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Zenith reaches back to 1969 once again with its latest Revival debut, the Chronomaster Revival A385, a near-exact 37mm reproduction of the original El Primero chronograph from 1969.

The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385.

As one of very first automatic chronographs, and the very first operating at a high frequency of 36,000 vph, Zenith’s A385 debuted alongside the Zenith A384 and A386. The A385 was notable for its smoked brown gradient pattern, which Zenith revives on this new release.

To accurately echo the original, Zenith says it conducted a “reverse engineering” of the 1969 watch to create the new model. As a result, each part of the A385’s 37mm tonneau-shaped stainless-steel case (even its pump-style pushers) mimics the original. The only differences here are the domed sapphire crystal, which replaces an acrylic version, and a clear sapphire back that replaces instead the original’s closed solid steel caseback.

Marketing materials for the 1969-1970 Zenith El Primeo launches.

The clear back offers a view of the newer El Primero caliber, Zenith’s 400 chronograph movement with column-wheel, that powers the watch.

Smoking Dial

But it’s the dial here that draws eyes, and Zenith has nailed the attractive brown gradient dial, which notably features a vignette effect that blackens towards the edges. This colorful slight of hand appears to deepen the dial, mimicking the light-bending effect of a domed crystal, but without the dome.

To further deepen the nostalgia, Zenith adds the same red chronograph central second hand and silvery-white chronograph counters found on the original model.

Zenith offers the Chronomaster Revival A385 in two options. One is equipped with a steel “ladder” bracelet, a modern remake of the Gay Frères bracelets Zenith utilized on those original models. The second option is a light brown calf leather strap that will develop a patina over time.The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385 is available at Zenith Boutiques and online shop, as well as at authorized retailers. 

Price: $7,900 (leather strap) and 8,400 CHF (approximately $9,500) for steel bracelet model.

 

Specifications: Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385

Reference: 03.A384.400/385.M385 (steel bracelet), Reference: 03.A384.400/385.C855 (calf leather strap)

Case: 37mm steel with sapphire back, 50 meters water resistance.

Movement: El Primero 400 automatic column-wheel chronograph with 36,000 Vph (5 Hz), power-reserve of 50 hours.

Functions: Hours and minutes in the center, small seconds at 9 o’clock. Chronograph: Central chronograph hand, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock. Tachometric scale. Date indication at 4:30.

Dial: Smoked brown gradient dial with white-colored counters. Rhodium-plated, faceted hour markers and hands, coated with beige Super-LumiNova.

Bracelet: “Ladder” bracelet with stainless steel double folding clasp, or light brown calf leather strap with protective rubber lining and a stainless-steel pin buckle.

Price: $7,900 (leather strap) and 8,400 CHF (approximately $9,500) for steel bracelet model.

 

By Laurent Martinez

For most collectors, there’s always one coveted piece that stands above the rest—the so-called grail, if you will. And in the world of vintage watches, most would agree that the Patek Philippe Reference 2499 holds that honor.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest timepieces designed by the renowned Swiss watchmaker, Reference 2499, a manual-winding Perpetual Calendar Chronograph with Moonphase produced in very low quantities, is the quintessential Patek.

When a Patek Philippe ref. 2499, comes to the auction block, the vintage watch world pays attention.

Few have had the privilege to see a Reference 2499 in real life, let alone touch one. Watch experts recognize this very special timepiece as one that perfectly combines incredible exterior design with a masterful internal movement.

Given the rarity and collective fascination with the Patek Philippe ref. 2499, when one comes up to the auction block, the vintage watch world pays attention. Collectors won’t want to miss the chance to see it, study it, and most importantly, share a room with other fellow enthusiasts whilst witnessing the inevitable bidding battle that will ensue to claim this watch as his or her own.  

Sotheby’s New York on December 15th will be hosting a holiday season watch auction with a magnificent example of the revered Patek Philippe Reference 2499 as the star of the event.

Few were made

Succeeding Reference 1518 and preceding Reference 3970, Patek Philippe produced Reference 2499 from 1950 until 1985. Despite only 349 pieces ever made, there are four distinct series of the ref. 2499 to note.

