No Time Like The Present - Four TAG Heuer watches for this Christmas
The season of giving, and therefore the season of buying, is now upon us and hopefully there is a lucky friend or loved one who will be unwrapping a present on Christmas Day. I thought it fitting to go through the major brands and pick out four of my favorite watches that I think would make excellent gifts this Christmas. Rather than restricting my choices by price, I instead went with four categories: Ladies, Sports, Dress and an honorary mention. I've approached this from the perspective of someone looking to buy a gift so whilst some of my points might seem elementary to watch fans, it might make the world of difference to someone buying a watch for the first time.
Before you do go out and buy a watch I would recommend reading a guide I wrote last year on how to get a great price on a new watch. It's not guaranteed to work and of course the more luxurious and prestige the brand in question the less likely they are to give you a good deal but if you don't try then you certainly won't get anything. Something that I believe to be crucial when buying a new watch is that you must never buy online. Having worked in retail over many Christmases I can understand the trauma that can occur during a weekend trip to the mall with screaming children (a few adults usually as well) blocking every store entrance but the peace of mind that comes from a purchasing from a physical shop is worth far more than a chance taken on a dodgy discount online retailer. Some retailers like TAG Heuer and Longines do offer online stores that you can purchase their watches from if you really have an aversion to Christmas music, large crowds and exhausted sales assistants.
Over the past year I have criticized TAG Heuer for what I believe to be poor short term decisions that will at some point come back to haunt them in the future, namely the cancelling of the CH80 movement and the TAG Heuer Connected Watch. Despite my grievances I have with the upper level of management I still believe that TAG make reliable, good value timepieces which can make great gifts for Christmas. The display boxes that come with TAG watches usually are a dark grey/black leatherette that will display any watch well but it won't look as nice as the wood lacquer of the Longines Master Collection box or the red leather of Omega (A former colleague has informed that Omega watches now come in wood box that used to reserved only for their sold gold and limited edition pieces. Three of my following selections come on a stainless steel bracelet with lugs connected with pin and barrel. Please don't try and adjust the watches at home no matter how good your intentions are in seeing your loved one wear it on Christmas day. Leave it at full size (which makes returning an unliked gift a lot easier as well) and visit your jeweler at your convenience to have it altered by someone who knows what they are doing.
Ladies : TAG Heuer Ladies Aquaracer 27mm, Ref. WAY1413.BA0920
The Aquaracer has been a key part of the TAG Heuer range for a number of years now and this redesigned version from 2014 is the most superior to date. The case has been polished to a more pleasing shape with soft curved lugs finished with a brush polish which will age better than the previous high polish cases in my opinion. I doubt that any watches go anywhere close to their pressure depth rating but this watch is suitable to wear down to 300ft/1000m so it can be worn without worry all day, every day without the need to remove it. This newer model has the "H Link" bracelet that was used the TAG Heuer Grand Carrera family and is a great improvement on the original, especially in the security and ease-of-use with the clasp. It is called the "H Link" bracelet because of the shape that the alternating matte and polish link sections creation.
The mother-of-pearl dial combined with the eleven diamond dot hour markers add a touch of feminine elegance to the watch separating it from simply being a men's watch made smaller; there are alternative dials in silver and anthracite (dark grey) without diamond markers if a more utilitarian look is desired. I will say that depending on the intended recipient, it is worth thinking about legibility as the date can be hard to read when two digits have to share the small space especially in the twenties. The screw-down crown which ensues the water resistance can also be tricky to unscrew if you have large fingers or long nails so take that into account when buying. Current price: $2050 plus tax.
Sports : Aquaracer Calibre 5 300m, Ref. WAY2112.BA0928
Like the ladies piece above, this Men's Aquaracer is new from 2014 and comes in a variety of different of different dial options but I've chosen the blue "sunray" option as my favorite (Black and Anthracite are also available). This watch has an automatic Calibre 5 movement with an expected power reserve of around 38 hours. To anyone reading this who isn't a watch geek like I, the "5" in Calibre 5 is just a number that acts as a reference number for the movement on the dial. A Calibre 5 movement is not twice as good as a Calibre 2.5 and nor is it half as good as a Calibre 10. This watch has a stylish brushed finish to the case which would perfectly compliment a NATO or vintage style leather strap is an alternative look was desired.
This newer model has hand applied hour markers and a protruding TAG Heuer logo which adds depth to the dial, especially when combined with the horizontal engraved lines that run across it. There is a slightly less expensive quartz option available but this does not have the sunray effect on the dial and the blue dial is not available. When I sold these watches I found the 40.5mm case size a good fit for most men's wrists so I wouldn't worry about it looking too large. This watch doesn't have a sapphire crystal caseback to view the automatic movement which whilst disappointing is understable as by including one the price would have been increased by a few hundred dollars more. Current price plus tax: $2150
Dress : Carrera Calibre 5 ,Ref. WAR211A.BA0782
Historically TAG Heuer is a sports watch manufacturer so finding a true "dress" watch from their current catalogue is difficult, but not impossible. The Carrera Calibre 5 Date has elements of both a sports watch and a dress watch with the second counter track running around the dial being very reminiscent of the Carrera chronographs. It has the same automatic movement as the Aquaracer but does have a sapphire crystal back to view this rather than a solid stainless steel case back. The movement does have some nice decoration on it for the price and if this is the first "proper" watch that your loved one will be getting it will certainly impress. The design is kept very simple with a gloss black dial with silver rectangular hour markers.
The polished straight lugs and bezel are nice touches that catch the light nicely and contrast nicely against the brushed case sides and bracelet. Water resistance is listed at 100 metres but I wouldn't advise anything other than a gentle bath or hot tub at best. Some might say I'm being overly cautious (and I am) but I've been on the receiving end of too many disgruntled customers with condensation on the dial who went swimming with their watches to be anything other than wary. Current price plus tax: $2600
Honorary Mention: Monaco Calibre 11 "Heuer Edition", Ref. CAW2110.FC6356
The Monaco chronograph has remained a classic for over forty years with its unique square case and iconic design and this faithful re-edition of the original is perfect for any motor racing or Steve McQueen fanatic. There are a few points of difference between this limited edition and the standard TAG Heuer Monaco that are reason for the price difference. The standard Ref. CAW2111.FC6183 (What a mouthful!) has a brighter blue dial with TAG Heuer printed on it, plain steel hands, traditional crown placement at 3 o'clock and a slightly altered hour marker orientation. The Heuer edition has only "Heuer" printed on a darker blue matte dial referencing when the company was solely Heuer before they were purchased by the TAG group. The red highlights are removed from the chronograph subdials and placed on the minute track and hands but the most important change is the placement of the crown on the left hand side. This was how the watch was made back in 1969 as it by placing the crown at the 9 o'clock position it would ensure the water resistance of the square case. Technology has advanced now where there issue of water resistance is no longer a problem so this is just for the sake of in keeping with the original.
Whether or not these small details that pay homage to the original are worth the higher price is of course up to the buyer. Both this and the standard Monaco have a sapphire crystal case to view the movement but this re-edition comes with a perforated black alligator strap on a deployment buckle. If you're buying for someone with very large or very small wrists I would make sure to keep the receipt hand just in case as I have seen some larger and very small men/women struggle to adjust the strap to fit them. I will say that it would be best to look sooner rather than later for this piece as I can't say I've ever seen one in a TAG stockists whilst I've been out and about. Current price plus tax: $5900.