It's November in the Jura region of Switzerland in a small town none of us have heard of called Chevenez. It begins to snow outside as we tour the modern black and white colored grounds of TAG Heuer's newest facility known as the d'Avant-Garde Manufacture. Recently completed, the new manufacturing site began recently in 2012. Now that it is done, the location will be the epicenter of TAG Heuer mechanical chronograph movement production including the just announced Calibre 1969, which later has been renamed to the TAG Heuer Calibre CH 80.
Stephane Linder sits in front of me and a small group of journalists comfortable in his new role as the global CEO of TAG Heuer. He was a top executive in the US with the brand prior to his promotion, and seems very comfortable back home in the Swiss countryside. Sharp and witty, Linder is an engineer and former product development guy who is intimately aware of the the ins-and-outs of movement and watch making. He replaces former TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Christophe Babin who has moved on to LVMH sister brand Bulgari. One a businessman and one an engineer, Babin and Linder share a friendly charisma and extroverted passion but are two very different men. Linder is now charged with taking TAG Heuer to the next level, which very much involves in-house made chronograph movements.
Linder speaks in a manner that places the company in his own perspective. Taking a serious level of personal ownership over the happenings of TAG Heuer he remarks on "what I can produce, what I can develop, and what I can sell." When he says "I" he means "we." It is a unique leadership and communication style only possible through someone who knows the brand and its capabilities very well. Linder certainly does. For now we get to talking about the future of the watch industry and how TAG Heuer will play a role in it. We begin with numbers.
By 2014 the Chevenez manufacture will be able to produce 50,000 movements per year. By 2016 that number will grow to 100,000 movements per year - which is Linder's goal. As of now the facility will only produce two movements, the Calibre 1887 (released in 2009), and the brand new Calibre 1969. Together they represent the movements TAG Heuer produces itself in appreciable quantities. The specialty haute horlogerie movements in watches such as the Monaco V4 and MikroPendulumS are also in-house made but produced elsewhere and in much smaller quantities. A volume of 100,000 chronograph movements a year will push TAG Heuer past a particular threshold.