RISING UP
World of Watches|Summer 2021
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer collection gets a major refresh for 2021, with ergonomic performance top of mind. With put the watches through their paces while creating a visual impression of what they represent
ASHOK SOMAN

When we wrote in issue #59, just a few short months ago, that TAG Heuer should spare a little love for its dive watch collection, the Aquaracer, we really had no idea that a suitable reply would be coming from the manufacture quite so soon. Here is what I wrote in that story: “Taking note of the winds of change that are swirling around watchmaking once more, we hope that the powers-that-be at the brand and LVMH consider the powerful allure of the dive watch, and seize the opportunity with what is already a pretty good model. It could be great.” Ask and ye shall receive, apparently. Well played TAG Heuer.

Before I let my enthusiasm for the Aquaracer get the better of me, a few confessions are in order. I wrote an extensive story on the family of watches known as the Aquaracer in 2018 for the Indonesia edition of WOW, and I followed up with the aforementioned piece last year. Part of the reason for this is that one of my first proper watches was a TAG Heuer 2000 Series chronograph, featuring an early appearance of the full colour version of the TAG Heuer logo on the dial. It is only one of several dive watches that I own, or have owned. While my current tastes go in quite a different direction, the dive watch is a must-have for most people who love watches. In this case, I am still in the “most people,” camp. The overall popularity of the dive watch is a narrative thread woven into a number of parts of this story, which is likely the most personal of cover stories we have done in the last five years. The TAG Heuer Aquaracer is the contemporary successor to the aforementioned 2000 Series, after all.

Admissions of bias aside, I will also assert that dive watches are far more than useful tools for professional and amateur divers. We certainly put the watches through full immersion testing while shooting the images you see here, and no harm came to any of the Aquaracers. Even such superficial challenges are far from the reality that these watches will face on the wrists of the enthusiasts and collectors. Amateur divers may well put these watches through their paces, but even they will not touch the depths that the 300m water-resistance promises.

That said, we are getting ahead of ourselves here, because you may be surprised by TAG Heuer’s focus on the dive watch this year. Yes, despite our exhortations and my own advocacy, TAG Heuer is not strongly associated with water sports. For that reason, we will begin this story with a couple of old Heuer models called Seafarers and Mareographs. These watches offered the very specialized tidal indications function, and were in the Heuer range from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The story goes that Jack Heuer himself – then just 15 – created the first tidal indication watches for the Heuer manufacture. In his biography, he notes that he collaborated with his high school physics teacher to calculate the wheels and cogs needed to show the times of the tides at a specific location. It will turn out that on the waves or below them, the story of TAG Heuer timekeepers might be titled the Life Aquatic with Jack Heuer.

To return to the Aquaracer for a moment, I can confirm that over the years, the various versions of this model have always got the job done beneath the waves, in such a way that you never need to think about the watch. My wife has taken one version, the quartz model from 2018, diving and it survived her… As for legibility, I cannot speak to how it performs in the no-light conditions beneath the waves, but in low-light scenarios the luminosity is perfectly acceptable. It also will not startle anyone in a cinema, which is a very real issue with some luminescent watches. The story will return to professional standards briefly, but for now, the history lesson continues.

RACING THE WAVES

As mentioned briefly in the introduction, the Aquaracer is certainly not TAG Heuer’s first dive watch. Not for nothing but the Swiss Heuer watch firm patented its first water-resistant case in 1895 – a pocket watch no less. It is not the first such case in watchmaking, and there is a big difference between making any sort of dive watch and a watch that is merely water-resistant, but this 19th century patent shows that engineering excellence has been the order of the day from early on at TAG Heuer.

The contemporary collection got started under this name in 2004, as the TAG Heuer 2000 Aquaracer, which was both the first appearance of the Aquaracer name, and the last hurrah for the 2000 Series. From the next year, Aquaracer watches no longer carried the 2000 moniker. It was this earlier collection though that heralded TAG Heuer’s entry into the undersea realm, so it is worth a short look before we turn to the Aquaracer in particular.

The 1980s were not the best of times for the Swiss watch industry, as many of you will no doubt know. The entire trade had to justify its existence, now that costefficient and cutting-edge quartz technology had delivered precise timekeepers to, well, everyone. The Heuer watchmaking firm (it had yet to get its TAG, as it were) had a novel solution, pushed reportedly by the legendary Jack Heuer himself. Basically, in the 1970s, Jack discovered a significant gap in the market – reliable timekeepers, at a reasonable price, for aquatic activities.

Thus, just as the 1970s closed out, was born the Heuer Diver Professional, also known as the 1000 Series. Although mostly powered by quartz movements, there were automatic and complicated versions too, such as the peerless Autavia Diver 100 chronograph in the early 1980s, but we digress. The point here is that Heuer was a pioneer in bringing the dive watch to more wrists than ever before, and it did so by taking advantage of quartz technology. In a way, the company was demonstrating that it would not buckle under pressure (and thus living up to its moniker in the 21st century).

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