In its headquarters in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Design Department of TAG Heuer conceives avant-garde watches for tomorrow. The design of every watch starts with a sketch. A few considered lines capture several emotions. A design begins to evolve after producing numerous drawings. It is born of a desire to surpass what has gone before. TAG Heuer has a rich history of making contemporary sports watches, relevant for today and designed to last. In some cases, a classical design of yesteryear may provide inspiration for a particular component, such as the lugs. A successful design pays close attention to the smallest of details, enriching the overall ownership experience. Each TAG Heuer watch is imbued with cohesive styling, coupled with an array of additional attributes to deliver lasting enjoyment.
After creating several sketches, the designer’s ideas take shape using a state of the art computer-aided design system (CAD). Each element of the design, including the dial, bezel and various case components is subject to prolonged consideration. For example, a shorter lug may provide a superior ergonomic fit on the wearer’s wrist. Likewise, a crown must prove easy to adjust without impairing free movement of the wrist or rubbing against the owner’s skin. The case is always designed to engage with light, creating attractive pockets of brilliance and shade. TAG Heuer design watches for discerning individuals, paying close attention to the functionality of all components. Materials are selected for their tactile properties and wear-resistance. Quality begins at the design process and is built into every watch bearing the TAG Heuer logo.
Robust and Durable The role of the case is central to the watch. It provides a means of protecting the dial and movement from dust and moisture as well as harmful shocks. TAG Heuer makes many cases within its own facility, produced to exacting standards. A case starts life as a piece of metal. Lengths of flat metal are fed into a stamping machine. The rough case is punched from the metal sheet using colossal pressure, between 40 and 80 tonnes.
The metal is then tempered for 35 minutes at a temperature of 1080° C. Thereafter, the process is repeated with the case being stamped again, then tempered and so on, typically between 10 and 16 times. By adopting this approach, additional details can be introduced to the case with each successive stamping process.
The dial is the truly aesthetic of the watch. It has to convey information clearly while looking attractive. Making a dial is incredibly complicated, necessitating numerous production techniques. Dials are made from brass. However, before the metal can be used, it has to be heated to 750°C in order to make it soft. A continuous length of brass is fed into a stamping press and subject to immense pressure, sometimes as much as 400 tonnes. Feet are fitted to the underside of the dial, allowing it to be subsequently fixed to the movement. A pressing technique, using colossal force, is used to impart various patterns to the dial surface, enhancing its visual appearance. A series of holes are made in the dial surface, which serve a variety of uses. For example, a central hole allows the canon pinion to peep through the dial and connect with the hour and minute hands.
TAG Heuer produce watches incorporating a myriad of dial shades. The colours are applied using electroplating, a process which also protects the dial surface from ageing. While the main colour of the dial is achieved through electroplating, there is sometimes a need to apply other coloured details, such as TAG Heuer’s emblem.
Special paints are applied to the dial surface using a pad printing machine. A watchmaker is needed to ensure that just the right amount of paint is applied to the dial membrane. The paint is quick drying, preventing any applied text or motif from smudging. The cutting-edge machines employed by TAG Heuer can apply up to five different colours to the dial surface in quick succession.
Indexes, representing the hours, are applied to the dial surface by hand, providing depth to the display. Pins on the underside of the indexes pass through the holes drilled in the dial surface. A laser is used to join the indexes to the dial. A key attribute of any TAG Heuer watch is legibility even in dim light conditions. Super-LumiNova® is a pigment which exhibits a glow in darkness. This material is applied to the indexes and hands using a syringe. On completion, the dial is checked beneath ultraviolet light in order to ensure legibility even in total darkness. Once the dial is complete, it is placed in a sealed container and forwarded to the Assembly Department.
This ‘in-house’ movement begins life as a square plate of brass which is subsequently placed in a state of the art Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine. This machine does not use lubricant, making it less harmful to the environment. The CNC machine mills the brass using a series of tools. These tools mill holes and cut shapes to incredibly small tolerances, expressed in microns (1 micron = 0.001mm). The programming of such machines necessitates much expertise and time. However, the resultant components are made to a level of precision which surpasses any handcrafted techniques. Having been machined, the part becomes an intricately shaped disc of brass, termed a ‘main plate’. This acts as the chassis of the movement.
The same technique for making the main plate extends to making the ‘bridges’. These parts help to keep various wheels, pinions, pivots and other tiny components in place. Various movement components, including the main plate and bridges are then ‘finished’. These metal parts are then subject to an electroplating process, imparting a thin layer of nickel plate to each surface. Following electroplating, the movement is assembled. A high-tech machine adds rubies to the main plate and bridges prior to assembly. These rubies act as reservoirs for lubricant and are set in the optimal position. This automated process provides consistent results. TAG Heuer uses a cutting-edge system to ensure the precise quantity of lubricant is added.
The regulating organ is then added to the watch and the balance wheel begins to oscillate. The movement is tested in various positions in order to check that it delivers excellent Swiss precision. The heart of the watch has come to life and will subsequently be housed within the case of TAG Heuer timepiece.
The making of a watch is a matter of precision. Much time has already been expended making each component with meticulous care. In order to ensure the utmost quality, all TAG Heuer watches are assembled in a carefully controlled environment where the air is filtered.
The dial and movement are united by pushing the dial feet into the upper surface of the movement. A special automated, state of the art machine is used to position the hands on the movement pivot. This remarkable machine monitors the movement, ensuring the date change is performed precisely at midnight. Once in place, the hands should freely turn when the crown is rotated. At no stage should one hand impede the progress of another.
When the case enters the Assembly Department, it is meticulously checked. The dial and movement, together with the casing ring, are fitted to the inside of the case. Thereafter, the crown and stem are inserted and the movement is then secured with screws. A special screwdriver is used to attach the oscillating weight to the movement. The case back is then closed using a dedicated machine. Each case back is then engraved with its own identifying marks using a laser. The watch is now ready for its final test. Watchmakers use tools to manually affix straps or bracelets to the ‘watch head’. Once again, absolute concentration is needed to avoid scratching any parts and the clasp is checked to ensure it closes securely.
Within the confines of a laboratory, numerous tests take place to be able to deliver the best quality to you. A test watch is placed in a machine that simulates pressing the start/stop pusher 20,000 times and the reset pusher 10,000 times. The watch is then dismantled and the condition of each part is fully assessed.
TAG Heuer’s know-how in sport watches. In order to ensure that a watch is water resistant to a specified depth, it is placed in a pressurized vessel, immersed in water and subject to a defined pressure. A further test, using helium, also ensures there is no risk of water ingress.
The ‘Drop test’ replicates the watch falling and striking the ground with a force of 1000 – 5000G.
Link models are known for its integrated iconic bracelet. The bracelet is also checked for its robustness. A ‘Shaker Machine’ vibrates the bracelet in order to check that the pins connecting the links are secure and that the bracelet retains its impressive flexibility. After the bracelet has been tested on the machine, the individual links are checked for signs of premature wear.
Leather straps are placed in a ‘Pull and Twist’ machine. The name of the machine is very apt as it perfectly conveys the arduous treatment it metes out to the strap, stretching it in various ways.