The first series was in production from 1950 until the mid-1950s and features square chronograph pushers, applied Arabic numerals, and a tachymeter scale on the dial. There are less than four-dozen of these ref. 2499 watches in existence. The second series, manufactured from 1955 until 1966, include round chronograph pushers, applied baton or Arabic numerals, and a tachymeter scale on the dial.

Next in line was the third series, made from 1960 until 1978, with round chronograph pushers, applied baton indexes, and no tachymeter scale on the dial.

Finally, the fourth and last series of the Reference 2499 is dated from 1978 to 1985 (with later examples taking on the reference 2499/100) and the watches have round chronograph pushers, applied baton numerals, no tachymeter scale, and sapphire crystals shielding the dials.

Fourth series star

The Patek Philippe Reference 2499/100 coming up for sale on December 15 in New York at Sotheby’s belongs to the fourth series family. And it is simply a magnificent piece manufactured in 1981. While the creamy dial is in very good condition it is not perfect.

A closer look at the dial reveals the coveted “Tiffany” branding, which makes this example of the Reference 2499 even more exceptional.

The dial does have some discoloration owing to the humid conditions of the Southern United States, where its owner resides. The customary applied gold batons mark out the hours while the three subsidiary dials for minutes, date/moonphase, and running seconds sit at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, respectively. The double windows displaying the day and month are placed at 12 o’clock while the gold hands at the center are in the “Dauphine” style.

Tiffany branding

A closer look at the dial reveals the coveted “Tiffany” branding, which makes this example of the Reference 2499 even more exceptional and rare. Sotheby’s consulted with Patek Philippe to see how many Tiffany marked examples were made but there are no records in-house.

The winding crown is furnished with the Patek Philippe logo and of course, the chronograph pushers are round in shape. The interior of the yellow gold case back is engraved with Patek Philippe Co – Genève – Swiss – 2499 – 100 – 2.779.174.” Housed inside the yellow gold case is the manual-winding Caliber 13-130, featuring 23 jewels and numbered 869.425. Potential bidders will be happy to know that the watch keeps very good time.

Housed inside the yellow gold case is the manual-winding Caliber 13-130, featuring 23 jewels and numbered 869.425.

This Patek 2499 is fitted with a brown lizard Patek Philippe strap with a gold Patek Philippe buckle. The width in between the lugs is 20mm and 14mm at the buckle end. The interior of the buckle is engraved with “To AIL – Love – BKL – 7-5-96” and both the case and buckle include all the required poinçons or hallmarks. 

Under the sofa 

The watch was first appraised 20 years ago but it was lost for some time inside the estate. After a long period of searching, this superb Patek Philippe 2499 was finally found inside the house, underneath the sofa. No one knows quite how long it had been lying there, hidden from the world.

As a one-owner Patek Philippe Reference 2499, this is the first time this watch comes to auction. The estimated price is between $500,000 and $800,000, even though I think it is a conservative figure.

For any inquiries about the watch, please contact Richard Lopez, SVP, Senior Specialist, and Head of Online Sales at Sotheby’s at [ Richard.Lopez@sothebys.com ]

The Patek Philippe Reference 2499/100 will draw bids at the December 15 Sotheby’s auction in New York.

Wishing you a safe, happy, and joyful season.

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com

Bell & Ross expands the raw sportiness of its Vintage collection this week as it adds the BR V3-94 Black Steel, a black-dialed, steel-cased chronograph measuring 43mm in diameter, which is a two-millimeter boost in case diameter for the popular Vintage series’ Black Steel edition.

The new Bell & Ross Vintage BR V3-94.

While the case size matches that of Vintage V3-94 models within the existing Bell & Ross Renault series, here the watch boasts a steel bezel set with a cleaner black aluminum 60-minute scale and without the Renault-yellow flange and accents.

The new case’s solid strap/bracelet attachment offers buyers a new option with its subtle cushion shape, marginally bolder than the classically round case of the 41mm Vintage BR V2-94 Black Steel.  

