UP­PING THE ANTE

TAG Heuer, the spe­cial­ist of chrono­graphs and high-level time­keep­ing, now re­leases a sec­ond in-house man­u­fac­tured move­ment – the Cal­i­bre 1969 – fur­ther demon­strat­ing its ever-ex­pand­ing in­dus­trial ca­pac­ity.

Plaza Watch International - - Upping The Ante - WORD SY-JEAN MUN-DEL­SALLE

A pi­o­neer­ing force in tech­nol­ogy and de­sign for more than 150 years, TAG Heuer is now fo­cused on grow­ing its in-house man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. Known for its re­mark­able in­no­va­tions push­ing back the lim­its of watch­mak­ing, the brand has a long-stand­ing strat­egy of al­ways giv­ing clients added value. By adding the Cal­i­bre 1969 to its al­ready ex­ist­ing Cal­i­bre 1887 – the first me­chan­i­cal chrono­graph move­ment it launched five years ago – driven by the de­sire to con­stantly im­prove the per­for­mance and qual­ity of its prod­ucts, it is mak­ing it known to the Swiss watch in­dus­try that it has ev­ery in­ten­tion of re­main­ing the mar­ket leader in chrono­graphs. The new pre­ci­sion chrono­graph Cal­i­bre 1969 fea­tures a ver­ti­cal clutch sys­tem, 28,800 vi­bra­tions per hour (4Hz), 70hour power re­serve and a dif­fer­ence of time adjustment of -4/+6 seconds after 24 hours. TAG Heuer CEO, Stéphane Lin­der, ex­plains why this in-house move­ment-mak­ing com­pe­tence is nec­es­sary: “TAG Heuer’s rapid growth, com­bined with new sup­ply con­straints in the Swiss watch in­dus­try, have re­quired a com­pre­hen­sive and farsee­ing strat­egy of rein­vest­ment. The healthy state of the brand’s bot­tom line has made this pos­si­ble.”

In 1969, Jack Heuer – grand­son of the founder of TAG Heuer, the man at the ori­gin of some of the most rev­o­lu­tion­ary ad­vances in sports tim­ing, company CEO dur­ing its golden age of the 1960s and 1970s and to­day its Honorary Chair­man – and his part­ners pre­sented the patented Car­rera Chrono­matic Cal­i­bre 11, the world’s first au­to­matic chrono­graph with a mi­cro-ro­tor move­ment that marked a turn­ing point in terms of horo­log­i­cal de­sign, housed inside the square case of the now iconic Monaco. Equipped with 12- hour and 30- minute coun­ters, it was out­fit­ted with a spe­cial ec­cen­tric reg­u­la­tor set­ting and move­able spi­ral block, which al­lowed for very pre­cise reg­u­la­tion and re­duc­tions in the mar­gin of er­ror in tim­ing, even un­der the most ex­treme con­di­tions. This move­ment and its vari­a­tions – Cal­i­bres 12, 14 and 15 – are, for that mat­ter, among the brand’s most in­no­va­tive in­ven­tions, and Tag Heuer’s de­sign­ers, en­gi­neers and crafts­men still draw in­spi­ra­tion from them to­day.

In fact, the brand had built its rep­u­ta­tion on chrono­graphs and ul­ti­mate pre­ci­sion since its found­ing in 1860. In 1882, Jack Heuer’s great­grand­fa­ther, Edouard Heuer, patented his first chrono­graph, fol­lowed in 1887 by the os­cil­lat­ing pin­ion – a key el­e­ment for start­ing and stop­ping a me­chan­i­cal chrono­graph – which is still used to­day by lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers. The Heuer brand launched its first wrist chrono­graph in 1914 and, two years later, sur­prised the mo­tor-rac­ing world with a stop­watch ac­cu­rate to 1/100th of a sec­ond. Di­vid­ing time into in­creas­ingly smaller and more pre­cise frac­tions is an end­less quest: in 2012, the TAG Heuer Car­rera Mikro­girder – the only me­chan­i­cal chrono­graph ac­cu­rate to an un­prece­dented 5/10,000th of a sec­ond fea­tur­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary reg­u­lat­ing sys­tem of mi­crob­lades and beat­ing at the ul­tra-high fre­quency of 1,000 Hz (7.2 mil­lion times per hour) – won the horo­log­i­cal sec­tor’s most cov­eted dis­tinc­tion, the Aigu­ille d’Or, at the Geneva Watch­mak­ing Grand Prix.

