TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph 44mm
Dismissing the TAG Heuer Formula 1 range as solely quartz models, Angus Davies discovered an automatic model within the range. His interest piqued, he chose to examine the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph 44mm in more detail.
This detailed review of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph 44mm includes live images and specification details.
Like many men of my generation, as grey hair began to populate my sideburns and my hairline started to recede, I lamented, “Things aren’t what they used to be”. Listening to current-day music, I found myself referring to it as “rubbish” and stating that “In my day, we had proper songs”.
The reality is that history repeats itself and I now sound like the father I remember in my adolescent youth.
Objectivity can sometimes be skewed by the emotional attachment we assign to past experiences.
Some things change for the better
Despite my middle-aged perception that many aspects of life are changing for the worse, in reality there are numerous examples of improvements to our lives. This equally applies to the world of horology.
Cutting-edge technology and advances in metallurgy are just two areas which have conferred advancement within the watchmaking industry recently.
A few years ago, I recall seeing a Formula 1 watch from TAG Heuer in a retailer’s shop window. It featured a bright red dial with a black crenellated bezel. I must admit that the watch did not appeal to my tastes. It somehow felt like sacrilege to associate the model with a brand with a rich history of creating exceptional chronograph timepieces such as the Carrera and Monaco. Nevertheless, by contrast I had to concede that it provided accessible pricing and a first-step on the rung of TAG Heuer ownership.
The watch contained a quartz movement which, whilst according accuracy and convenience, was a further aspect that failed to excite me. I am a die-hard fan of the balance wheel, pallet lever and escape wheel and, consequently, feel little emotional attraction to quartz movements.
To my shame, I have never paid much attention to the Formula 1 models, favouring the mechanical timepieces further up the TAG Heuer range.
Recently, I discovered the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph 44mm. The model, launched earlier this year at Baselworld 2013, features generous proportions and a self-winding movement. My interest was piqued and I felt the watch justified closer examination.
The model is available in four variants, three with an anthracite dial and one with an avant-garde combination of orange detail set against a black canvas. My favoured model is the grey dial model complemented with a steel and ceramic bracelet (reference: CAU2010.BA0873).
A sunray motif features on the dial, dancing with light, granting areas of dark and shade which bestow a warm feeling and a sense of quality.
The hour and minute hands have polished edges and feature luminous material at their core. A central chronograph is presented in a silver hue with a counterweight resembling the TAG Heuer shield located at the opposite end to the narrow tip.
In some cases, chronographs can feature subdials which are too close to each other or, conversely, spaced too far apart. This is often because the dial design is dictated by the layout of the movement beneath. However, in this instance, the subdials are perfectly placed, delivering a harmonious aesthetic.
The two chronograph counters are located on a north-south plane, whereas the subsidiary seconds display resides opposite the date aperture positioned at 3 o’clock. The dial has balance, partly owing to the white text and logo enveloping the date aperture occupying a similar sized area to the neighbouring subdials.
The applied batons, featuring luminous markings suit the dial, providing a clean and lucid display.
A tachymeter scale features on the ceramic and highly polished steel bezel, reinforcing the motorsport-infused character of the timepiece.
The watch has bold, masculine lines evidenced by its substantial dimensions. Measuring 44mm in diameter, this is a sizeable watch and may prove too large for some. However, I personally found it looked perfectly at home on my wrist and it did not feel unduly cumbersome.
A specific aspect of the design which I find very appealing, is the line taken by the push pieces and crown protectors. It provides an almost seamless contour and follows the profile of the bezel. It helps to unite the crown and pushers with the case, integrating the elements into a harmonious whole.
A solid caseback features a chequered flag pattern and TAG Heuer logo. Whilst I understand the racing symbolism and its relevance to a timepiece named “Formula 1”, I wish the timepiece had an exhibition caseback. This is because, like many self-confessed “Petrol-heads”, I like to see the engine at work within a mechanical watch.
The bracelet is very attractive. It features a combination of brushed stainless steel links, matching the finish of the case, but with brushed black ceramic links occupying the central row. The black ceramic material provides a comely contrast and heightens the visual interest of the bracelet. Framing the ceramic inserts are highly polished steel borders, matching the finish of the push pieces and bezel. All elements of the bracelet coalesce superbly and help to further reinforce the cohesive excellence of the whole design.
The Formula 1 model has always been one of the lower priced models within the TAG Heuer range but there are few aspects to the design which mark it out as inferior to some of the costlier models higher up the range. The only detail which did not feel quite as good as other TAG Heuer models I have worn, is the deployant. Whilst the clasp closes with a positive action, the finish does feel a little inferior to the items used in the Carrera and Link ranges. However, this should not unduly detract from the overall impression of quality.
A recent trip to TAG Heuer’s factory at La Chaux-de-Fonds left me profoundly impressed by their resources and technical ability. Exacting quality controls provide incontrovertible reassurance that the reliable functioning of watches is a prerequisite before being permitted to leave the confines of the brand’s state-of-the-art facility.
The Calibre 16 is used in several of TAG Heuer’s models including members of the Carrera, Link and Aquaracer families. The specification includes a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz), power reserve of 42 hours, 25 jewels and Côtes de Genève motif on the rotor.
The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph 44mm represents a sea-change for the Formula 1 family. Once a quartz only range of models, the use of a mechanical movement confers more choice to potential purchasers who appreciate the style of the model but also crave the sound of a performance engine.
Those who seek a well resolved composition, with clean-cut dial and attractive case and bracelet ensemble, may find the £2350 asking price (RRP in UK 22.11.2013) represents an affordable option, well worth consideration. I certainly think those seeking a chronograph on a bracelet should take a look.
In a world where grumpy men of my generation talk of the past and the bemoan the passing of so-called better times, the Formula 1 Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph 44mm shows that in some instances things do change for the good.
- Model: TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph 44mm
- Ref: CAU2010.BA0873
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 44.00 mm; water resistant to 20 bar (200 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; chronograph; subsidiary seconds; date.
- Movement: Calibre 16 movement, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 42 hours
- Bracelet: Stainless steel bracelet with brushed black ceramic inserts presented with a folding clasp.