TAG Heuer has a long history of innovation and leading the way in chronograph watches. Indeed, the original brand, Heuer (before becoming TAG Heuer) introduced along with Breitling and others the first automatic chronograph movement and led the way in popularizing the usage of wrist-worn chronographs during automobile races. The Heuer Monaco, Autavia, Montreal, Carrera, and many more, are the stuff of racing legends, and are all named after some rally or formula one race.
So when Jean-Claude Biver took the helm of the LVMH brand in 2016 to produce some needed rejuvenation, he immediately raised the need to continue pushing the boundaries in chronographs technology while keeping them affordable. The TAG Heuer chronograph tourbillon (with the Heuer 02-T movement) was introduced in early 2016 with a price tag of around $15,000. This raised eyebrows in the industry, notably from one Thierry Stern, head of Patek Philippe.
What could TAG Heuer do for an encore? Well, introducing the TAG Heuer Nanograph Tourbillon with a new hairspring made from an unbeknown exotic material, that, of course, promises better performance than even silicon. I got a chance to see this watch during Geneva Days or Geneva watch fair, in January 2019. Let’s take a closer look.
TAG Heuer Carrera Nanograph Tourbillon
The TAG Heuer Carrera Nanograph Tourbillon bears close resemblance to the previous model, the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T but is a different watch on close inspection and due to the movement’s new hairspring. However, for the uninitiated you might believe it’s just the previous model with a grey slate color and some lime coloring hints.
First, it’s important to stress how rare it is for a watch brand to introduce a new hairspring technology; and even more when that hairspring is created with a new material. To understand why this is a big deal is to simply realize that the hairspring is perhaps the most difficult and sensitive component in most mechanical watches. It is what regulates (along with the balance wheel) the transmission of energy from the main spring to the rest of the watch’s gears. It is literally the heart of the watch.
The tolerances for achieving a usable hairspring are unfathomable. Remember that the hairspring needs to transmit energy in a manner that is stable, that is, ideally isochronous and not varying with the amount of energy left in the main spring. Plus, to be able to perform at chronometer levels, in typical day-to-day operations, it also cannot be affected by magnetism, by shock, or by varying temperatures — or at the very least minimize the effects of such disturbances.
For these reasons and the difficulty in manufacturing hairsprings at scale, most watch brands (even those stating to include an in-house movement) typically buy the critical component from third parties. For example, the Swatch Group’s Nivarox, or the Richemont’s group Valfleurier, or from Parmigiani Fleurier’s Vaucher.
So when TAG Heuer told me that this Nanograph included a new hairspring (entirely designed and manufactured In house) and that this was made out of, not silicon, but a new carbon and carbon nanotubes -based material, while producing better performance than its silicon counterparts, I was impressed. According to TAG Heuer the results are better on most measuring dimensions while also being antimagnetic and resistant to shock and temperature variations.
Over time if these claims are verified and manufacturing issues do not creep up, LVMH and TAG Heuer might have differentiated themselves from the rest of the industry. Especially at a time when most movement makers concentrated their efforts around producing silicon-based hairsprings. A true avant-grade move and one that could pay handsomely in the future.
To embody their new hairspring, the team at TAG Heuer created a variation of that tourbillon chronograph watch the brand introduced three years ago. The modern, highly technical design works well. The new watch has a skeletonized dial where the hexagon pattern that TAG claims the new hairspring material is shaped at the molecular level is replicated in various places. The look is definitely unique and reminds me of the how Lamborghini did a similar fractal design for their Huracán — replicating a six-sided polygon in various parts of the car.
The grey color of the watch is relieved with lime green accents at the pushers and some of the marking of dial, the bridges of the tourbillon cage, as well on the rotating mass. On wrist the watch feels super light and resembles something from the new Bladerunner 2049 movie. It’s a watch that will be noticed from across the room and blend well with any sporty / casual contemporary look.
The 45 mm PVD titanium case (with carbon lugs and bezel) has a thickness of 16 mm, that while lightweight, nevertheless means that it won’t fit under your shirt’s cuff. But it’s not meant to. This is a watch for those living in the future, pushing the boundaries of technology. And while few will know what you have beating inside, knowing it’s sporting a breakthrough watch component should be enough to give you some satisfaction, especially if the look fits your overall style.
I was happy to see TAG Heuer continuing its tradition of pushing technology envelope. In recent years the most exciting things from their releases came from there heritage collection, re-issues of older classic Heuer models (Autavia, blue Monaco, and black Monza), so it’s good to see them returning to their roots and pushing watchmaking art forward.
TAG Heuer plans to release this watch with a special winder with a look matching the overall design. The price for US is similar to the previous limited Tourbillon watches they introduced two years ago at $25,500. There is no mention that this model will be limited. Now as I mentioned, the lofty claims need to be tested and when produced in large numbers, any issues (or not) should surface. Of course, TAG Heuer did its own testing, so I have no reasons to believe it won’t perform as advertise. tagheuer.com