A short history of the Formula 1, the watch that kicked Heuer back into life

    Inspired by... Swatch, powered by quartz, this is still TAG Heuer's best value option

    Here's something some people might not know about the TAG Heuer Formula 1: it owes its existence to... Swatch. Heuer was founded in 1860 in Saint-Imier by Edouard Heuer and in 1985, a Luxembourg-based holding company called Techniques d'Avant Garde (TAG) incorporated the brand and changed the name to TAG Heuer. The Formula 1, released in 1986, is a rather important piece in the history of TAG Heuer because it was the first watch ever created by the company following the acquisition of Heuer by TAG.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, the entire Swiss watch industry was very nearly wiped out by the advent of quartz watches in what it is commonly referred to as the 'quartz crisis'. Seiko kick-started the crisis in 1969 by releasing the Astron, the world's first quartz watch, and Swiss brands spent the next twenty years trying to survive because they were still mostly using mechanical movements and their first quartz pieces were still too expensive.

    Quartz watches were essentially much cheaper, more reliable and more accurate and in 1983, when the Swiss watch industry was minutes away from dying, two major Swiss companies merged together and developed a new watch called Swatch. A funky, colourful quartz watch made from plastic that was so cheap it was basically disposable.

    It worked, Swatch breathed some life back into the industry and Swiss watch makers gradually gained traction and that's when TAG Heuer released the Formula 1 as a sort of slightly upmarket alternative inspired by the Swatch watch.


    The first Formula 1 was an analogue, quartz-only watch available in several bright coloured variants, and powered by low-cost quartz movements.

    Heuer created the Autavia (AUTomotive+AVIAtion), they named the Carrera after the Carrera Panamericana, they named the Monaco after the Monaco Grand Prix. In the 1970s, Heuer was working with Williams F1 and then McLaren f1. They funded the development of the Porsche 1.5-litre turbo engine that powered the McLaren-TAG cars in the 1984 and 1985. They wanted to carry on with their automotive connection and tradition, and let's be honest they also wanted to make a point, which is why they called their new watch the FORMULA 1.

    TAG Heuer sold over 3 million units from 1986 until 2000 across two generations and then, for some reason, they decided to discontinue it. Then they probably realized that was a senseless move and introduced the third generation in 2004.

    In 2010, TAG Heuer decided to up the ante with their flagship Formula 1 watch by giving it a more mature design by using stainless steel and also introducing upgraded chronograph and GMT functions. Using the Gulf livery for the Formula 1 was the next natural step.

    In 1971, Heuer and Gulf made history by appearing together in the film Le Mans where Steve McQueen's character, Michael Delaney, wore a Heuer Monaco while racing for a Gulf team.

    Drivetribe is currently holding a competition (one of many, we hope), giving you the chance to win a Tag Heuer Formula 1 Gulf Chronograph Gulf, worth £1,350. Case size is 43 mm, 200 mt water resistance and underneath the Gulf-liveried dial you'll find a quartz chronograph movement. Click here to enter the competition. UK residents aged 18+ only. See entry page for terms, purchase necessary, ends 23:59 GMT 17/12/20.

    What is your favourite TAG Heuer watch? Feel free to share in the comments

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    Comments (29)

    • Second watch to the collection ten years ago, still turning heads

        10 days ago
      • Love it and I have the same one.

          3 days ago
      • Now honestly, people turn their heads to admire your watch?

        I find that hard to believe, as people nowadays don’t wear watches anymore, and when they do wear one, it’s a smartwatch.

        Most people wouldn’t know if your watch is a TAG or Casio...

        Read more
          1 day ago
    • I fell for TAG watches before these SWATCH TAG's came to be. These are terrible.

        1 day ago
    • Wow! I didn't know the plucky little Swatch was so important!

        10 days ago
      • crazy to believe but yes, it more or less single-handedly saved the Swiss watch industry

          10 days ago
      • Swatch is almost a monopoly on Swiss watches. Hamilton, Tissot, Logines, Omega, Breguet... all Swatch.

        (TAG Heuer is not)

          8 days ago
    • #watches

        11 days ago

        9 days ago


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