The first name in racing watches makes timepieces that work everywhere from the pit lane to the red carpet
Tag Heuer is most famous for its chronographs: a watch genre it has excelled in so comprehensively that at one point it was producing them for many of its storied Swiss rivals, including Rolex. Its founder, Édouard Heuer, was an inventor and innovator and something of a maverick, setting up his 19th century watchmaking business in the village of St-Imier and becoming a central part of the history of watchmaking.
Heuer took out his first chronograph patent in 1882 and five years later came up with the oscillating pinion, the part that allows chronographs to be stopped and started, which is still used today. The company went on to design chronographs for planes, cars and boats. During the Thirties its innovations in dashboard chronographs led to the Autavia (a portmanteau of ‘automobile’ and ‘aviation’), which became one of its key lines.
It also came up with the first wrist chronograph in 1914 and, soon after, began making stopwatches. Heuer timepieces were used for three Olympics during the Twenties, so beginning an association with sports that stands to this day.
By the Seventies, however, the company was beginning to falter and a private holding company, Tag (Techniques d’Avant-Garde), purchased a majority stake. The resulting business, now known as Tag Heuer (which is pronounced "tag hoy-yur", btw), was in turn acquired by the LVMH luxury conglomerate in 1999, for nearly half a billion pounds. Tag Heuer now sits as part of the same stable as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co and Moët champagne.
The association with sports and timing continues to be a profitable one, with numerous high-profile sponsorships including, at one time or another, Manchester United, the French Professional Football League, Porsche’s Formula E Electric Racing Team, the Ferrari F1 team and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
Accordingly, Tag Heuer has become synonymous with watches with a sturdy, sporty aesthetic – as borne out by the advertising slogan ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’ – perhaps most famously embodied in its Monaco, the square watch made famous by the film Le Mans, and also its Aquaracer and Formula 1 lines.
Most recently it has branched out into smartwatches. Its Connected line of modular watches come with a host of interchangeable features: allowing you to customise the watch faces via the touchscreen interface, as well as swap the straps, lugs, even the watch head itself.
It's innovation like this that keeps Tag Heuer in its pole position as one of the big names in quality, precision watchmaking. Édouard Heuer's maverick vision is alive and well in the 21st century.