TAG Heuer Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph 43mm Ref CAR2A10.BA0799
It’s all about numbers
Angus Davies writes about the TAG Heuer Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph 43mm Ref CAR2A10.BA0799, launched at Baselworld 2013. In his watch review he looks at the importance of numbers, economies of scale and ultimately value for money delivered in the competitive arena of luxury timepieces.
I don’t profess to be a wine expert. My colleague, Philip Day, is our expert on all matters relating to fine wine. It was with some surprise, a few years ago, when I first learned that wines can cost many thousands of pounds per bottle. I simply did not know of their existence beforehand. However, the high price of wines such as Petrus and Château Haut-Brion can be explained very simply.
The time consuming production, exacting quality, limited output and, by default, scarcity, ultimately justifies the high price. A similar parallel can be seen in the world of horology. The finest examples of haute horlogerie demand the talents of the most skilled artisans. Their endeavours invariably prove time consuming and the product volumes generated are relatively small.
Vast numbers of watches can be created by adopting a “Vin de pays” approach to timepiece production but these watches merely fulfil a need rather than indulge a passion.
There are a large number of luxury timepieces which populate an area of the market located between the two aforementioned extremes. They include watches that provide high quality movements, handsome cases and yet represent value for money.
Economies of scale
A few months ago, I toured the production facilities of TAG Heuer at La Chaux-de-Fonds. An area which was profoundly impressive was the department responsible for the creation of the Calibre 1887. It was an object lesson in mass production. The highly automated production methods provide economies of scale, helping the avant-garde brand deliver a quality product at a highly attractive price point. My host explained that the company can produce 50,000 chronograph movements per annum.
Exacting quality controls ensure that, despite the heavy reliance on automation and the many different hands that work on each watch, reliability is not compromised.
I found it fascinating seeing quality control personnel address surface blemishes on cases of watches awaiting dispatch. I repeatedly tried to observe the so-called faults and invariably failed. The watches appeared perfect to my ageing eyes. Yet, despite the accessible price point, there was no prospect of a watch leaving the production facility without meeting the company’s exacting standards.
Whilst at the site, I looked at several Carrera Calibre 1887 models and over the coming months intend to review further models within the range.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph 43mm (Ref CAR2A10.BA0799) features a black dial. This particular model was launched at Baselworld 2013, in the year the brand celebrated the 50th anniversary of the iconic Carrera watch.
The first thing to impress me about this model is the clarity of the dial. It provides a masterclass in legibility.
Two chronograph counters are presented below noon and above 6 o’clock. They are the 30-minute register and 12-hour register, respectively. Their circular forms are framed with silver-coloured circlets marked with neat black strokes. The hands on each counter are silver and detailed with red tips. This is a colour scheme which is repeatedly used on the dial providing a cohesive design language.
A small seconds display resides at 9 o’clock. It is smaller than its neighbouring subdials, does not feature the silver circlet and dispenses with the red tip seen on the chronograph counters. This clearly provides differentiation. Moreover, the red tip gracing the central chronograph hand further accentuates the difference between the stop watch functions and the hour, minutes and seconds display.
The applied Arabic numerals framing the dial are particularly attractive in the way they shine in ambient light, with areas of brightness and shade enhancing their form. Again, their design ensures excellent ease of read-off.
A date aperture is positioned at 3 o’clock. The silver coloured frame encourages the eye to read the date housed at its centre. Once again, it demonstrates that the minutest details can cleverly impart pleasing portions of joy to the wearer.
In recent years, we have seen several brands employ ceramic for the bezels of their timepieces. In this instance, TAG Heuer has chosen to feature a black ceramic bezel on the Carrera Calibre 1887, marked with a tachymeter scale. Ceramic is resistant to scratching and does not fade with the onset of years. Moreover, in this particular case, it has a charming lustre to its appearance which enhances the sense of luxury.
The case, with its 43mm diameter, proved very comfortable on my wrist. Its construction is of high quality and its numerous facets provide much visual interest. The blend of fine brushed and polished surfaces on the case and bracelet work well, albeit I did find the latter showed annoying finger marks quite readily.
An exhibition caseback affords a view of the Calibre 1887.
Luxury, by its very nature, exploits small nuances to enhance enjoyment. In this regard, the crown and pusher at 2 o’clock particularly heighten the ownership experience. The knurled crown has an inner black ring and the upper pusher is decorated with a red ring. They are subtle details but they synergistically enhance the aesthetics of the Carrera Calibre 1887.
The bracelet on the watch I wore had a solidity to its construction which suggested that it would serve its owner very well for many years to come.
The Calibre 1887 is a column-wheel watch movement and features several notable attributes to its specification. The mainplate is decorated with circular graining, known as perlage. The bridges and the open-worked rotor are decorated with straight Côtes de Genève motif. However, the pièce de résistance is the sight of the blue column-wheel.
TAG Heuer Calibre 1887
The nomen, “1887” relates to the year Edouard Heuer patented the oscillating pinion which interfaces with the column wheel.
Since my trip to the production site at La Chaux de-Fonds, the brand has announced that the production of the Calibre 1887 movement is moving to a new facility in Chevenez. In addition, the brand has announced a new movement, the Calibre 1969, which features a vertical clutch, a slimmer profile of 6.5mm and an improved power reserve of 70-hours. The numbers look impressive and it will be interesting to see this movement appear in future models, priced slightly above the Calibre 1887.
TAG Heuer facility in Chevenez
TAG Heuer Calibre 1969
Numbers are a key element to the success of the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph 43mm (Ref CAR2A10.BA0799). It features an impressive specification and is executed to a high standard. But, most impressively, the economies of scale allow the brand to deliver the watch for a retail price of £4095. Bearing in mind it contains an in-house movement featuring a column wheel chronograph, this is indeed very notable.
Those who crave the rarefied excellence of a haute horlogerie creation can indulge this desire with one of TAG Heuer’s top models such as Carrera MikroPendulum, produced in very limited numbers by a small team of artisans. However, the price is far higher, a bit like that rare bottle of fine wine enjoyed by a fortunate few.
It just goes to prove my point that watchmaking is all about numbers.
- Model: TAG Heuer Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph 43mm
- Ref: CAR2A10.BA0799
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 43 mm; height 8.72 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph.
- Movement: Calibre 1887, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz), 39 jewels; power reserve 50 hours
- Strap: Steel bracelet with folding clasp.