Of course, with more room on the dial, Bell & Ross moves from the smaller model’s two-register chronograph dial to a more contemporary three-subdial chronograph. Inside you’ll still find the watchmaker’s Caliber BR-CAL.301, an enhanced ETA-based chronograph movement, which Bell & Ross makes visible through a sapphire caseback. White numerals and indexes contrast nicely with the black dial.

Bell & Ross will offer the new BR V3-94 with a polished and satin-finished steel bracelet ($4,600) or with a black leather strap ($4,300).

 

Specifications: Bell & Ross Vintage BR V3-94

(Ref: BRV394-BL-ST/SST)

Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.301, and EA-based automatic caliber

Case: 43 mm satin-polished steel, bi-directional rotating steel bezel with anodized black aluminum ring and 60-minute scale. Screw-down crown, sapphire case back, curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, water-resistance to 100 meters.

Dial: Matte black, numerals and indexes coated in SuperLuminova, metal skeletonized SuperLuminova-filled hour and minute hands. Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock and date. Chronograph: 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, central chronograph seconds, tachymeter scale on the flange.

Strap: Black calfskin or satin-polished steel with folding satin-polished steel buckle.

 

Alpina revives the hunter-style flip-open caseback with its new limited edition Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic. The new model, which features a vintage-style dial and a new case, includes the hunter design, in part to reference an earlier Startimer Pilot watch from 2015 that also featured the retro style.

The new Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic.

This latest addition to the pilot series is built with a 44 mm steel case that frames a matte black dial displaying luminescent beige hour, minute and 24-hour markers that nicely replicate a typical shade used on pilot watches starting in the 1930s and 1940s.

Additional vintage details include the triangular Alpina logo on the dial, which utilizes the original font used by Alpina during the peak of the manufacturer’s mid-century pilot watch production. The logo, which differs from the logo Alpina places on its contemporary pilot models, also serves a practical purpose by separating the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock markers. A colorful red counterbalance on the seconds hand accents the all-business dial, which includes a date indicator.

Alpina decorates the outside of the revived hunter caseback with a fine perlage pattern. When clicked open by pressing the button at 4 o’clock, the back exposes a Sellita-based AL-525 automatic movement sporting a darkened rotor, and otherwise basic finishing.

The crown and the strap also echo the vintage pilot design. The former is large and grooved while the latter is brown and calfskin, accented with beige topstitching.

With this launch, Alpina continues its support of the National Park Foundation as an official partner. For every Startimer Pilot Automatic 40mm purchased through the brand’s U.S. website, Alpina will donate $100 to the parks.

Limited to 1,883 pieces, the new Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic is priced at $1,295.

 

By James Henderson

Mention watches and traditional watchmaking, and you’d be forgiven for thinking of Switzerland, Germany or even Japan. But France, and more specifically Besançon, has perhaps one of the strongest histories of traditional watchmaking in the world. And when you think of French watches, the one brand that stands out above all others is Lip.

The view in Besançon, the center of French watchmaking.

Lip is indelibly linked to the French psyche much like Timex has been to those of us who grew up in the United States. 

Lip has become something of a cult brand, even in the U.S. And for good reason. The Lip Mach 2000 is something of an anomaly among watch fans. If we are honest about it, in its current format it is essentially a quartz chronograph, and Lip has made few cosmetic changes to it.

The Lip Mach 2000

More than a watch

But this is a watch that demonstrates that a watch is far more than the sum of its parts.  Think I’m kidding?

While in France I received a Facebook message from a fellow watch journalist stateside asking me to pick one up while I was there and bring it back for him.  There are certain watches out there that hit visceral nerves, and for me Lip has a few models that speak to me on levels I can’t really quantify. They are emotional as much as pragmatic.  Lip, at its very heart, is as much a feeling as it is a brand.

Lip is well known throughout the Francophone world, and famous with hard-core watch and design fans ache for the Mach 2000, as well as the now iconic Nautic Ski.