Hardly sur­pris­ing when you con­sider that TAG Heuer boasts an im­pres­sive, almost cen­tury-old pedi­gree of world firsts in sports timers: in 1916, Charles- Au­gust Heuer pre­sented the first Mikro­graph me­chan­i­cal stop­watches ac­cu­rate to 1/50th and 1/100th of a sec­ond, with fre­quen­cies of 180,000 and 360,000 vi­bra­tions per hour, re­spec­tively; in 1966, Jack Heuer launched the Mi­cro­timer, the first minia­turised time­keep­ing sys­tem dis­play­ing ac­cu­racy of 1/1000th of a sec­ond; in 2002, the Mi­cro­timer was the first Swiss dig­i­tal wrist chrono­graph ac­cu­rate to 1/1000th of a sec­ond; in 2004, for the Indy 500 race, of which TAG is of­fi­cial time­keeper, the brand cre­ated the first tim­ing sys­tem ac­cu­rate to 1/10,000th of a sec­ond, which in 2006 meant 2/10,000ths of a sec­ond dif­fer­ence be­tween first and sec­ond place in the semi-fi­nal of The Race of Cham­pi­ons in Paris; in 2008, the Grand Car­rera Cal­i­bre 36 Caliper was the first in­te­grated me­chan­i­cal wrist chrono­graph ca­pa­ble of mea­sur­ing and dis­play­ing 1/10th of a sec­ond thanks to an os­cil­la­tor beat­ing at 36,000 vi­bra­tions per hour cou­pled with a ro­tat­ing caliper scale; in 2011, the Car­rera Mikro­graph 1/100th Sec­ond Chrono­graph, fea­tur­ing a 50-Hz os­cil­la­tor, was the first in­te­grated col­umn-wheel me­chan­i­cal chrono­graph wrist­watch equipped with a cen­tral foudroy­ante hand dis­play­ing 1/100th of a sec­ond, and the Car­rera Mikro­timer Fly­ing 1000 Chrono­graph was the world’s first me­chan­i­cal chrono­graph to mea­sure and dis­play 1/1000th of a sec­ond; in 2012, the Car­rera Mikro­tour­bil­lonS, a dou­ble tour­bil­lon with a 1/100th of a sec­ond chrono­graph on a 50Hz move­ment was de­vel­oped on the Mikro­graph

plat­form; and in 2013, the Car­rera MikroPen­du­lumS, the first-ever mag­netic dou­ble tour­bil­lon with chrono­graph ac­cu­rate to a 1/100th of a sec­ond, was in­tro­duced. THE FIRST IN-HOUSE MOVE­MENT To re­in­force its po­si­tion in terms of chrono­graphs, TAG Heuer launched the Cal­i­bre 1887 in 2009, the first in­te­grated move­ment en­tirely con­ceived, man­u­fac­tured and as­sem­bled in-house at its Swiss work­shops (de­vel­oped from el­e­ments un­der the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty of Seiko In­stru­ments Inc.), which has since be­come a bench­mark of mod­ern horol­ogy be­cause of its ex­cel­lent per­for­mance. Equipped with a col­umn wheel, the au­to­matic in­te­grated chrono­graph move­ment vi­brat­ing 28,800 times per hour pays homage to Edouard and Jack Heuer’s his­tor­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions to Swiss watch­mak­ing – it in­cludes a re­worked ver­sion of the brand’s 1887 os­cil­lat­ing pin­ion that func­tions in tan­dem with a col­umn wheel in much the same way as a car’s trans­mis­sion – and it fits inside a new-gen­er­a­tion Car­rera, the myth­i­cal sports chrono­graph de­signed specif­i­cally for pro­fes­sional driv­ers and sports car en­thu­si­asts, which re­mains the stan­dard-bearer of TAG Heuer’s un­ri­valled mo­tor­sports pedi­gree first un­veiled by Jack Heuer in 1964.

