The TAG Heuer Formula 1: All you need to know

by John Wallis


August 22. 2017 - by John Wallis

Since the earliest age of motorsports, there has been a close connection between watches and racing. Few manufactures have been as involved with driving than Heuer – think of the many icons of racing horology it has created: the Monaco, the Carrera, the Silverstone and more. But perhaps the purest expression of the brand's identification with the sport is the Formula 1 series.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 history begins in 1986. It was a big moment for the company, because it was the first new watch family since Heuer was acquired by Techniques d’Avant Garde. A major shift in focus was sought after the trials of the quartz crisis, when the company's premium mechanical timekeepers became very difficult to sell. The new Formula 1 used a bold analogue design with a cutting-edge quartz movement – and it remained quartz-only until very recently. Partly inspired by the Swatch, it found remarkable commercial success with its stylish design, advanced materials and bold colours – not to mention the lower price point.

Some of the watch's appeal was historic: though it was new, both TAG and Heuer had longstanding relationships with Formula 1 racing, working with teams as prestigious as Ferrari and McLaren. But this was a popular watch in its own right. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Series 1 was unlike any previous Heuer, and boasted fibreglass in the case and top ETA movements within. Later models added chronographs and some were more classically styled, earning even more followers. While the Formula 1 was discontinued in 2000 after LVMH acquisition, it was revived with a new design not long after, and continues to represent a key part of the company's core stable.

Here are some of the best selling TAG Heuer Calibre 1 models available at CHRONEXT:

Formula 1 Calibre 16

It was just a few years ago that, in a bold new direction, TAG Heuer gave the Formula 1 its first automatic movement. Calibre 16 is TAG's version of the superb Sellita SW500, and its introduction puts this remarkable chronograph in competition with other top models both within the brand's own catalogue and beyond. Bright colours have been replaced by attractive racing-red highlights in this widely acclaimed make-over. The design is improved, with a case heavily influenced by the iconic Autavia, and a dial showing classic stylings, well-balanced restraint, a polished steel bezel and gorgeous Daytona-esque subdial rings.


Formula 1 Calibre 5

The Calibre 16 is just one of the new automatic Formula 1 models introduced in recent years. For fans of three-handed watches, the attractive Calibre 5 is a real gift. The model replaced the short-lived Calibre 6, keeping its sophisticated design while trading its seconds counter subdial for a traditional, red-tipped seconds hand from the centre. It also boasts the gorgeous, retro-feeling Autavia-style case, and features an excellent ETA-base movement inside, beating at 4Hz. Highly water resistant and beautifully finished, this is a terrific all-purpose sports watch as at home in the office as on the beach or under the waves.


Formula 1 Chrono Automatic Black

One of the very first Formula 1 automatics, this chronograph came before the two models above, and remained in production after the later timepieces arrived. There's a lot to love about this bold first foray into the Formula 1 family's new era of mechanical movements, which remains faithful to the older generation of watches. The case – in sleek black titanium carbide – is the same design as the 1986 original, the checkered flag caseback engraving is the same as that used on quartz models, and it's hard to miss the striking sporty colour on the dial, flange and crown.


Formula 1

This fine model represents an excellent example of what made the Formula 1 such a successful watch family for so many years. Effortlessly sporty, it boasts the best of TAG's prestigious manufacture capabilities and quality, while remaining a true entry-level watch. Its large 42mm case looks even bigger thanks to the oversize black bezel with large numerals underlined by a vivid red chapter ring inside. The 12 numeral is also oversized, standing out on a stick-index dial, and framed nicely by the brand logo beneath. Inside is a premium quartz calibre with an end of life display and 10th of a second chronograph capability.


Formula 1 Quartz "Red Bull" Ltd.

Launched at the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, and with a colour scheme inspired by the legendary McQueen Monaco, this very special Red Bull Edition is a true gem. It celebrates the new high-profile partnership forged between the watchmaker and Red Bull Racing, including its incredible drivers Daniel Ricciardo Max Verstappen – now Heuer brand ambassadors. The watch achieves a gorgeous vintage look with its flat white subdials and flange, its lack of attention-grabbing 12 numeral and its simple blue and red colours. The delightful textile strap is the icing on the cake. Nothing unnecessary or gimmicky here – unless you count the understated logo engraved on the caseback.


The right Formula 1 watch for you will ultimately come down to which model you connect with. There are no wrong choices. This is a watch popular among first time buyers and veteran collectors alike – not to mention TAG's celebrity brand ambassadors from Lewis Hamilton to Kimi Räikkönen.

Further readings

Why is TAG Heuer so special?

Are hand wound watches a good investment? 

Golf and luxury watches: Likely Bedfellows

John Wallis

by John Wallis

Living and working in London, John has been writing about watches since graduating university. He got his start at SalonQP, London's finest watch show, where he was inspired by the breadth and creativity of the modern industry. His fascination with mechanical horology has only grown from there.

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