The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were a golden age for chronograph design from TAG Heuer (then known simply as Heuer). The advent of the legendary Caliber 11 automatic chronograph movement led to the development of a wide variety of unique forms from the brand, ranging from the emblematic square Monaco to the tonneau cased Montreal, but none were as widely produced as the classic “Viceroy” Heuer Autavia. The “Viceroy” Autavia helped to save the brand from financial ruin thanks to a promotional partnership with Viceroy cigarettes, and over the years the tonneau case, bulky bezel, and blazing red highlights have made the watch a style icon in its own right. While TAG Heuer has revived the Autavia nameplate in the past few years, the brand has steered clear of reinterpreting its most famous iteration until now – sort of. This watch may not say Autavia on the dial, but the spirit of the “Viceroy” is a clear inspiration here. Released as the second collaboration between TAG Heuer and streetwear icon Hiroshi Fujiwara’s Fragment Design brand, the limited edition TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph provides a stylish, punchy reinterpretation of one of TAG Heuer’s most coveted vintage references.
There is more than a touch of irony to the 44mm stainless steel case of the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02. In many ways the beefy, rounded form of this case is a better Autavia case than any of TAG Heuer’s current Autavia branded offerings. Rather than aiming to emulate the slim, somewhat ordinary (if admittedly more elegant) case design of the first generation Autavia as the regular production models have, this collaboration goes straight for the mother lode, providing a handsomely tweaked translation of the far more distinctive second generation. Even more ironically, this case was not made to fill that role at all. This is a carryover from 44mm variants of the current TAG Heuer Formula 1 line, not a ground-up new design. That said, this case has not made the jump to the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02 without a fair amount of revisions, primarily aimed at improving material quality. There’s a new polished bevel running along the case sides that adds a handsome visual highlight while echoing the original “Viceroy,” while the all new tachymeter bezel insert features vintage styled text atop a mirror polished black ceramic base. The last big change appears around back, where the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02 adds a display window made of flaring red sapphire. Even with the new display caseback, the watch still manages a respectable 100 meters of water resistance.
Like the case, the dial of the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02 takes advantage of existing TAG Heuer parts to create a fitting tribute to the “Viceroy” Autavia. In this case, the instantly recognizable hours, minutes, and chronograph seconds all come by way of the TAG Heuer Monaco. Interestingly, however, the original “Viceroy” Autavia also shared hands with the Monaco of the time, so this choice goes beyond clever resourcefulness to actual historical accuracy. The rest of the black opaline dial design takes on a pared back, minimalist custom look, with undersized printed red squares instead of larger applied hour indices, along with conspicuous Fragment co-branding. This more open and cleaner dial layout helps to nicely differentiate this from a straight Autavia clone at first glance, offering the watch an injection of modern personality to go with its ‘70s spirit.
As the name might suggest, the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02 is powered by TAG Heuer’s in house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement, modified for a bi-compax layout. This relatively recent addition to TAG Heuer’s stable offers impressive performance including a 75 hour power reserve and 28,800 bph beat rate. There is also a fair amount of decoration visible through the distinctive red caseback, including Côtes de Genève along the movement plates and a distinctive wheel shaped skeleton rotor.
Impressively, the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02 offers an all new bracelet specific to this watch. The five link jubilee style design packs an array of quality touches, from the brightly polished center links to the disappearing butterfly clasp. While it may not be the most “vintage Heuer” style bracelet, this unique piece contributes strongly to selling the overall ‘70s flair of the watch.
With the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02, the brand has captured the spirit of the classic ‘70s “Viceroy” Autavia in more ways than one. Not only is it a handsome visual tribute to the original, this new limited edition timepiece also shares the same ethos – using existing parts to create a distinctive, bold, and exciting new concept. Only 500 examples of the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Heuer 02 will be made and will be available from authorized dealers starting July 27, 2020 at an MSRP of $6,150. For more information, visit TAG Heuer’s website.