The history of chronographs created by TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer Watch Company

TAG Heuer, one of the most famous Swiss watch brands, was founded in 1860 in Saint-Imier, Switzerland by Edouard Heuer as the Heuer Watch Company. The company quickly gained a reputation for high craftsmanship and accurate timekeeping. In 1882, Heuer introduced the world's first chronograph, a pocket watch model with an independent stopwatch function. Five years later, Heuer introduced and patented another chronograph model with an "oscillating pinion mechanism." Today, it is a movement used by many watchmakers to produce mechanical chronographs. Simply put, a pinion is a mechanism that disconnects or connects the chronograph or stopwatch mechanism to the normal timekeeping gear train. The pinion replaced a complex system, simplifying manufacturing, assembly, adjustment, and servicing. It also made it possible to produce mechanical chronographs at a low cost.

Chronograph and Micrograph

In 1911, Heuer patented the first chronograph, the Dashboard Chronograph, to measure time and distance for car and plane trips, and three years later introduced the first chronograph wristwatch. In 1916, Heuer debuted the Mikrograph, the world's first mechanical stopwatch capable of measuring time to one-hundredth of a second. To achieve this, the movement had to be 360,000 vph, 10 times faster than what we consider to be "fast" movements, which are 36,000 vph. The Mikrograph revolutionized timekeeping in sports, and in the 1920s it was adopted as the official stopwatch at the Olympic Games in Antwerp, Paris, and Amsterdam.

The first watch in space

A Heuer watch was also the first Swiss watch to go into space. In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth in ten years. The first step towards that goal was to put a man into orbit. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn completed the Mercury mission "Friendship 7" with a Heuer 2915A watch fastened to his spacesuit using a special strap as he circled the Earth three times. The watch served as the backup timer for the mission and was used in space. Today, the watch is kept at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

Racing Watches

Until 1958, Heuer was the leading manufacturer of stopwatches and measuring instruments, as well as the watch of choice for car racers and watch enthusiasts. Special edition chronographs were also launched for Formula 1 and the Indianapolis 500. In 1971, Ferrari chose Heuer as the official timekeeper for the Ferrari team. One of the most famous models related to car racing is the "Carrera", whose name comes from the Carrera Panamericana, a dangerous race held on Mexican roads from 1950 to 1954.

Chronograph Competition

In the 1960s, various watch companies began to feel the need for automatic chronographs and started to compete to be the first to enter the market. One of the competitors was Seiko, the other was Zenith. Heuer, in collaboration with watch makers Breitling and Hamilton, produced the first Swiss-made automatic chronograph and presented it at the Basel watch show in March 1969. At that time, they presented hundreds of watches, proving their capability for series and industrial production. Heuer then started to develop the movement, Caliber 11, and made history as the first developer of an automatic chronograph caliber.

Monaco and Jack Heuer

The Heuer Monaco chronograph gained worldwide acclaim when actor Steve McQueen wore it in the film Le Mans, and subsequently cemented its place as an auto racing brand. McQueen remains an icon of the brand even after his death.

In 1962, Jack Heuer took over as the third generation of the company's founders and led it until it was acquired by the TAG Group in 1985. Among other things, he oversaw the development of the Carrera and the Calibre 11 development program. Jack managed the company when Steve McQueen wore the Monaco in the film Le Mans. He also headed the company during Heuer's role as official timer for Formula 1 races from 1971 to 1979.

In 1985, Heuer was acquired by Techniques d'Avant Garde (TAG), manufacturer of ceramic turbochargers for Formula 1. The newly formed company soon launched a collection of watches featuring cases made from the ceramic used in turbochargers. Jack Heuer left the company that same year, but returned in 2001 as Honorary Chairman, taking TAG Heuer to new heights. Jack then retired from TAG Heuer on November 18, 2013, the day before his 81st birthday. When asked why he chose that date, he said it was because he had promised himself not to work past the age of 80. He was a beloved gentleman and a legend in the industry.

Development of Monaco V4

The Monaco was a well-known model, but TAG Heuer took it to a new level with the Monaco V4, a concept model unveiled at the Basel International Watch Fair in 2004. The development of the V4 was no easy task. It took five years to perfect the design, and the first V4 was sold at a charity auction in Monaco in 2009. Since then, several limited editions have sold out.

The Monaco V4 proved to be a huge challenge that broke the mold of traditional watchmaking. It used a belt drive instead of the usual gear train or cog wheels, and its design was inspired by a car engine. Many people thought it would never work, but TAG Heuer solved the problem in a testament to their newly developed capabilities, and a big part of that was the credit of a man named Guy Semon.

Ultra-fast timing

Guy Semon was an engineer, a pilot and a physicist. The world changed when he joined TAG Heuer. After the V4 challenge, his job was to develop the Mikrograph (360,000 vph, measuring 1/100th of a second), the Mikrtimer (3,600,000 vph, measuring 1/1000th of a second) and the Mikröder (7,200,000 vph, measuring 1/2000th of a second) in succession.

Semon achieved these ultra-fast rates by designing movements that they call "dual architecture." Each movement has two different mainspring barrels, each of which runs a gear train regulated by a different escapement at different frequencies. The slower one performs regular timekeeping, while the faster one controls the chronograph. The Mikrogirder goes a step further, replacing the traditional escapement with three tiny, fast-oscillating blades. Consider that the Mikrogirder's central second hand rotates 20 times per second, and you can imagine how fast that is. Semon ushered in a new era in the development of mechanical chronographs.

TAG Heuer remains a key player in the watch industry today, with its Aquaracer, Formula 1, Monaco and Carrera watches among the most popular in the world. Famous celebrities and athletes serve as ambassadors for the brand.


1860 Edouard Heuer founded a watchmaking company in Saint-Imier, Switzerland.

1882: The first chronograph is patented

1887: Obtained a patent for the "oscillating pinion mechanism"

1911: The first dashboard chronograph is launched

1916: Invented the "micrograph" which measures to 1/100th of a second

1920s: Official timekeeper at the Antwerp, Paris and Amsterdam Olympic Games

1933: Launch of the Autavia, a dashboard stopwatch for car racing

1950: Release of the Mareograph, a wristwatch with a chronograph and tide indicator

1964: Release of the Carrera chronograph wristwatch

1965: Obtained a patent for the "Microtimer" that measures 1/1000th of a second

1969: Launch of the first automatic chronographs with micro-rotors: the Chronomatic and Monaco

From 1971 to 1979, he was the official timekeeper at Formula 1 races.

1975: Release of the world's first quartz chronograph wristwatch, the Chronosplit

In 1985, the company was acquired by the TAG Group and renamed Heuer to TAG Heuer.