Although ETA was, and still is a predominant movement maker in the Swiss watch industry, some brands, among them Tag Heuer, have seriously changed their roles in the past several years, by rebuilding their reputations as the manufacturers of quality in-house movements.
In the 1970s, Heuer was producing its own Chronomatic movement (Calibre 11, 12, 14 and 15), but at the beginning of the new century, it was completely relied on ETA movements. However, the new management of the renowned Swiss company started serious work in order to change this trend. Today, Tag Heuer is proud of several in-house movements: Calibre V, Calibre 360, Mikrograph, Calibre S and Calibre 1887.
In-House Revolution – Tag Heuer V4 Mechanical Movement
The Monaco V4 is a real breakthrough product that has drastically changed the history of Tag Heuer and opened a new chapter in the watch industry by showing completely reinvented basic rules of movement making to the world.
Instead of traditional components, such as a gear transmission, pinion and oscillating weight, the best Tag Heuer’s engineers used belts, linear mass, ceramic ball-bearings and four V-mounted barrels in order to create an in-house movement that would eventually rebuilt the brand’s reputation as a manufacturer of the highly advanced mechanisms.
Tag Heuer had spent five years until it finally accomplished its revolutionary task. More precisely, it needed more than 14200 days for researching and developing and additional 165 hours for putting the 259 components of the movement together. The Monaco V4 concept was introduced in 2004 and five years later, the production of the first limited edition started.
Inspired by high performance motor engines, the TAG Heuer team used a belt-driven transmission instead of cogs and wheels. These series of micro belts are true masterpieces. They are amazingly thin (0, 07 mm which corresponds to the size of a human hair). Besides, each belt can support the weight of more than 40 Kilos.
Tag Heuer replaced traditional rotors, with the rectangular weight that moves up and down, automatically powering two pairs of V-shaped barrels. They are set in parallel and linked by belts, providing 42 hours of power reserve. Calibre V4 incorporates five notched belts, including 2 internal steel reinforcement wires (3 different transmission belts and 2 identical barrel belts). To reduce friction, it uses 11 micro ball-bearings and six notched pulleys. The escapement pinion replaces traditional pinions and wheels. Finally, this avant-garde mechanism comprises 48 Swiss quality jewels.
For its “third millennium chronograph” Tag Heuer chose the iconicMonacosquare case, but it radically re-designed it to showcase the amazing construction of the mechanism through sapphire crystal front and back of the watch. So far, the Swiss brand has launched three limited series of the Monaco V4 series – the first one made in platinum, followed by the rose gold edition and finally, with the Monaco V4 Titanium.
Tag Heuer Calibre 360 – the first Mechanism with 1/100th Second Accuracy
In 2005, Tag Heuer presented Carrera Calibre 360 concept watch, with the revolutionary mechanism inside the case. The Calibre 360 was the first mechanical chronograph to count time with 1/100th second accuracy. Besides the fact that just a chronograph module had been developed in-house and mated to an ETA base (TAG Heuer Calibre 7) movement, the Calibre 360 was the milestone for the Swiss watchmaker that tried to rebuild the reputation of the movement maker.
Tag Heuer had not spent much time until it started producing watches with this breakthrough mechanism. It is almost unknown that the Swiss watchmaker firstly released a very rare line (11 pieces) of so called, Vanquish Calibre 360 Chronograph, in 2005. (There are some signals that the Vanquish 360 might even be re-launched in the following years.) However, the serious production of the Calibre 360 started in 2006, when Tag Heuer launched four limited editions of the Carrera Calibre 360, in white gold, rose gold, stainless steel and black PVD.
Besides the great importance for the Swiss brand, the Calibre 360 has also deserved a very important place in the history of watchmaking. This mechanical movement beats with two hearts (2 series of entirely separated escapement mechanisms) – ETA base and Tag Heuer’s chrono module. This chronograph that works independently of watch functions, incorporates a high frequency balance wheel (50 Hz), oscillating with 360,000 vibrations per hour (hence the name), which is 10 times faster than the El Primero movement.
The Calibre 360 has two cylinders that provide the separated storages of power for the chronograph (100-minute power reserve) and for the watch (42-hour power reserve). To supply barrels with power, the wearer needs to wind the crown manually, turning it clockwise to wind the chronograph movement, or anti-clockwise to wind the watch movement. In order to achieve the incredible precision, TH’s engineers used 230 separate pieces, and an ultra light, miniaturized escapement mechanism and a spiral (the diameter of which is less than 26 % of a regular balance wheel).
Based on the Calibre 360, Tag Heuer created another breakthrough product, the Mikrograph chronograph movement, with the world’s first column wheel integrated mechanical chronograph which shows the 1/100th of a second. Unlike the Calibre 360, which was modular, the Mikrograph 1/100th is a fully integrated COSC certified movement, completely designed, patented, developed and manufactured by Tag Heuer.
Tag Heuer Mikrograph Mechanical Movement
It looks impossible that almost 100 years ago Heuer developed such a powerful mechanism which was capable to count elapsed time with the fantastic accuracy of 1/100th second. The legendary Heuer Mikrograph stopwatch from 1916 took the world of motor racing on the completely new level. For the next radical step, the watchmaking industry has waited for an entire century. Again, that step has been made by Tag Heuer.
In 2005, the Swiss watchmaker first introduced Carrera Calibre 360 concept watch. Soon after, it started producing this world’s first mechanical wrist-watch that shows 1/100th of a second. Although the Calibre 360 was ETA based movement, with an in-house chrono module, it brought Tag Heuer a great reputation as the movement maker.
