SAVOIR FAIRE Swiss-Made Savoir-Faire, Chapter One: Discover design at TAG Heuer

8 min

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the extraordinary savoir-faire that defines our Maison.

© TAG Heuer

Welcome to our ‘House’ – join us for an in-depth exploration of the extraordinary savoir-faire that defines our TAG Heuer Maison. In this series, we’re taking you behind the scenes, all the way into the very ateliers where horological marvels are born. From the first inkling of an idea, to the final polish on each perfected timepiece – via every careful step in-between. Already an expert on the art of watchmaking? Get ready to take your knowledge to the next level, with up-close-and-personal details sure to thrill even you masterminds of Swiss-Made magic.

Inside our Headquarters in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland © TAG Heuer

Location: TAG Heuer Headquarters, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Since Heuer began all the way back in 1860, excellence in design – from technical innovation to avant-garde style – has been at the heart of our watchmaking savoir-faire.  Read on to discover just how TAG Heuer timepieces are designed, from first thought to execution, at our headquarters in La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin at the beginning.

It’s an unspoken rule that the design process actually begins long before pen ever touches paper (or stylus touches screen); the truth is, we begin our groundbreaking designs by finding and hiring the best of the best when it comes to our design teams.  These are creative minds who understand not only the appearance of our finished product, but can also balance aesthetics with the ideal inner workings of a successful watch. With their ingenuity, insight, and inspiration, these watchmaking experts set the ball rolling (or the hands turning, if you will).  

Their first task is to create a digital drawing or sketch of any design. This is the imaginative, conceptual stage; 2D and 3D rendering is used to define finishes, material, and colours, while resin models can confirm proportions and ergonomics. Using a 3D software, our time-artists then create a 3D model of the watch exterior based on the ideas in their initial drawings. This allows us to fully resolve the design of the model before it reaches the engineering phase. Beauty and functionality must be combined expertly. And building the watch in 3D ensures that no detail is left to chance, while also validating the ergonomics of the final design.

© TAG Heuer

Next stop is the 3-D printer. Using the digital sketch, our design team prints a 3-D model of the design prototype in resin. This process is done step by step, so they can see the watch coming to life gradually, and ensure every detail is considered. Metal bracelets can also be printed in resin to demonstrate changes in link size or design. The whole printing process can take up to 12 hours, but is well worth the time: a prototype like this can help our designers communicate more easily, and select the right aesthetic finishes before they are translated into metal.

3-D model of the Heuer 02 in-house movement © TAG Heuer

A clean and realistic construction of the model’s interior and exterior also helps us to examine the feasibility of a design, and serves as the basis from which to adjust production needs and cost.  This takes place with the assistance of the designer, but within the production constraints from waterproofing to production tolerances and processes.

Moving our designers in-house to our headquarters has made the process at TAG Heuer much more streamlined and integrated with the rest of our teams. We see clearly what is possible, where we can push the limits, and how solutions might be developed – as quickly as possible. It also means that our aesthetic goals can be balanced with technical and supply demands.

© TAG Heuer

Resin model in hand, designers then submit their fully developed concept to a committee for approval. Production requirements must be considered from (quite literally) every angle, and compromises often need to be made between our different teams. Reviewing every aspect of the 3-D file and prototype takes time and careful attention, often lasting days. Changes to existing designs, while still complex, are more straightforward, while entirely new designs require lengthy discussion and troubleshooting. In addition to passion and dedication, our designers must have good communication skills and the ability to compromise – like any good relationship!  

Once a design is approved it’s time to move on to a metal prototype.  At TAG Heuer, our prototypes represent exactly what the customer will see in store and we use them to iron out any potential production or finishing issues, a lengthy but necessary process to ensure that the final product is technically and aesthetically perfect.. This is where the rubber (or rather resin) meets the road: we can test the model to determine its efficiency, examine the effect of aesthetic touches such as polishing styles, and decide on any necessary enhancements that need to be made.  Our watch has now moved from infancy to adolescence, and is almost ready to be launched into the ‘real’ world…

© TAG Heuer

Join us for Chapter Two, where we’re jumping location to our neighbouring Cornol – the home of the legendary manufacture where all TAG Heuer cases are produced.