Even 28 years on from his tragic passing at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna remains one of the most revered and recognizable figures in the world of motorsport. Senna’s name still has staying power both with fans and brands, and the three-time Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship winner remains one of the longest-serving and most successful brand ambassadors for TAG Heuer. Senna-themed chronograph models are a time-honored tradition for the Swiss brand, and for 2022 TAG Heuer sets its sights on a unique Formula 1 automatic chronograph variant with racy red accents. The new TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition is a bold and sporting tribute to Ayrton Senna’s enduring legacy, with a wealth of subtle touches inspired by the Brazilian racing driver’s life and career.
Boldly sized at 44mm-wide, the stainless steel case of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition follows the same lines as the rest of the modern Formula 1 series. Vaguely inspired by the classic Autavia models of the ‘70s, this muscular case offers a continuous curve from lug tip to lug tip, polished slab case sides, and short, wedge-like lugs. The heavy gear-toothed tachymeter bezel is a Formula 1 series staple, and here TAG Heuer crowns this familiar element with a unique radially brushed black ceramic insert. The brand tops this insert with the distinctive Senna emblem in vibrant red lacquer, while extending the tachymeter scale all the way to 400 – a subtle reference to the 400 kilometer-per-hour speed which as of yet has never been reached in a Formula 1 race. TAG Heuer adds extra splashes of red to the crown and 2 o’clock chronograph pusher, tying these elements in with the Senna emblem in images and adding a sense of visual cohesion to the overall design. Around back, the brand finishes this case with a detailed caseback engraving of Ayrton Senna in his trademark racing helmet. As with the rest of the modern Formula 1 line, the Formula 1 Senna Special Edition provides an impressively robust water resistance, with TAG Heuer rating the watch for 200 meters.
Although not dramatically removed from the standard automatic Formula 1 chronograph, the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition’s dial is clean and handsomely balanced in images. The main dial surface is rendered in a moody graphite gray sunburst finish, coupled to a set of applied rhodium-plated wedge indices and tapering baton hands shared with the rest of the Formula 1 line. TAG Heuer opts for a low-contrast look with the Formula 1 Senna Special Edition’s subdials, rendering all three recessed surfaces in a classic black azurage finish. This gray-on-black colorway allows the dial’s red accents to pop dramatically in images, and the brand elevates this dial design significantly through the thoughtful application of this color. Each of the three subdials uses this red highlight hue differently, lending the dial a greater feeling of visual depth and complexity. The 12 o’clock 30-minute chronograph subdial uses its red to highlight alternating 5-minute segments of its scale for a classic ‘70s racing chronograph-style effect, in contrast with the simpler narrow red outer accent ring on the 9 o’clock running seconds subdial. The 6 o’clock chronograph hours subdial offers the most generous use of color, with a sharply printed Senna emblem ringed by a subtly wider outer contrast ring. Additional touches like the red-outlined triangular markers on the azurage outer seconds ring and the slim red border surrounding the 3 o’clock date window help to visually tie this assortment of elements together in images. As for the date window itself, while non-dial-matched date windows are a generally divisive inclusion among enthusiasts, this white highlight helps to visually counterweight the three subdials.
The Valjoux 7750-based Calibre 16 automatic chronograph movement inside the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition is a familiar sight across the brand’s product lines, forming the backbone of many of its more affordable chronograph offerings. Like its 7750 progenitor, the Calibre 16’s hefty proportions make it a contentious powerplant in some enthusiast circles, but it remains a reliable performer with a 42-hour power reserve and a 28,800 bph beat rate. TAG Heuer pairs the Formula 1 Senna Special Edition with its unique S-link bracelet in stainless steel. Designed to emulate the bracelet on Ayrton Senna’s personal TAG Heuer S/el watch, this curving split-link design is a defining hallmark of TAG Heuer’s ‘80s and ‘90s offerings and continues to be instantly recognizable to this day. The effectiveness of this rounded, flowing bracelet design’s integration with the more aggressive, angular Formula 1 case is a matter of personal taste, however.
With its balanced sporting colorway, aggressive design, and thoughtful nods to Ayrton Senna’s legacy, the new TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition is a striking tribute to one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition stands at $3,550 as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.