Hands-on Review: 2015 Formula 1 Series
It’s time to forget everything that you thought you knew about the TAG Heuer Formula 1 series, because over the last 12 months the much-loved F1 has undergone its biggest changes in the model’s 28-year history. Yes, the watch is still entry-level in terms of pricing, but everything else has changed.
Remember how the Formula 1 used to be purely quartz? The new range (which we’ll call the 2015 TAG Heuer Formula 1 to distinguish it from the existing models) is now mainly automatic. And the iconic case shape that we’ve all become familiar with over the years? That’s also changed, with a totally new design, albeit one based on one of Heuer’s most famous watches.
The Formula 1 has always been an important watch for the brand, being aimed at bringing a younger, sportier buyer into a TAG Heuer for the first time. Having a competitive entry-level range is more important than ever for TAG Heuer, so it makes sense to update the Formula 1, even though we saw a new Calibre 16 Chronograph model as recently as last year.
We had a chance to test drive several models from the new range a few weeks back in Switzerland to bring you this exclusive first look at the new F1.
Updating the Formula 1 Design
The iconic Formula 1 shape has been the one constants of the series since its launch way back in 1986. Initially coated in Fibreglass (above), the materials evolved over the years to include all-steel cases, with Fibreglass eventually dropped in the early 1990s. If you are new to the Formula 1, you really should check out our Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer Formula 1 to learn all about the model’s history.
The new 2015 TAG Heuer Formula 1 range abandons the traditional case design for a shape base heavily on the second-generation Heuer Autavia from 1969, as you can see below.
Of course this is not the first time we have seen the Autavia revived- there was the TAG Heuer Autavia Re-edition from 2003- below. While the new F1 case is very similar to the 2003 Autavia, the finishing is very different. Note how the Autavia below has a beautiful starburst finish on the top of the case and polished elements? Cost considerations mean this isn’t possible for the Formula 1.
So what to make of the Autavia serving as the base for the new F1? Our view hasn’t changed since we previewed the new range at Baselworld back in March: it’s great to have the distinctive Autavia case back in the range, but we wish that it was used to relaunch the Autavia itself rather than to simply be absorbed into the Formula 1 DNA. I suspect that Heuer collectors will feel the same way, but the reality is, the majority of people will judge the new watch on its merits rather than worrying about the past.
Before we dive into the new range, lets address the obvious question: what happens to the existing Formula 1 range? After all, the Calibre 16 models (below) were only launched last year.
For now, the official word is that the two ranges will be sold alongside each-other..although we’d expect that to change in the medium-term as the new case design takes over.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 16 Chronograph
Starting at the top of the new range is the Calibre 16 Chronograph, which offers a 44mm case in either stainless steel, or a steel case coated in titanium carbide. The later model in particular looks really sharp and continues the Heuer/ TAG Heuer tradition of sporting models with a Black case and Red highlights.
Both models have some nice red detailing, including:
- Tips of the hands on the 12 and 6 o’clock registers
- Tip of the chronograph seconds hand
- Four red Triangles at 12/3/6/9
- Top chronograph pusher
- “Tachymetre” on the bezel
The bezel on the Calibre 16 models is made from steel and is fixed- it doesn’t rotate despite looking like it might.
The Rubber strap is a new design that looks the goods with its rallye-strap design, but doesn’t quite have the same quality finish as the rubber strap you’ll find on a Carrera- more on this later.
I really liked this one on the wrist- it has huge presence and the sporty looks to justify the Formula 1 name. The “Daytona” rings provide a strong difference to the existing Calibre 16 Formula 1. While the two watches share a name and a similar price, they’re visually very different.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 6 Watch
The partner watch to the Calibre 16 Chronograph is the Calibre 6 F1, which is available in 3 variants, each with a 41mm case.
One element that I would change on this model is the running seconds counter at the 6 o’clock register, a feature of all TAG Heuer watches with the Calibre 6 movement. I just find a central seconds hand easier to read on a 3-hand watch and it makes the dial nice and clean, providing a greater contrast to the Chronograph dial, which is usually quite busy.
Many of the Red highlights found on the Calibre 16 have disappeared, which suits the character of the watch.
While I’ve always liked the Formula 1 range, I can’t think of any F1 of the past that looks as complete and “grown up” as this one. You can see the edges of the bezel are polished, providing a nice contrast to the steel case on the bezel.
You may notice on the photo above that the end-piece of the bracelet doesn’t sit flush with the case, but this is because the watch available for photographing was a well-used prototype rather than the finished watch. Other examples I saw (including the black-dial watch below) had perfectly integrated end-pieces.
The Formula 1 Calibre 6 has a unidirectional steel rotating bezel.