The Lip Nautic Ski

And the Nautic Ski is enjoying a best “second life” ever, with the return of smaller watches on the radar of most watch fans. When I visited Lip four years ago, the brand had been living sort of a diluted life, really treated by the (then) owners as only a brand label for watches and not the watch brand that Lip truly is.

Philippe and Pierre-Alain Bérard

Enter the Berards

At the time of my visit, the Berard family was producing Lip under a license, but had not yet fully taken formal control.
The Berards, Philippe and his son Pierre-Alain, have now taken full ownership of Lip ­– and have reinvigorated it.  I am not here to criticize the previous owners.  I am, however, here to applaud the Berards, and the entire team at Lip.

How do you manage a legend?  Curious to relate, Lip stirs a lot of emotions in not only watch fans, but in the French consciousness.  But prior to the Berard’s, that emotional connection was more of a sense of nostalgia.  But have no doubts as to how serious they are taking their stewardship of Lip. 

The latest Lip release, for example, underscores their commitment with a reissue of the Rallye Chronograph.  Recently only available as a quartz piece, this new limited edition is much closer to the original with an automatic movement.

The new Lip Rallye Chronograph

The watch was announced recently as a pre-order item, and by all accounts it has been a pretty hot item.

The energy

In the years before the Berards, Lip was really not what it once was, or even what it could be.  Since the Berards? I hate hyperbole, but walking around the streets of Besançon, Paris, and the offices and workshop at Lip, I really felt a new sense of energy and the passion.  I really felt why Lip  connects on the level that it does with fans and the public at large.

It would be easy to do a Blancpain and “start from year zero,” but the team at Lip live in the real world, one where you don’t manufacture history. To that end, they have a rather unusual (in today’s watch world) department that handles vintage Lip questions, assessments, and if I understood correctly, possible restoration.

Inside the Lip Workshop.

And while it would be easy for the Berards to simply have bought the name and turn to a white label company for everything, it was very clear to me that Lip clearly represents something special to them, and I got that same feeling touring around the new facilities that they have installed for the watchmakers working on more complicated and vintage pieces.

Vintage Lip.

It is not enormous, but it is not insignificant either.  And I think what is encouraging about it to me is that it represents the first step forward.

While it would be easy for Lip recreate itself as a reborn pricey brand, which is something it is not and never was, Lip has held the line on pricing. In a world where brands both big and small jack-up their prices only to jettison their unwanted stock to the grey market where it is discounted down to the bare bones, Lip offers something novel – a great watch at a fair price.

Now I realize that everyone wants to go to Switzerland to visit the historic Maisons, and that’s fair enough. But if you are really a fan of watches, history and culture I urge you to get yourself to Besançon and soak up all of the history and charm that this wonderful city has to offer.

James Henderson pens the Tempus Fugit website, where this article first appeared. 

 

Bulova recently dug deep into its vast design vault and – with the assistance of collectors – emerged last week with the Accutron Legacy collection, twelve limited edition automatic watches that re-imagine eye-catching 1960s and 1970s Accutron designs.

The collection, available now online and in select stores with each design limited to 600 watches, all feature sapphire crystals, a Sellita-based automatic movement and are water resistant to 30 meters. All are priced at less than $1,500.

Most retain what are now unisex sizes, from 34mm to 38.5mm in diameter, and almost all are sold in both silver-tone steel and gold-tone steel cases. While several offer steel or gold-tone bracelets, most echo the era and come with croco-embossed or retro-style leather straps.

Rather than display all the new Accutron Legacy models, here is an edited selection of our favorites.

This new Accutron 505, based a 1965 original by the same name, features a 33mm case and is offered in gold-tone ($1,450) and silver-tone steel ($1,390).

 

This new 38mm Legacy model echoes the 21343-9W from 1971 and features a silver-tone octagonal-like dial design with applied faceted hour markers.

 

With an asymmetrical case and crown placement at 4 o’clock, this Accutron Legacy collection luxury watch is based on 1960s “521” model. $1,450 in gold-tone.

 

This new 34mm model references the “203” from the 1960s. $1,450.

 

Based on the “412” from the original 1960’s collection, this new model is 34mm in diameter. $1,450.

