TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019

The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019 pays tribute to the legendary racing driver and marks 25 years since his tragic passing. 

In recent times, many fans of Formula One have acknowledged Lewis Hamilton’s skill behind the wheel, especially after he secured his sixth World Championship. However, after every race, once the Champagne-soaked podium has dried, talk inevitably turns to ‘who was the greatest driver of all time?’

To answer this question fairly proves very difficult. Like many areas of life, Formula One has witnessed change. Today’s lightweight cars are packed with electronics, possess incredible aerodynamic and mechanical grip, semi-automatic gearboxes, ingenious suspension and super-sticky tyres. None of these enhancements were available to Fangio or Senna.

The greatest driver of all time?

Nevertheless, setting aside mere statistics, a small number of names come to the fore: Fangio, Senna, Schumacher and Hamilton. Interestingly, when Schumacher and Hamilton were asked who they felt was the greatest driver of all time, they both said “Senna” without hesitation. Moreover, when other drivers who competed against Senna, such as Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Nigel Mansell, John Watson, et al were asked the same question, all of them cited Senna as the best.

Senna was mentally and physically tougher than his contemporaries. His commitment to his sport and, specifically, winning, surpassed everything in his life, setting him apart from his rivals. Other drivers talked about being in awe of his ability, often talking about his means of making a car “dance” on the track, especially around corners. In-car footage reveals he drove each lap to its maximum potential. When cornering, he braked later and for less time than every other driver and on exiting the bend, he began stabbing the throttle sooner than his competitors. Senna had a keen eye for detail, providing incredible feedback to his team, relaying every subtle nuance about the track surface and how the car behaved. 

A complex man

The Brazilian was a complex man, sometimes displaying contradictory traits. On one hand he would often overtake competitors, placing his car on the track in such a way that his opponents would either have to move to avoid him, thereby letting him past, or hold their line and inevitably crash. Quite simply, he could be a ruthless opponent. And yet, in the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix, he stopped during Friday qualifying to help Erik Comas who had suffered a huge accident. Senna, jeopardising his own safety, ran across the track, which was in use at the time, to assist Coma, saving his life. His selflessness on this occasion showed a softer side to Senna.

The legendary driver was deeply religious and was said to have discreetly given away millions of dollars to charity. The proud Brazilian was not overtly political, but he was always eager to help the poor.

Tragic events

Returning to the cars of today, they are much safer than their antecedents from the 1970s. Thankfully, when modern-day drivers push the limits too far, they invariably walk away with impunity. However, in the past, the high number of fatalities was simply horrific. Moreover, tragedies were not restricted merely to drivers but also included spectators as well.

One fateful day, the 1st May 1994, there was an air of sadness pervading the Formula One paddock. An Austrian driver, Roland Ratzenberger, was tragically killed during free practice the previous day. The accident came as a shock to drivers, team personnel and spectators alike, as it was the first driver fatality during a race weekend for 12 years (Elio de Angelis was killed at Paul Ricard in 1986).

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019

Ayrton Senna da Silva was still saddened by the death of his fellow competitor when he affixed his helmet, climbed into the cockpit of his Williams Renault Formula One car and sat on pole, focussed on the race. Later, while negotiating Tamburello corner on lap seven, tragedy struck as Senna crashed and the world stopped rotating for a while. The Brazilian driver, three times world champion succumbed to fatal injuries and passed away, just 34 years of age.

A force for good

After Senna’s death, his sister, Viviane, established the Instituto Ayrton Senna. Founded in 1994, this non-profit organisation provides assistance to ‘Brazilian children and young people’, helping them realise their potential through education.

The Senna name endures

Over the years, several TAG Heuer watches have sported the Senna brand, a red logo featuring ‘curvilinear shapes’, inspired by the curve of the Autódromo de Interlagos which bears the name of the legendary driver.

Recently, I had the opportunity to see one of the latest Senna-branded watches, the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019. As a self-confessed fan of motorsport and watches, I was eager to appraise the performance of this steel-clad model.

The dial

The dial is presented in anthracite and embellished with a sunray brushed decoration. The fine lines which emanate from the centre of the dial interact with light, casting dark shadows and evoking lightly toned areas. The rhodium-plated hour and minute hands are facetted, lined with Super-LumiNova and feature truncated tips, conversing clearly with the wearer.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019

The dial features several smatterings of red lacquer, replicating the shade of the aforementioned Senna logo. For example, the indexes teem with passion, courtesy of their red tone. Moreover, the centre of the indexes feature a generous application of Super-LumiNova, emitting a green hue in dim light. The central chronograph seconds hand is again red and includes a counterweight, replicating the brand’s logo in miniature form.

