Watches

TAGging along – the TAG Heuer F1 series

Maybe it’s because I originally bought one of these in 1997 with a bonus from work, but I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for them since. And, as they’re a very long way from Patek money, why not start collecting them?

The TAG Heuer F1 series was part of the Swiss fightback against Japanese quartz hegemony. The Swiss valleys were resounding to the thunk of watchmaking heads hitting boardroom tables – the industry needed an answer to the cheap, accurate and well-made Japanese watches wiping out the mech. market.

The first salvo was the stainless innercase and fibreglass outercase Series 1 watches – smart, relatively cheap, bright and linked straight to the glamour of Formula 1. This was the era of Senna, Prost, Brundle and Berger; probably the finest line up of drivers since Innes Ireland, Moss and Clark. Plenty of glamour to rub off on the new watch series.

These first Eddy Burgener-designed watches were bright, easy to read and even a bit irreverent in a usually starchy industry.

Burgener’s design was different from anything else out there. So, like most good design, it stuck.

In 1987, another salvo came with all-stainless cases, still with the original cut-to-length plastic straps, but the option of a bracelet too.

The Chrono you see here is a 1991, Series II, with an ETA 251.262 powering hour, minute, subsidiary seconds, central minute counter, hours and tenths. You can just see the red minute hand under the centre-seconds.

From ’97 on, the F1 got a little larger and, for me, a little less interesting.

So far, I’ve just managed to track these three down. The white-faced F1 is just back from Watch Doctor where it had its stem repaired and a full service and battery change.

As ‘do everything’ watches, for me, they excel. They’ll work as well with a suit (remember those?) as jeans – and they are unbelievably robust. They seem to be designed to take abuse. This one was on my wrist and soaked in grease and oil when I rebuilt my Ural a few years ago – now look at it:

I have a sneaky feeling that the value of these is heading one way – up. Checking on Ebay, prices have been slowly edging higher for the last year or so.

I don’t think they’ll ever be worth serious money, but that doesn’t worry me. I just like the F1 for what it is – historically, design-wise and as a usable, decent bit of kit. OK, and the Senna link might be just a little attractive too…

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