 

Side view of the new 412 Accutron Legacy model, measuring 12.5mm thick.

 

The “R.R.-O”, first launched in 1970, has been reimagined as part of the Legacy collection. $1,290.

 

The new 34mm Accutron 565, based on the 1965 original. A unique cross-hatching detail was added to the already visually distinctive asymmetrical case. $1,390.

 

The backof the new 565, showing the Sellita-based automatic movement inside.
This Accutron limited edition Legacy collection timepiece reimagines a watch from 1960, the Date and Day Q. $1,390.

 

This Legacy Accutron takes the original “261” first launched in 1971, and updates it with an automatic movement and a 38.5mm case. $1,390.

 

Grand Seiko continues its yearlong celebration of the first Grand Seiko collection it debuted six decades ago with a new Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition powered by automatic Caliber 9S65, the impressive technical upgrade of the Caliber 9S55.

Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition

The dial and layout of the steel-cased watch echoes the 60th anniversary models presented earlier this year, with their blue dials and historically referenced hands and markers. Here, however, Grand Seiko adds a standard-beat automatic model to the anniversary lineup (the previously announced example features a Hi-Beat 36000 caliber).

Caliber 9S65 beats at a more traditional 28,800 bph and delivers a power reserve of 72 hours and a precision rate of +5 to –3 seconds a day.

Oxidation blue

The automatic caliber here is also marked on its visible rotor with a special shimmering blue color, created using an oxidation process that both echoes the blue dial and is meant to mirror light seen in the morning through the windows of the new Grand Seiko’s Shizukuishi and Shinshu studios.

The Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi.

Grand Seiko has applied the blue hue to the titanium sections of the oscillating weight, adding anniversary text and date and the Grand Seiko logo. All of this, framed in a red ring (to recall the “red of the morning sun”) is visible through the watch’s sapphire crystal caseback.

Caliber 9S65. Grand Seiko has significantly enhanced the basic performance of this caliber, and has also redesigned the way in which the oscillating weight winds the mainspring.

This new Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition watch is offered as limited edition of 2,500. Price: $5,200.

Specifications: Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition (SBGR321)

Movement: Caliber 9S65, 28,800 vibrations per hour (8 beats per second) Accuracy (mean daily rate): +5 to –3 seconds per day. Power reserve: 72 hours.

Dial: Blue with date and red-tipped seconds hand.

Case: 40mm by 13mm
steel case and bracelet, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, see-through screw case back, rotor with blue color and grand Seiko lion logo, screw-down crown. 
Water resistance to 100 meters. Magnetic resistance: 4,800 A/m

Bracelet: Three-fold steel clasp with push button release.

Price: $5,200 (Limited edition of 2,500)

 

Just ahead of the re-opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on August 29, the museum and Bulova team up to celebrate the museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020 with the Bulova MET150 Edition, a special edition Bulova watch.

The Bulova Met150. Sales of the $295 quartz-powered watch benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Bulova Met150 edition utilizes the historic Aerojet design silhouette from the 1960s, in 39mm stainless steel case with silver-tone crown and accents on a black dial. The quartz-powered watch features a three-hand calendar function, box mineral glass, and smooth grain black leather strap with red contrast stitching. Bulova places the Met logo is on the dial in the museum’s signature red hue.

The timepiece has launched digitally as part of The Met150 Edit on The Met Store website for Met members and will also be available at The Met Fifth Avenue once it reopens this Saturday, August 29. All proceeds from the sale of each watch ($295) will support the Museum’s collection, study, conservation and presentation of more than 5,000 years of art. Bulova, which since 2008 has operated as a separate brand within the Citizen Watch Corporation, was founded in New York City in 1875 and maintains its headquarters in the city.  

In 2020, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is recognizing the 150th anniversary of its founding with a dynamic range of exhibitions and programs. Highlights of the year include “Making The Met, 1870–2020” and displaying new gifts throughout the Museum. More information is available at metmuseum.org/150.

After ten years of research, Bulova’s Accutron brand this week unveils a new type of watch movement that relies on electrostatic energy to help power its hands, and places the movement into two new Accutron watches.

