TAG Heuer, it’s time to bring back the original Formula One.
I love your vintage chronographs as much as the next guy. Okay, maybe not enough to write 9,500 words on the vintage Heuer Carrera (*cough* Ben *cough*; though I did help edit it!). But the Heuer Carrera Reference Points ends in 1985, when TAG (short for Techniques d’Avant Garde) acquired the struggling watchmaker. Where that story stops is where the Formula One fun begins.
As Ben wrote, after the TAG acquisition, “along came the TAG Heuer Formula One, and all the great TAG Heuers I remember from my childhood.” In 1986, TAG Heuer introduced the first Formula One. They had bright colors, plastic bezels (and steel core cases), rubber straps, and quartz movements. The first year was relatively tame, with the line made up of reds, blacks, and greens. But by 1988, things were certifiably kooky – cases and bezels came in powder blue, pink, bright yellow, and more. It was basically none of the things the vintage Carrera was, but that’s what made it so good, so fun, and so different.
“The Formula One has the distinction of being the first collection that was released under TAG Heuer ownership,” Heuer fanatic and proprietor of On The Dash Jeff Stein told me, though development would’ve begun before the TAG acquisition. By 1986, Heuer already had more connections to motorsports than the Andretti family, so the acquisition by TAG, which produced parts for Formula One cars, merely sealed the deal for a “Formula One” watch.
I’m too young for the TAG Heuer Formula One to have been a part of my childhood – TAG only produced it from 1986 through 1990, and my formative years in the ’90s were filled mostly with Mario Kart and Beanie Babies instead. But even I know: There’s a place for a plastic Formula One in the modern watch world.
Obviously, we have to mention the mammoth-sized MoonSwatch in the room, especially with its one-year anniversary soon making its way around the sun. It’s fun, plastic, and all the things the Formula One could be (except available online).
“I’m not sure that an inexpensive, new version of the TAG Heuer Formula One will be received in the same way as the MoonSwatch,” Stein said, “but it would be fun to walk into the local TAG Heuer Boutique and see a display case full of these colorful, fun watches.”
But there’s also the nostalgia factor. For many in this era, the F1 was an entry point into watches. You’re telling me that Ben Clymer or any other child of the ’80s is going to stroll by a TAG Heuer boutique, see a new plastic Formula One in the window and not buy three of them? I’ll take the over.
One thing TAG Heuer already does well is not take itself so damn seriously, something the watch industry could use more of. I weirdly loved the Mario Kart Tourbillion – the perfect wink to TAG Heuer’s racing history while acknowledging that it’s all kind of silly too. More of that, please.
And I don’t even have a problem with the modern TAG Heuer Formula One. They’re bright, they’re colorful. But sometimes in watches, we have our heads shoved so far up our collective crown tubes, we forget that an entry-level watch that costs $1,800 isn’t really entry-level at all.
That’s why a modern quartz, plastic TAG Heuer Formula One that costs a few hundred bucks would be so fun for TAG, and for enthusiasts new and old.