Inspired with the Calibre 360, Tag Heuer developed another “world’s first” – incredible Mikrograph dual assortment mechanical movement. It was presented as the world’s first column wheel integrated mechanical chronograph, which shows the 1/100th of a second, at SIHH 2011, inside the Tag Heuer Carrera Mikrograph 1/100th of a Second Chronograph.
Mikrograph 1/100th is a fully integrated COSC certified movement, completely designed, patented, developed and manufactured by Tag Heuer, which was not the case with the Calibre 360. However, just like its “father”, the Mikrograph is a dual assortment movement, which means that it features two separate balance wheels, with separate escapements and transmission systems, allowing the chronograph to work independently of watch functions.
The central part of the watch is a high frequency balance wheel for the stop-watch that oscillates with 360’000 vibrations per hour (50 hertz), which provides stunning precision, ten times higher than any other chronograph does. The balance wheel for the watch moving oscillates at 4 hertz (28’800 vibrations per hour).
The Mikrograph is a true masterpiece of “Haute Horlogerie”. It comprises 62 jewels and 396 components. When winding the crown manually, power goes through two separate cylinders – a chronograph barrel storages power for maximum 90 minutes of work, while the watch can operate up to 42 hours, when it is fully wound.
Soon after the first limited edition of Carrera Mikrograph 1/100th of a Second Chronograph (150 pieces) reached great popularity, Tag Heuer launched the second edition of these extraordinary watches, this time with an Anthracite (a slate grey) inner-dial instead of brown color and with a matching leather strep.
Tag Heuer’s Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph Movement
The Calibre 1887 is an in-house automatic chronograph movement that represents a milestone for TAG Heuer, positioning this renowned brand among the largest movement makers in Switzerland. After three years of work, it was finally presented in 2010, as the 3rd Millennium chronograph in terms of quality, size, precision and performances.
But it was not easy for Tag Heuer to take deserved credits for its work. Launching of the Calibre 1887 has been followed by controversies, created in some media which accidentally or by purpose had misinterpreted facts about it. That unnecessary fuss has involved the origin of the movement, since Tag Heuer based the project on Seiko 6s37chronograph by purchasing property rights from Seiko Instruments. However, the movement was autonomously developed, completely modified and assembled in-house, so I believe that this is a true Tag Heuer’s product, since there is no precise definition of the “manufacture movement”.
In order to re-engineer the movement, the renowned Swiss watchmaker opened a new manufacturing unit in Cornol, ordered special Fleury machinery and employed almost 50 new Swiss workers. Thus, 270 of total 320 components of the new mechanism are Swiss made – some by Tag Heuer (plates, bridges, especially the chronograph bridge and the oscillating weight’s ball bearing”) and some by specialist suppliers, such as Nivarox. Besides, few components are the upgraded versions of the original design. The diameter of the movement is slightly enlarged, but its thickness is reduced.
As the CEO of TAG Heuer, Jean-Christophe Babin explained that “the TC78 IP had matched virtually all brand’s requirements in terms of architecture (integrated, column wheel, oscillating pinion), versatility, evolutivity rather than performances, reliability and potential for important productions at reasonable costs”.
At the end, the Calibre 1887 features 39 Jewels (41 if fitted with power reserve), an oscillating pinion, a column wheel, a High Efficiency Rewinding (“HER”) system and a 12-6-9 dial layout. Although it is not COSC ccertified, this self-winding movement has the highest performances. It oscialtes at the frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a power-reserve up to 50 hours.
This mechanism had its premier inside the new Carera 1887 Automatic Chronograph at Baselworld 2010, immediately reaching enormous worldwide popularity. Today, you can also find the Calibre 1887 inside the beautiful TAG Heuer 300 SLR watches.
Tag Heuer Calibre S Movement
Calibre S presents a new method of timekeeping, with two mechanically autonomous, but synchronized systems that show elapsed time and a date function in a practical and unique sporty way. By combining the accuracy of quartz watches with the complexity of mechanical movements, the Calibre S perfectly represents the new generation of Tag Heuer’s hi-quality movements.
Calibre S is an electro-mechanical movement, completely developed by Tag Heuer. This hybrid movement that uses both, quartz and mechanical elements of timekeeping (quartz tractor, mechanical chronograph module) is designed to display features in two different modes – the Time Mode and the Chronograph Mode. The Chronograph Mode provides the measuring of simple time, split time and two periods of time, while two half lunar sub-dials, located at 4.30 and 7.30 o’clock positions, show elapsed time, with the outstanding precision of 1/10 and 1/100 of a second. Central hands are programmed to show chronograph hours, minutes and seconds.
By a simple push on a button, you can switch to the Time Mode in order to see the exact time, as well as the date displayed by the same half lunar sub-dials. (The perpetual calendar is applicable until 2099.)
For moving tiny hands on retrograde counters, the Calibre S uses five bidirectional motors. In order to reach the precision of quartz watches, Tag Heuer’s engineers gave a special effort to minimize the weight of 230 components and materials, spending 12,000 hours for testing movement’s performances, including shock and temperature resistance.
Along with its superb accuracy and functionality, the Calibre S allows experiments with the various designs of a modern, sporty and easy-to-read interface. That is the way how this interesting movement found its place in several Tag Heuer’s collections, from the highly elegant Link Collection, through the lines inspired with the world of racing, such as Formula 1, SLR and Carrera to the diving Aquaracer Collection.