July 7, 2015
by Rob Nudds
The 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed drew enormous crowds to the ever-popular grounds of one of the UK’s most famous estates. One thing you notice when you visit the Goodwood Festival, which ran from June 25th to June 28th, is that everything moves quickly. The air is bursting with the rip-roaring sound of revving engines, the excited chatter of legions of fans, and the overhead sonic booms of jets zipping by. It’s an assault on the senses and one to be savoured. When the daily drudgery gets you down, the TAG Heuer sponsored event is one of life’s great escapes. If you managed to get a ticket, your eyes would have been treated to some of the finest examples of automotive excellence the world has to offer, and, as if that weren’t enough, five new watches from TAG Heuer.
Let’s start with the two TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph Senna Editions. I found both TAG Heuer Senna Carreras to be excellent case studies in saturation branding – that is very difficult to get right, but also something TAG has extensive experience with. The stylised “S” in racing red features on the dial, the bezel, and the case back. It is hard to begrudge TAG Heuer their obvious enthusiasm for Senna and his posthumous ambassadorship (he even appeared as a hologram during the official launch in Barcelona), but the overt markings might be a bit much for those who want to wear this watch as a daily beater and not keep it in a box for posterity.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph Senna Edition comes in two variations. You can choose a stainless steel case with an anthracite dial and a stainless steel bracelet with the same style of links (referred to as the “legend” style but, arguably, the basic design is much more widely known as the Link bracelet) worn by Senna himself; though, the links have been rounded for comfort and slightly refined. The other version is in DLC titanium on a rubber, tire-tread-inspired strap.
In my opinion, the DLC version on the rubber strap is far and away the pick of the bunch. The rubber is flexible out of the box and guarantees a snug and reassuring fit. At 44mm, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph Senna Edition is big, but not oversized by modern standards. The rubber strap and titanium case significantly reduce the weight and increase the comfort when compared to the steel variant. If you’re a die-hard steel fan, you will surely disagree, but for the money, I think the DLC version presents a better example of its type. The legend bracelet is fine, but does not grab your attention that much due to its one dimensional finish.
The TAG Heuer brand is evolving. In a strange way, it is becoming a microcosmic example of the watch industry on the whole. Its high-end has given us some amazing pieces over recent years with evermore exciting and ambitious calibres featuring unusual complications and a technical association with speed – although that division has seen severe budget cuts as a result of TAG’s efforts (which we covered extensively here) to reposition itself with new pricing strategies as a brand with much better value proposition, bringing it back to its roots. As a result, at the entry-level, the watches are becoming more affordable and the use of quartz, increasingly commonplace.
This bold strategy of consistently offering new watches – while reducing prices by a highly noticeable margin is, in fact, something that TAG have been sticking to ever since they announced it in late 2014. TAG Heuer have a long heritage and an iconic character, fueled by their association with timeless and modern heroes like Steve McQueen and Lewis Hamilton. A lot of people want to buy into the brand itself as their entry-level watches are more like badges of support for an ideal than they are titans of time. And that’s totally fine, especially when those watches have the kind of wrist appeal that the TAG Heuer McLaren Special Edition does.
The TAG Heuer Formula 1 McLaren Special Edition is one of three Formula 1 inspired quartz watches showcased at Goodwood, along with two more Senna memorial models. The McLaren is my favourite of the three, especially on the NATO strap (It is also available on the “legend” bracelet). The black and “rocket red” NATO is boldly decorated with a racing stripe. It dresses down this watch, which looks a bit passé on the bracelet. Being a quartz, it is highly functional and superbly accurate. I always think that if you want to spend over fifteen hundred bucks on a quartz, you might as well go for a chronograph. That way you can easily justify your choice on purely practical grounds. It’s very possible to get a great automatic three-hander for the same price as this TAG Heuer, but a mechanical chronograph at that price? They exist but they are very rare – and more often than not come with an inferior and not very dependable movement. And rarer still is it to find one from a brand with the same level of visibility as TAG Heuer.
So pricing and purchasing arguments aside, exactly what does this, and the two Senna models, offer you on a technical level? All three sport a 3, 6, 9 o’clock chronograph arrangement, with the going seconds at 3 o’clock, a date window at 4, a 1/10th of a second indicator at 6, and the 30-minute counter at 9. The TAG Heuer emblem emblazons the middle of the dial. The bezel on the McLaren is red anodized aluminium and features a really rudimentary tachymeter scale. This is the obvious feature for a watch associated with speed to have, but the styling of the bezel really grinds my gears. It looks like it is a rotating bezel because of the “cog” design, but it doesn’t move at all. Of course, you wouldn’t want a tachymeter ring to move, but the form does not marry with the function. Sure, it looks cool, but if you know what you’re looking at you might find it as weird as I do.
The two Senna models have the same strange bezel design, but in a different colour. Their housings and bracelets are identical, but one dial is anthracite with red accents, while the other is black with yellow highlights. The yellow really makes this dial “pop” and looks cool when teamed with the classic red of the Senna “S” which emblazons the bezel and the 3 o’clock sub-dial. It’s supposed to be a nod to the iconic yellow of the late Senna’s helmet – which is a nice, sentimental touch. Both watches measure at 43mm, placing them in between the Carreras and the McLaren. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition watches are not available on the rubber strap, but if you manage to pick one up separately, it would, in my opinion, look pretty awesome on either one.
The stainless steel TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph on the legend bracelet has a price of $4,150. The DLC titanium version on the tire tread strap comes in at $4,600. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Chronograph Senna Edition watches are both priced at $1,750. tagheuer.com