Watches A Story of Design: The TAG Heuer Aquaracer, Chapter One

5 min

Angus Davies Co-founder of Escapement Magazine

Chapter One – Continuous improvement

TAG Heuer’s HQ is located in the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds, often described as the ‘watchmaking capital of Switzerland’. This modern building contains the brand’s own museum, situated on the ground floor. It houses a cornucopia of horological artefacts including numerous historical references from the Maison.

The Swiss marque is justly proud of its rich heritage. ‘Since 1860, TAG Heuer has embodied avant-garde, precision and bold style…’. Edouard Heuer, the founder of the company, was an innovator. He patented his oscillating pinion system in 1887, a device that allows the chronograph to engage with the movement with incredible precision, thereby allowing the stopwatch function to start/stop merely by pressing a pushpiece. Despite the passage of time, the oscillating pinion remains relevant today, featuring in many chronographs of the modern era.

Perusing the assembled watches displayed within the museum, one cannot help being impressed by the numerous models produced over the last 160 or so years. It is a treasure trove likely to whet the appetite of any watch collector and a potential source of inspiration when designing future models. However, the brand doesn’t seek to produce facsimiles of former models, it believes in continuously innovating and improving the watches bearing its name.

Despite some models enjoying huge commercial success, TAG Heuer never rests on its laurels. On the contrary, it wholeheartedly embraces the notion of continuous improvement.

« We tried to hone the design, retaining the aggressive, modern and faceted look of the previous version, characteristics that continue to differentiate it from other divers’ watches. »

Guy Bove Creative Director at TAG Heuer

Recently, the avant-garde Swiss firm revisited the Aquaracer. Some firms may have been tempted to leave the model untouched, especially considering it has been one of the brand’s best sellers for a number of years, however, this would be at odds with the brand’s mindset. Indeed, at the heart of the TAG Heuer paradigm is a continued desire to makes its products better and better, a trait that is evident when speaking to Guy Bove, the brand’s Creative Director.

Guy and his colleagues within the Product Design Department continuously review each collection, looking at every element of a watch in close detail, seeking areas that can be improved.

Design is not limited to the superficial appearance of an object but extends to other factors including ergonomics and tactile feel. The designer will look at various ways of heightening the overall sense of luxury while remaining relevant to the target audience. Likewise, the professional designer always stays abreast of newly developed materials and technologies. Quite simply, design is a specialist field, beyond the skills of most amateurs wielding HB pencils. Indeed, it is best left to professionals.

In conversation with Guy Bove

 

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I have met Guy on a number of occasions. He is quietly spoken, modest but justifiably confident about his professional capabilities. As he speaks, every word is measured and has value. Indeed, it’s indicative of how he approaches design. He looks at a watch in its totality, while also appraising each curve, line, facet and texture. He clearly has an analytical eye coupled with a well-developed understanding of aesthetics.

Recently, Guy and his team finished working on the new Aquaracer Professional 300, an evolution of the outgoing model. Guy explained to me in detail just some of the decisions arrived at when designing this new model.

“We tried to hone the design, retaining the aggressive, modern and faceted look of the previous version, characteristics that continue to differentiate it from other divers’ watches. For example, we kept the 12-sided bezel as it was one of the hallmarks of the former model. We have also retained the overall bracelet design. However, with the case, we have revised the proportions between the height of the bezel and the height of case, we’ve slimmed-down the bracelet, integrating it more within the case.”

WBP201B.BA0632

“If you look at the side of the watch you will see that we have now introduced a bevelled edge on the top edge of the horns. We have extended the crown protector a bit, inspired by the 844 (I will return to this later) that had a prominent crown protector, albeit we have not gone quite as far as this former model. On the side of the bezel, we have introduced some knurling, again inspired by the 844.”

“One of the things you will see as you look at this watch is that we have taken the idea of ‘edges’, such as the 12-sided bezel, and reused the idea in several other places. For example, the vertical end section of the crown is 12-sided. The prominent bevel running along the top of the case was inspired by the 844….”

At this juncture, my HB pencil was beginning to show signs of fatigue. Prior to my conversation with Guy, I thought this latest evolution of the Aquaracer was merely a facelift, however, five minutes into our conversation, it became evident that there was a bit more to this design than I had previously thought.

After chatting to Guy for 102 minutes, I realised I needed to convey all of the new model’s nuances using a more succinct method. In the next chapter of my feature, I examine the subtle changes specific to this new model.

WBP201A.BA0632 / WBP201B.BA0632 / WBP201C.BA0632

Angus Davies Co-founder of Escapement Magazine