Hands-on Review: Link Calibre 18 Chronograph
Let’s get one observation out of the way early: the sub-dials on the new TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18 can appear a little too close together. Not by much, but when you’re working with a watch that has a diameter of only 40mm, these small details do make a difference.
We mention this up front, because putting this design question to one side- don’t worry, we’ll come back to it in detail- the new slimline chronograph is our new favourite in the TAG Heuer Link range, and on the wrist feels like no other current TAG Heuer chronograph.
In fact, the combination of its lithe case, smaller diameter and bi- compax layout means that the Link Calibre 18 has more in common with the feel of a Heuer chronograph from the 1970s than it does a contemporary TAG Heuer Calibre 1887/ 16/ 17/ 36/ 72 chronograph.
The trend towards smaller watches has accelerated over the last 12 months, as the watch industry reverses the move to bigger, chunkier watches. This is partly due to the “bigger” trend having topped out as models hit the 44mm mark, and partly because of the desire to offer chronographs that appeal to the vital Chinese market, where there is a preference for smaller watches.
Irrespective of the reasons why the Link Calibre 18 exists, it’s the smallest TAG Heuer chronograph we can recall since the vintage-style 39mm Calibre 17 Carrera chronograph launched in 2002.
There is no doubting the new chronograph’s connection to the other models in the Link range, which was refreshed in 2011. In addition to the slimline profile, the Calibre 18 model offers a unique dial design, thanks to the bi- compax (two registers at 3 and 9 o’clock) layout- the first time that the Link has offered this layout in its 26 year history.
The dial is composed of three elements- an outer-ring featuring deep vertical streaks, a Starburst inner- dial and then two dished sub-dials that seem to float over the top of the inner dial.
The dial also features elongated hour markers, providing further visual difference to other Link models.
And then there are the registers- running second at 3 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph counter at 9 o’clock. We reckon they’d look better without the silver rings- there’s a lot of polished silverware on the dial (hands, hour-markets, TAG Heuer logo), and one less item would probably look better. And while we’re taking things off the dial, we’d also be tempted to remove the “Chronograph” text.
And what of the sub-dial positioning? Are they too close together? Interestingly, the placement of the registers looks better on the Black dial model- placing the two dials inside the distinctive starburst centre dial helps does draw the two registers together visually on the Silver dial.
So are we imagining things? Take a look at the image below, which superimposes the new Link with the Calibre 17 Jack Heuer Carrera- this shows that its the smaller diameter of the sub-dials that make them appear closer together on the Link- on both watches the position relative to the centre stem is about the same.
Overall, the Calibre 18 Link is an attractive, very clean design- next time, we’d love to try this one on a Black Alligator strap for something different.
Link Silver Dial- Ref. CAT2111
Like many recent TAG Heuer models, the new Link is available in a limited number of dial colours- at this stage, only Silver (White?) and Black. Still, given the up-market feel of the new watch, these are the dial colours that make the most sense.
The Silver dial looks great, the lighter colour highlighting each minute detail on the dial- details which tend to get lost on the Black dial.
Link Black Dial- CAT2110
The second model- CAT2110- with the Black dial shows off the polished steel features nicely. The inner-dial has a flat finish, rather than the metallic finish on the Silver model.
The depth of the sub-dials is also less noticeable, appearing flatter on the Black dial.
Comparison with Link Calibre 16
The photo above shows the new Link Calibre 18 (left) and the 2013 Link Calibre 16 (right). The Calibre 18 chronograph shares the same case and bracelet design as the Calibre 16 model, but in a slimline package. The case is not only thinner:
- Link Calibre 16- 16.1mm
- Link Calibre 18- 14.4mm
…but also boasts a smaller diameter
- Link Calibre 16- 43mm
- Link Calibre 18- 40mm
These differences are fairly obvious when the two watches are placed side-by-side.
The other key differences are:
- Two register vs. Three register chronograph
- Longer, more pointed hour markers on the Calibre 18
- No external tachymetre scale on the Calibre 18
- Minuterie on the inner flange of the Calibre 18
- Smaller crown
The casebacks are fairly similar- the Calibre 16 caseback (below left) is the new 2013 Blue dial/ DiCaprio Link model, which features a smoked caseback.
Movement- Calibre 18
The new Link is the first time that we’ve seen TAG Heuer use the Calibre 18 movement. The Calibre uses a Sellita SW300 base with a chronograph module from Dubois Depraz- the DD 2223. The movement is nicely finished, with a Cotes de Geneve rotor and perlage finish applied to the plate.
The Calibre 18 is closely related to the Calibre 17 movement, that we profiled last week. The two modular chronographs share the “same” base movement (ETA 2892 and its clone the Sellita Sw300), but with different chronograph modules.
We’re not sure what the meaning of “18” is, but have heard that when this movement was first planned, it was known as the “Calibre 4 SL”, presumably for “Slimline”.
On the Wrist
My first reaction when I put the watch on is that it felt more like a vintage Heuer than a newer TAG Heuer. The classic Carrera of the 1970s had a 39mm diameter and a similar thickness.
I can’t think of another modern TAG Heuer with the same feel- yes, there are several smaller diameter models, but those tend to offer deeper cases.
You can see the profile of the Calibre 18 Link below- it sits quite flat on the wrist.
One of the more interesting elements of the Link design is the square-edged bezel (below) that contrasts with the round, soft design seen on the rest of the watch
The famous “Double-S” Link bracelet is standard on all models, although given that the watch features traditional lugs (earlier S/ el and Link models had an integrated end-piece), there would be no problem fitting a leather strap as an alternative.
We’ve always been open that the Link series is not our favourite TAG Heuer series, but the new Link Calibre 18 is certainly an exception- we love the size of the new model and the more traditional dial layout. Over the course of a week, the size/ position of the sub-dials became less noticeable and instead you come to enjoy the watch for what it is- a distinctive addition to the Link range that reminds you of the vintage Heuer chronographs.
Hopefully, this will see similar efforts to slim down the Carrera Chronograph to something closer to the classic size. And for those that hate the trend to small watches? Don’t fear: there are still several 43/ 44mm models in the range.
The Calibre 18 Link is priced at a meaningful premium to the Calibre 16 model- about CHF1,000 in Switzerland. We think that the new model is different enough to command that type of premium thanks to its different design and more interesting movement.
- 2013 TAG Heuer Link range: https://www.calibre11.com/tag-heuer-link-review
- 2013 TAG Heuer Link Calibre 18- First Look: https://www.calibre11.com/tag-heuer-link-calibre-18-first-look/
- Ayrton Senna TAG Heuer Link range: https://www.calibre11.com/ayrton-senna-tag-heuer/