To meet the de­mands in vol­ume brought about by TAG Heuer’s ac­cel­er­ated growth, it be­came nec­es­sary to build a ded­i­cated work­shop on the site of TAG Heuer’s fa­cil­i­ties in La Chaux-de-Fonds (can­ton of Neuchâ­tel). The first Cal­i­bre 1887 came out of the work­shop’s semi-au­to­matic assem­bly line in 2010 and it took home the much sought-after Pe­tite Aigu­ille d’Or award at that year’s Geneva Watch­mak­ing Grand Prix. Five years in the mak­ing, the move­ment’s de­vel­op­ment came with a price tag of ap­prox­i­mately 20 mil­lion Swiss francs. To date, 130,000 pieces have been man­u­fac­tured.

All Car­rera chrono­graphs last year in­cor­po­rated the move­ment. The Car­rera Cal­i­bre 1887 Jack Heuer Edi­tion pays homage to Jack Heuer and is in­spired by the two-part con­struc­tion Heuer stop­watches, which he used on race cir­cuits around the world at the time. All the tech­ni­cal de­tails are nonethe­less state of the art and cer­tain el­e­ments are bor­rowed from For­mula One and aero­nau­tics: hand-brushed and pol­ished black ti­ta­nium car­bide-coated steel bezel; pol­ished, brushed and sand­blasted steel and ti­ta­nium cage; tachymeter and pul­some­ter on the flange. The asym­met­ri­cal case’s ground­break­ing de­sign is in­spired by the Mikro­girder: slightly an­gled at the top where the crown and chrono­graph push­ers are lo­cated. The Jack Heuer coat

of arms and sig­na­ture adorn the smoked sap­phire glass case­back.

RAPID EX­PAN­SION Now, TAG Heuer has taken things to the next level with the in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of a sec­ond man­u­fac­ture cal­i­bre, thereby dou­bling its move­ment pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity and mak­ing it num­ber one among watch brands man­u­fac­tur­ing chrono­graph move­ments in Switzer­land. The new me­chan­i­cal in­te­grated chrono­graph Cal­i­bre 1969 is made at the fourth TAG Heuer man­u­fac­ture (a 2,600-sqm fa­cil­ity that has al­ready cre­ated more than 100 new jobs) re­cently opened in Chevenez in the Swiss Jura.

The cost of this project again amounted to 20 mil­lion Swiss francs. The pro­duc­tion vol­ume was 500 units in 2013 and is ex­pected to reach 5,000 in 2014. It took two years from ini­tial idea to full pro­duc­tion – an im­pres­sive feat com­pa­ra­ble to the one ac­com­plished in 1969 by Jack Heuer and his team with the Cal­i­bre 11, hence the name “Cal­i­bre 1969” given to the lat­est cre­ation.

The qual­ity, power and pre­ci­sion of the new man­u­fac­ture move­ment stems di­rectly from the ex­pe­ri­ence gained by TAG Heuer in the de­sign and pro­duc­tion of the Cal­i­bre 1887 and its other award-win­ning haute hor­logerie move­ments. Lin­der says, “Our new move­ment is en­tirely new, but ob­vi­ously we have ben­e­fit­ted from the ex­per­tise and cer­tain com­po­nents de­vel­oped with the Cal­i­bre 1887 and the Mikro­graph, as we had de­vel­oped th­ese two cal­i­bres with a long-term vi­sion in terms of re­us­able com­po­nents.”

