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Introduction to the TAG Heuer Formula 1

A silver TAG Heuer watch with a black face and silver accents.

Almost every watch produced by TAG Heuer has ties to automobile racing, and the Formula 1 is no exception. The name alone tells a story.

Released in 1986, the Formula 1 was the first watch to bear the TAG Heuer name, following the acquisition of the Heuer brand by Techniques d’Avant Garde, or TAG. The moniker means even more when buyers realize that the only thing Heuer and TAG had in common at the time of the acquisition was Formula 1 racing.

The Formula 1 timepiece offers a luxury watch experience at a price point that is more approachable than other luxury watch competitors.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 History and Design

A single glance at the TAG Heuer Formula 1 reveals several telling details: a bezel reminiscent of tires, an uncluttered face and an elegance in simplicity.

The first generation of Formula 1 watches were designed by Eddy Burgener and had only two size options available: a 28mm model and a 34mm model. Bright-colored cases with matching straps defined this series of watches. A year after the 1986 release, TAG Heuer released a model of the Formula 1 with a stainless steel dial and leather strap.

In 1997, a second series of the Formula 1 released that dropped the basic model altogether and upgraded the chronograph mechanism. The design remained the same, but a different dial was used, with a minute scale on the outer edge and hour markers on the inner circle, giving it a more modern (at the time) look than the 1986 release.

Black TAG Heuer Oyster Perpetual Explorer watch face with white markings

In 2000, TAG Heuer discontinued the Formula 1 line because the simplistic design didn’t match their vision of a higher-end watch brand. However, the Formula 1 returned with a new look in 2004. This Formula 1 series featured a titanium carbide-coated steel bezel, steel number markers on the dial and triangular hands. It also boasted a 40mm case, much more in line with modern standards. By comparison, the original 28mm case feels tiny.

The modern lineup has a variety of sizes to fit any wrist size (including a new female-focused Formula 1 line) as well as Super-LumiNova indexes to make the face easy to read at a glance. The Formula 1 is also water resistant up to 200 meters.

The Formula 1 was the first analog Heuer watch to be quartz only, and it remains so to this day. A mechanical version has never been released.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Value

The TAG Heuer Formula 1 is a luxury watch with a non-luxury price tag. While it still commands value, the purpose of the watch was never the boardroom—it was the racetrack. When you want to cast off formalities and wear something that’s both stylish and functional, the Formula 1 is where you turn. Several entries in the modern lineup are sleek and elegant enough to pair nicely with a suit or a casual shirt. The most affordable models of the Tag Heuer Formula 1 retail for $1,000, including some Formula 1 models with a chronograph.

There are a few special editions of note:

  • The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Manchester United Special Edition features a face that bears the colors of the team and retails for $1,550.
  • The TAG Heuer Formula 1 with an automatic chronograph is more expensive, ranging from $2,850 to $3,200.
  • The most valuable model of the watch is the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Special Edition. Only 500 pieces were produced, with a release date of August 6, 2020. It fetches a price of $6,150 with red-tipped white hands, a thin bezel and a stainless steel dial that reflects the iconic design of the Formula 1.
Silver TAG Heuer watch with black face and silver markings

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Care and Maintenance

With any sport-focused watch, dirt and grime will build up over time. A stainless steel modelcan be cleaned easily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and warm, soapy water. When you finish cleaning the watch, dry it with a soft cloth.

If you have a rubber or nylon strap, they only require a rinse due to their water resistance. If the strap is dirty, it can also be cleaned with a soft brush. If you have a leather strap, avoid getting it wet as the leather is vulnerable to moisture damage.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut Watch

Watchmaker’s Perspective

When the TAG Heuer Formula 1 was released in 1986, the watchmaking industry was going through a major transformation. In the 1970s and 1980s, the invention of the electronic quartz watches very quickly made the mechanical watch functionally obsolete. Quartz watches were more precise, durable and affordable. Many watchmaking companies fought to hold on to their mechanical expertise, and many lost that battle and went bankrupt.

At the same time, some watchmaking companies decided to work in both the world of mechanical and electronic watches. TAG Heuer was one of these companies, and their Formula 1 was the first quartz watch from the brand. At the time, there was significant debate over the future of mechanical watches. Who would ever pay more for a type of watch that was deficient in so many ways? With this question going through consumers' minds, the Swiss watchmaking industry was able to change the perception of mechanical watches to one of luxury. All of a sudden, a mechanical wristwatch was considered special in ways that a quartz watch could not be. Today, quartz and mechanical watches live together in their own distinct market segments. TAG Heuer has done an excellent job of working in both categories, as their very successful TAG Heuer Formula 1 proves.

Silver TAG Heuer watch with black face and silver markings