The Accutron Spaceview 2020

The new watches, the Accutron Spaceview 2020 and the Accutron DNA, are the premiere models within the newly separated Accutron brand, and each feature designs that echo the dress of the historical Bulova Accutron Spaceview of the 1960s, the world’s first electronic watch (powered by tuning fork technology).

Accutron DNA models.

The movement

The new Miyota-built movement, which Bulova previewed in 2019, relies on both a power cell and on spinning turbines that react to the action of the wearer’s wrist to re-charge the cell.

The larger of the three electrostatic dial-side rotors, which is actually a motor, spins furiously while the watch is worn to directly power the seconds hand. The smaller two electrostatic generators, propelled by a more conventional rotor inside the movement, electrostatically charge the power cell, the integrated circuit and the quartz-based timing components that control the hour and minutes hands.

The watch’s energy is stored in an accumulator cell that powers two motors. Integrated circuits synchronize the motors to provide accuracy to +/- 5 seconds a month. Depending on how often the watch is worn, Accutron says it expects the electrostatic power feature will allow the watch to replenish its power for up to a decade without requiring a cell replacement.  

In addition, Accutron has built a power-saving function into the new movement. After a certain period of inactivity, this function will stop the seconds hand to alert the wearer that power is being conserved. An even more comprehensive power-save feature, called the ‘energy conserving function,’ stops all of the hands, which prevents power from being depleted.

Two models

Both new Accutron watches display the same shade of green on bridges and/or case rings to clearly reference historical Bulova Accutron watches, notably the Accutron Spaceview.

The Accutron Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition, which is packaged with a special book on Accutron.

The Spaceview 2020 most directly recalls the open, avant-garde design of the original Spaceview, which offered a clear view of its tuning fork electronics.

The new watch offers a 43.5mm stainless steel case and clear case ring with dot-shaped primary hour markers, fit to a black leather strap. A limited edition Spaceview 2020, with a green case ring, will also be available packaged in a deluxe box set with an illustrated book “From the Space Age to the Digital Age.”

Bulova took a few more liberties when designing the Accutron DNA, which offers a more contemporary adaptation. The Accutron DNA case ring is a sportier with its squared primary markers and its sapphire crystal is domed. Case ring color choices of green, blue, black or gold-tone offer more variety.

The new Accutron DNA

In addition, the Accutron DNA is attached to the wrist with what appears to be a nicely integrated black rubber strap, and the watch’s case is also larger, measuring 45.1 mm in diameter.

Prices: Accutron Spaceview 2020: $3,450; Accutron Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition: $4,000; Accutron DNA: $3,300.

 

We know Jeff Stein as a leading collector of vintage Heuer chronographs, who occasionally dabbles in the newer TAG Heuer models.  It caught our eye when, twelve hours after he received his Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph in July, Jeff posted on Instagram that this watch was his “favorite TAG Heuer chronograph, ever . . . and even though you won’t see the name on the watch, the best looking Autavia-inspired chronograph, ever.” 

Below,  Jeff tells us more about his infatuation with this very interesting watch.

The new TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph.

Can you give us the “elevator version” of the Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph?

The watch was designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara, a god in the world of streetwear and the creator of Fragment Design. Fujiwara has designed all sorts of interesting things such as guitars for Eric Clapton, sneakers for Nike and Converse, and headphones for Beats. In the watch world, he has designed watches for Rolex and Zenith, as well as a Carrera for TAG Heuer, in November 2018. 

On the Heuer 02 chronograph, Fujiwara incorporated the design language of a 1970s Heuer Autavia into a TAG Heuer Formula 1 chronograph case, with the watch powered by the Heuer 02 movement. 

Why has the Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph been controversial among the vintage Heuer enthusiasts?

Much of the controversy probably arises from the fact that the watch was inspired by the 1970s Autavias, but resides in the modern case that TAG Heuer uses for its Formula 1 chronographs.  There is no model name on the dial, neither “Autavia” nor “Formula 1,” so some traditionalists might see the watch as something of a Franken, which may be lacking the pure pedigree of either model.