A date aperture is positioned adjacent the crown and is accompanied by various forms of branding. However, despite the profusion of names surrounding the date display, the branding does not appear excessive. Indeed, the combination of the date and branding balances the dial composition, counterpoising the small seconds indication at 9 o’clock.

Both the small seconds display and the 12-hour chronograph register, located at 6 o’clock, are presented in white and incorporate black numerals. A black 30-minute chronograph counter is positioned below noon and features prominent snailing.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019

A minuterie is presented on a white flange framing the dial area. Short, crisp, black lines represent ¼-second intervals, while longer lines denote 1-second periods. This detail proves especially useful when measuring elapsed seconds using the central chronograph seconds hand.

The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019 is keenly priced, costing just £2,650 (RRP as at 7.4.2020). However, the dial execution shows no signs of penny-pinching. The Sunray brushed decoration, applied indexes and contrasting subdials would befit a watch costing substantially more.

The case

Measuring 44mm in diameter, the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019 is not for the feeble. Its scale, movement and steel housing all contribute to its notable heft. Personally, I find this character trait quite endearing, but I appreciate some prospective purchasers may yearn for a smaller or lighter ownership proposition.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019

Fine-brushed surfaces abound, save for some bezel surfaces and the caseband, where the wearer’s shirt is reflected with mirror-like efficiency. The fixed bezel is predominantly formed of highly polished black ceramic and features a tachymeter scale, Senna branding and the racing driver’s surname. The bezel’s rim is castellated and juxtaposes highly polished protruding surfaces with frosted recesses.

This chronograph follows convention with two pushpieces protruding from its right case flank. Unusually, the pushpiece at 2 o’clock is embellished with a red circlet, infusing the design with an eye-catching dose of zest. This exuberance also extends to the crown which is almost dissected in two, courtesy of a pronounced recess. The appearance of this cavity is enriched with a tasteful smattering of red lacquer, again matching the Senna logo.

The screwed caseback is engraved with a depiction of Senna’s helmet, visor up, with the great man looking out. Other text is featured on the caseback, including ’25 Year Tribute Edition’.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019

TAG Heuer has equipped this model with a ‘sports S-shaped bracelet’ in stainless steel. Apparently, Senna was instrumental in the development of the bracelet. Each supremely-smooth link is fine-brushed, matching the case’s dominant finish. The bracelet is incredibly flexible with the links exhibiting fluidity. When the watch is affixed to the wrist, the adaptable characteristics of the bracelet confer a sublime ergonomic fit.

The movement

As its name implies, this model is fitted with the avant-garde’s Calibre 16 movement which is essentially the ETA 7750 with a personalised oscillating weight. This movement is held in high regard for its legendary reliability and value for money. The movement is fully integrated and cam-actuated.

While the Calibre 16 movement is very good, it lacks the technical finesse of the firm’s Calibre Heuer 02. This latter movement is, once again, fully integrated but also features a very desirable column-wheel and vertical coupling ensemble. However, excellence comes at a premium and the price of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019 precludes the use of this highly specified movement.

The frequency of the balance is 28,800 vph (4Hz), the Calibre 16 contains 25 jewels and the power reserve is 42 hours. The balance is equipped with ETA’s proprietary regulation system, ETACHRON. A trained watchmaker can alter the effective length of the hairspring by rotating a specially shaped regulating pin using a suitable tool, making the movement run faster or slower. This user-friendly system should save a watchmaker time, helping to mitigate servicing costs.

Closing remarks

The dial of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019 is incredibly legible, a trait it shares with all of the brand’s models. It is also supremely attractive. Likewise, the case and bracelet proffer much eye-appeal.

However, where this chronograph stands out from many other watches at this price level is the impressive execution of the dial, case and bracelet. The dial encompasses luxurious details such as sunray brushed decoration, applied indexes and contrasting subdials. 

The story continues with the case and bracelet. Each surface is supremely smooth and the bezel is ceramic, a detail normally found on costlier watches. Furthermore, the bracelet is incredibly flexible, delivering peerless levels of wearer comfort. 

Purchasers of this modestly priced watch are indulged with an impressive blend of merit and value. Indeed, based on its array of attributes, the Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019 is a fitting tribute to a remarkable man and, in my opinion, the greatest driver of all time.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Ayrton Senna Special Edition 2019
  • Reference: CAZ2017.BA0647
    Case: Stainless steel; diameter 44mm; water resistance 20ATM (200m); sapphire crystal to the front and solid caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph
  • Movement: Calibre 16; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 42 hours
  • Bracelet: Stainless-steel bracelet with folding clasp, including double safety feature and driving extension.
  • Price: £2,650 (RRP as at 7.4.2020)

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