vintage Heuer related photos and topics with the OnTheDash community. Unfortunately, the original posting from the Montres Mechaniques forum has been lost, so we are happy to have this report preserved through the OnTheDash discussion forum.
Please forgive what sometimes certainly looks like my poor English writing skills. I have done my best in this report.