Hiroshi Fujiwara

So how do you come to terms with these issues? 

For years, I have listened to the debates about what is and is not properly identified as an Autavia, a Carrera or a Formula 1.  Some traditionalists say that an Autavia has to be a chronograph, rather than a three-handed watch, or that a Carrera cannot have an outer bezel, because these were the rules when the models were launched in the 1960s. 

I have pretty well gotten over these hard-and-fast rules.  If Jack Heuer had felt constrained by such rules in the 1960s, the Autavia would have never made it from a dashboard timer to a chronograph and we might never have seen Heuer’s automatic chronographs.  Right now, I am more impressed with a brand making great looking, high quality watches and less concerned about the model name on the dial. 

Perhaps there is no requirement for watch models to be binary, so that the brands can incorporate elements of one model into another one.  We saw this recently when TAG Heuer incorporated the colors and style of the 1970s Montreal chronograph into a 1960s-based Carrera, and people liked the result.

The Successor – The last version of the Autavia produced by Heuer in the mid-1980s (Reference 11063, at left) and the Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition, introduced by TAG Heuer in June 2020.

As a physical object, what are your favorite elements of the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph?

I am a big fan of minimalist design, in general, and like the matte black and charcoal gray tones.  This is a great look in cars and Fujiwara has followed a similar approach with the new Formula 1, using a matte black dial. 

The hands and bezel are taken directly from the 1970s Autavias, but Fujiwara has deleted the elements that made those watches busier — the contrasting white registers, the concentric ridges in the registers and the frame around the date window. 

This is like deleting the chrome on a blacked-out car, and it makes the expanses of black more dramatic.  The red and white accents on the dial are the final touches that give the watch its pop. For several years, the Formula 1 chronographs have been housed in a case with geometry that is very close to the c-shape cases of the 1970s Autavias, so this Autavia color scheme from the 1970s looks right in the Formula 1 case.

And what are the intangibles that you enjoy with the new Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph?

The Autavias of the 1960s and 1970s were the chronographs worn by the top drivers in motorsports.  We see them on the wrists of Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert, Graham Hill, Derek Bell and many other racers.  Beyond the top professionals, Autavias were popular among the amateurs and club racers, particularly with the Viceroy promotion, which offered a $200 Autavia for $88 with proof of purchase of ten packs of Viceroy cigarettes.  

The tachymeter bezel is the symbol of a racing watch, whether on the Autavia, or the Rolex Daytona or the Omega Speedmaster.  TAG Heuer is positioning the Formula 1 collection as the brand’s racing watches, and there is no better flagship for that collection than a watch that incorporates the design elements of the Autavia, the ultimate racing watch of the 1960s and 1970s.

People in the watch world may think of the Formula 1 as TAG Heuer’s “entry level” model.  How do you reconcile that with the $6,150 price tag on this model?

Essentially, this watch, and a couple of other Formula 1 models recently released by TAG Heuer, serve as a clear statement that the TAG Heuer collections will no longer follow a price hierarchy.  There is no entry-level collection or high-end collection.  Instead, the collections are defined by their aesthetics and purposes. 

The Formula 1 is TAG Heuer’s racing watch and the Autavia will be positioned as the watch for adventure.  To me, this is a much more sensible way to position the collections than just based on their price ranges.  TAG Heuer now offers its in-house Heuer 02 movement in four of its six collections, confirming that no model is relegated to “entry-level” status. 

How do you compare the new Fragment Formula 1 with the other Autavias that have been re-issued by TAG Heuer?

With the arrival of this Fragment Design chronograph, there are basically three series of Autavia re-issues.

The TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition flanked by the first of the automatic Autavias, Reference 1163 (circa 1970), and the last one produced by Heuer, Reference 11063 (circa 1983).

In 2003, TAG Heuer offered two versions of a cushion-cased Autavia, one with the black / orange colors and the other with the white / black / blue Siffert colors. 

In 2017, TAG Heuer offered a new Autavia, modeled after the Rindt model from the late 1960s.  After the initial model with the black dial and white registers, we have seen several limited editions, incorporating other color schemes into this same case. 