Update- October 2014
While the Formula 1 Calibre 6 has made its way to stores, the watch will have a short life, having been replaced by the Calibre 5 model shown below.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 5
There are three models in the Calibre 5 range, which replaces the Calibre 6 shown above. The only difference between the Calibre 5 and Calibre 6 range is that the new Calibre 5 has a central seconds hand, which replaces the small seconds register of the Calibre 6. Our view on the Calibre 6 was that we’d prefer a traditional seconds hand, but had no idea at the time of writing that our wish would be fulfilled so quickly.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 7 GMT
Probably my favourite of the new range is the Calibre 7 GMT, which features a Black and Blue colour-scheme that owes plenty to the steel Rolex GMT Master II. It looks great and uses a 42mm case, making it slightly larger than the other automatic watches.
The fixed-bezel is steel, with a coloured aluminium insert. The touches of blue- the tip of the central-seconds hand and the GMT hand are really well done, and the watch is a cool new addition to the range, with echos of the famous Heuer Autavia GMT.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Quartz Watch
For those who like quartz- and as we’ve pointed out before, sometimes with a sports watch quartz is the better choice- don’t fear that the Formula 1 has turned its back on battery-power. The new range features both a quartz watch and a chronograph.
The Quartz watch uses the same 41mm case as the Calibre 6 watch and features a dial that is very similar to the existing Formula 1 quartz, for example over-sized “12” and “6” markers and a coloured TAG Heuer logo.
The rotating bezel is titanium-carbide coated steel, as is the crown.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the quartz watch is the closest in looks and feel to the existing Formula 1. While the hour and minute hands are the same shape as the automatic models, note the conventional seconds hand which loses the TAG Heuer logo at the base, a style reserved for the mechanical range.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Quartz Chronograph
Last but not least we have one sole quartz chronograph offered in a 42mm steel case. Nothing illustrates the move from quartz to mechanical better than the fact that there is only one quartz chronograph offered. Again the design is close to the current quartz models, gaining a different pusher design to the Calibre 16 models. While the fixed bezel looks similar, this time it hosts a tachymetre scale.
The Value for Money Equation
I mentioned earlier in the article that the rubber strap didn’t have the same quality feel as the one you might find on a Carrera or Aquaracer- which of course makes sense when you consider the price differential between the series.
There are a couple of places where you notice the quality differential- certainly on the strap (both the rubber strap and the bracelet) and small details like the finishing of the case. Go back to the photo of the 2003 Autavia and you see the wonderful star-burst finish on top of the case, with a polished side section and then a brushed finish on the bottom part of the case. All of this takes time, which of course means cost.
I spent last week reviewing another brand’s latest chronograph for Time+Tide, which came on a rubber strap. Despite that watch costing significantly more than the Formula 1 Calibre 16, the rubber straps were comparable. I was critical of the deployant used on the 2014 Formula 1 Calibre 16, and I do feel that the new range is better.
My sense is that the new Formula 1 is very good value for money. Yes, there are places where you won’t find the same finishing as a Carrera, but you also won’t find that it costs the same as a Carrera.
Prices and Availability
Having started the discussion on value, let’s get to the point on prices. Below are the estimates on US pricing
- Formula 1 Calibre 16 (CAZ2010) on bracelet: $2,900
- Formula 1 Calibre 6 (WAZ2110) on bracelet: $1,800
- Formula 1 Quartz Watch on bracelet: $1,300
- Formula 1 Quartz Chronograph: $1,500
- Formula 1 Calibre 7 GMT: $2,200
To put that pricing into perspective, the 2012 TAG Heuer Formula 1 Quartz watch had a launch price of CHF1,200 (now we’re talking Swiss Francs). The 2015 equivalent will be CHF100 less, which is impressive when you consider the inflation in watch prices over the last few years.
Expect most of the range to be in stores in the next few weeks (in some markets, they’re already there), with the GMT following in November.
A big step-forward for the Formula 1, which is now more grown-up than ever, but retains its sporty feel thanks to its Autavia-inspired case.There is a broad range of options in terms of looks and movements, so we expect the range to be a big hit. The only thing missing is a high-end quartz (HEQ) model- if we’re doing quartz, then why not make it a premium offering.
- Value for money
- Calibre 7 GMT- Rolex GMT II look for less
- Classic case design
- Daytona rings on the Calibre 16
- The name- hey, it’s an Autavia!
Ditch the Calibre 6 for a Calibre 5 with traditional central seconds handWe got our wish early!
- Push the prices up a touch and spend a bit more on the straps and bracelets
- TAG Heuer need to get into the NATO strap game quickly- younger market needs more than just rubber/ bracelet