1969 is a year. Not the less important : it’s the birth year of the Monaco and of the El Primero. And of the quartz technology! But now, 1969 is also a caliber, not the less important as well : this will be the first in-house caliber ever conceived and constructed by TAG Heuer.
The brand already had the 1887 as a proprietary caliber, but it was based upon Seiko plans and drawings. As a consequence, TAG Heuer suffered a long time from this ‘almost in-house’ reputation. Finally, it took two years for the brand to develop the new 1969 caliber.
In this year, 1969, Jack Heuer and his partners unveiled the Calibre 11, the world’s first automatic chronograph movement, which he housed in the square-shaped Monaco. The movement and its successors – Calibres 12, 14 and 15 – continue to inspire TAG Heuer designers, engineers and artisans to this day. Then, TAG Heuer launched the Calibre 1887, in 2009. It is housed in a new generation of the Carrera, the sports chronograph first launched by Jack Heuer in 1964.
TAG Heuer Caliber 1969 – 1887 + 1969 = 40 millions CHF of investment
The movement took five years and approximately 20 million Swiss Francs to develop. To produce it in the volume TAG Heuer’s accelerating growth requires, a dedicated workshop had to be constructed at TAG Heuer’s facilities in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Neuchâtel). The first Calibre 1887 rolled off the workshop’s semi-automatic assembly line in 2010, and won the coveted “Petite Aiguile d’Or” Award at that year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. To date, 130,000 have been produced.
Now TAG Heuer is taking the next step by industrializing a second in-house manufacture movement, thus doubling its movement manufacturing capacity and making it the number one chronograph movement manufacturer among watch brands in Switzerland. The new integrated mechanical movement is being produced at the just finished fourth TAG Heuer Manufacture in Chevenez in the Swiss Jura. Total expenditure for the new project: another 20 million Swiss Francs. Total volume: 500 in 2013, 5,000 in 2014.
TAG Heuer Caliber 1969 – So, what’s up with the new Caliber ?
Its vertical-clutch system is powerful and precise: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4Hz), with an extended 70 hour power reserve and a difference of time adjustment after 24 hours of minus 4 to 6 seconds, which fits the COSC requirements. The thin movement (6.5mm) houses 200 Swiss components. It will probably let the 1969 be housed by other product lines than just the Carrera.
The dial’s counter layout, like the original Calibre 11, is classic “tri-compax”: central chronograph hand with chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock, chronograph hour at 9 o’clock and small second at 6 o’clock. The caliber 1969 also features a date window at 9 o’clock. The decoration has “Côte de Genève” and snailing on the black tungsten oscillating weight and the minute and automatic bridges, which are nickel plated and angle polished, with shiny beveled edges. The bridges, plates and ébauches are all produced at Chevenez.
TAG Heuer Caliber 1969 – High expectations
Production volume of the two movements will surpass 50,000 units in 2013 and reach a projected target capacity of 100,000 by 2016. This makes TAG Heuer the biggest industrial chronograph producer among all Swiss watch brands, and one of the very few Swiss manufactures capable of producing all of its own major components – not just movements but dials and cases. First models will probably be unveiled during next BaselWorld.