I like these watches, but the case lacks the real connection to either the manual wind models of the 1960s or the automatic models of the 1970s. 

Every collector will have their own favorite, but to my eye, the Fragment Formula 1 captures the spirit of the 1970s Autavias, with the color scheme, the hands and bezel, and the case geometry. There’s no “Autavia” on the dial, but there’s no doubt about the origins of this watch.

How is the watch on your wrist?

It’s a big watch at 44 millimeters, and I have a small wrist, but it’s a great fit.  The more important measurement might be the thickness, and TAG Heuer has shaved the case to 14.4 millimeters.  That’s not exactly thin, but it makes the 44 millimeter case very wearable.  The bracelet is entirely new, and is relatively thin with a butterfly clasp, which also makes the watch wear smaller.

TAG Heuer has created a new style bracelet for the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph. It’s a five-row stainless steel bracelet, with a folding butterfly clasp.

Why does this watch have the TAG Heuer logo on the dial rather than the Heuer shield?

I believe that TAG Heuer is reserving the “Heuer” shield for re-issues of the heritage models, like the Carrera 160 Years models that we saw earlier in the year.  This Formula 1 is not a re-issue of a heritage model, but a new creation for TAG Heuer.  So it gets the TAG Heuer shield rather than the Heuer shield.What are your personal preferences, as far as the re-issues that so many brands seem to be offering in the year 2020?

In recent years, there has probably been more hand-to-hand combat in the vintage community on the subject of re-issues, re-editions, homages, tributes and the like than on any other single topic.  We see everything from one-to-one recreations of some of the classics, like Breitling and Omega have done with great success, to watches that carry the name, but bear no resemblance to the original models. 

I really like the approach of the two Fragment Design models: take an iconic model, boil it down to find the essence of the design, then punch up the elements that provide the style and feel of the original period. 

Echoing the TAG Heuer Fragment Carrera, Fujiwara also places thunderbolts at the center of the case back and the word “Fragment” between 4 and 5 o’clock.

On the Fragment Carrera, we see the power of the oversized registers; on the Fragment Formula 1, we see the dramatic black paint and the red accents, with the distinctive hands and bezel.  These elements defined the racers chronograph in 1970 and, fifty years later they continue to capture the excitement of racing.  To me, capturing this timelessness is the ultimate success of a re-edition.

Other than the Fragment Design models, which are your favorite of TAG Heuer’s heritage-inspired models?

I like the Limited Edition Skipper that was a collaboration with Hodinkee back in 2017, and the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition from earlier this year. 

The Skipper captured the colors and spirit of one of the Heuer grails, the original Skipper from 1967, but took some liberties (for example, having a 30-minute register rather than the 15-minute count-down register). 

The Carrera Montreal took even more liberties, incorporating the colors and vibe of a wild-looking 1972 Montreal chronograph into a Carrera case. Once again, the traditionalists may frown, but if you like the look of these watches and enjoy the connection with the Heuer heritage, these are fun watches. 

If you could only have one of the Fragment models, the Carrera or the Formula 1, which would it be?

My first instinct is to dodge the question. The same way that the 1960s Carreras were different from the 1970s Autavias, the choice between the two Fragment models comes down to a matter of the mood and look that you want on a given day.

Fragment Design has developed two limited edition chronographs for TAG Heuer, the new Heuer 02, which draws from the Formula 1 and Autavia models, and the Carrera Heuer 02, from November 2018.

The quiet elegance of the Carrera is very different from the loud excitement of the 1970s Autavias.  Looking at my collection of vintage Heuers, I probably have four times as many 1970s Autavias as 1960s Carreras, so the Fragment probably gets the nod. 

If there will be a third Fragment Design chronograph for TAG Heuer, what are you hoping for?

Fujiwara has done a Carrera and an Autavia, so his third model will have to be a Monaco.  It would be fantastic to see what he would do with the extra-large canvas of the Monaco.

(Click here to read Jeff Stein’s “On the Dash” post about the TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition.)