The ul­tra-flat 6.5mm Cal­i­bre 1969 com­pris­ing 200 Swiss com­po­nents “bet­ter com­bines max­i­mum thin­ness with a larger power re­serve and a sig­nif­i­cant vol­ume po­ten­tial”, notes Lin­der. As in the orig­i­nal Cal­i­bre 11, the lay­out of the coun­ters is a clas­sic tri­com­pax: cen­tral chrono­graph hand, chrono­graph min­utes at three o’clock, chrono­graph hours at nine o’clock and small seconds at six o’clock.

The Cal­i­bre 1969 also in­cludes a date win­dow at nine o’clock. The dec­o­ra­tions are also ex­cep­tional: Côtes de Genève and snail­ing on the os­cil­lat­ing mass in black tung­sten as well as on the nick­elplated minute and au­to­matic bridges, both an­gle pol­ished with shiny bev­elled edges. All the ébauches, bridges and plates are pro­duced in Chevenez.

The as­sort­ment and four-spoke bal­ance equipped with a KIF auto-shock orig­i­nates from the Swiss high-end watch com­po­nent man­u­fac­turer Atokalpa. Lin­der elab­o­rates, “We wanted to se­cure our own ap­proach to in­te­grat­ing me­chan­i­cal move­ment pro­duc­tion in-house, which is why we sought out and iden­ti­fied sev­eral po­ten­tial sources of reg­u­lat­ing or­gans, a key com­po­nent in the per­for­mance and re­li­a­bil­ity of a watch. This ap­proach led us to se­lect Atokalpa as the main sup­plier of reg­u­lat­ing or­gans made in Switzer­land, this company be­ing one of the rare man­u­fac­tur­ers able to guar­an­tee high per­for­mance and to de­liver the quan­ti­ties re­quired to match TAG Heuer’s ex­pan­sion strat­egy in the man­u­fac­ture of me­chan­i­cal move­ments.”

By open­ing a Cortech fa­cil­ity mak­ing high­end cases in the Jura com­mune of Cornol in 2004, ac­quir­ing ArteCad in Trame­lan man­u­fac­tur­ing di­als in 2011, and adding work­shops in La Chauxde-Fonds and Chevenez con­cen­trat­ing on watch move­ments and assem­bly in 2010 and 2012 re­spec­tively – which work on com­pli­cated me­chan­i­cal move­ments like the Mikro­graph, Mikro­timer, V4 and Mikro­tour­bil­lonS, and its 100 per cent in-house de­vel­oped me­chan­i­cal chrono­graph cal­i­bres – “TAG Heuer is be­com­ing one of the most highly-in­te­grated Swiss watch man­u­fac­tures in terms of key high-end watch­mak­ing ex­per­tise and com­po­nents”, states Lin­der.

With its Cal­i­bres 1887 and 1969, the brand is fully en­sur­ing its de­vel­op­ment, main­tain­ing is po­si­tion of leader in the field of chrono­graphs and prov­ing why it de­serves to carry the chrono­graph crown. The pro­duc­tion of the two in­no­va­tive move­ments ex­ceeded 50,000 units in 2013 and is pro­jected to achieve a ca­pac­ity of 100,000 by 2016, which makes TAG Heuer the Swiss watch in­dus­try’s largest in­dus­trial chrono­graph maker and one of the rare Swiss man­u­fac­tures able to fab­ri­cate all of its own ma­jor com­po­nents.

“Di­vid­ing time into in­creas­ingly smaller and more pre­cise frac­tions is an end­less quest”

M a k i n g wa t c h d i a l s a t ArteCad in Trame­lan.

I n s pe c ting the wat c h c a s e at the C o r te c h f a c i l it y .

T he c a s ing - up process.

T he wat c h c a s e d - up M e c hani c a l m o v ement c o mp o nent p r o d u c ti o n at C o r te c h . H igh - en d c a s e - ma k ing at the C o r te c h f a c i l it y . Ex­ploded v ie w o f the Ca li­bre 19 6 9.

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In-house chrono­graph C a l i b r e 19 6 9.

Wa t c h m a k i n g t o o l s a t d i a l m a n u fac t u re A rt eC a d.

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