Have I overdone it here by adding a part three, it's a bit late, but I really want to have a look at a couple of brands that have given us some superb moments last year, releasing a bunch of great watches, and moving their design and identity in the right direction. Anyway, the 'whatever' of the year is alway the proceeding year isn't it, so it works.
The brand of the year then will have this kind of consideration, it will bring not just superb quality, design and decent value - it can't be great value unless it's a Chinese tourbillon, luxe watches are overpriced jewellery nonsense, remember - but they will be moving themselves and the industry forward in one way or another, being innovative and inspirational. These two brands have really shone this year, I mean like brighter than a zaratsu polish on a sunny day.
The Longines brand logo holds the distinction of being the oldest registered trademark in its original form, as documented by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. They have always been respected and they have been consistent in giving good value, solid watches. And from what I understand they have always been up there in terms of global sales figures but seem to be somewhat overlooked when it comes to love from the watch community, they lacked street cred I guess - maybe it's the lower luxe status they have. Longines though have always had a few bangers in their repertoire and are forever a go to entry level luxury watch brand. The Legend Diver, the Big eye, the Ultra-Chron and the Lindbergh to name a few. They exemplify the steadfastness and adaptability of the Swiss watch industry, but they have rarely been talk of the town.
My experience with Longines is varied, my old man had a vintage dress watch, I kind of dismissed it as not cool, not appreciating the dressy style in my youth, and also thinking anything my old man had was probably uncool. Once I got into it though, I think the third proper watch I bought was the Longines Conquest GMT VHP Flash Setting, £800 (new) was a great deal, but on a quartz watch, it's something I might not do nowadays. However, it's probably the watch that has had the most wrist time of all since I picked it up in mid 2020. It's versatile, slick and fun, not too expensive to wear anywhere and can hold its own in an AD full of Pateks and Rolexes. Being a GMT I travelled with it too, it's one of my favourite watches. Then, this year I picked up my second, the much lauded and appreciated Master Collection 190th Anniversary, engraved dial beauty. we'll call the MC190. It is a stunner, released at the end of last year, I think it signalled an ascendance from the old stolid gent of Swiss watchmaking.
Since then, we've seen further iterations of the MC190, the Zulu time brought up to date and looking stunning in green bezel form, and the latest Conquest Chronograph just smashed it out of the park. And as you can see from the cover image, it matches up with the COSC Autavia GMT, and quite frankly wipes the floor with it.
In my opinion, and that of others, Longines are the best value for money Swiss brand out there. Sure Tissot do cool things and are cheap, but they don't have combination of quality, flair and history that Longines offer. Saying that, I have had a bad experience with the noisy rotor of the MC190 which undermines the quality aspect of the Longines side. That may be an unfair advantage for Tag in this forum, but it is what it is.
And value is the one area in which Longines do win. Their best three watches mentioned above*, all automatics, are under £4000, in fact, you could get the three watch collection for £8,900, RRP, that's less than the price of a Rolex GMT Master II, and that's at retail, you're realistically looking at less than £8k new - pre-owned I reckon, £6k. Insane what you get for your money (relatively) but that wasn't enough to take the crown this year.
And so, the winner is...
I will start with the fact I don't own a Tag, so I can't be as critical, but the first watch that really caught my attention when I was a younger man, was a fancy, innovative piece that introduced me to the idea of flashy watches. It was the Monaco Sixty Nine. I think the following is a reasonable assessment of Tag in recent years, their older watches are cool but they lost their edge a while ago. They've always been steady and maintained fans but lost the cool connection they once had. Until that is they made a couple of recent hires, their movement director, Carole Kasapi (quick interview in links below) - it sounds like she might be a dance instructor or rhythmic gymnastics coach, but we are talking cogs and crowns obvs - and Frédéric Arnault (son of the owner of LVMH Group who own Tag). The cool is flowing since their arrival in 2020, it took a bit of time to hit ground level but they have been making moves, and in 2023 they just threw hit after hit, like the Tag and Heuer of old, Autavia, Carrera et al. I think Freddie is on his way to a promotion, becoming the head of LVMH watches or something, way to go but hope that doesn't impact Tags momentum!
Let's go back for a quick history lesson, as I mentioned, Tag Heuer has a long and illustrious history. In 1860, Edouard Heuer established the firm in St-Imier, Switzerland. Accurate timekeeping and groundbreaking watchmaking processes have been hallmarks of the Tag Heuer brand since the company's foundation. They have been about movement in another way, i.e. transportation. An instrument for automotive and aeroplane dashboards, the Autavia was created in the 1930s and is a portmanteau of the words "automobile" and "aviation." This set the stage for the 1962 formal debut of the Autavia line of wristwatches.
imgs: Monochrome Watches
The Carrera, another legendary Tag Heuer model, debuted in 1963 and became an instant hit. Carrera quickly became a byword for speed and motorsports after taking its name from the Carrera Panamericana, a world-renowned endurance event forever linked to Porsche. That's pretty cool, I don't have Porsche either, so both of these are on the list, maybe I could get both at the same time. As legends go, of course, there is the Monaco, an icon, and the most iconic version of the icon is the Steve McQueen model, he has his own page on the ubercool Tag website, we'll get to their site soon. I'm almost certain that if I bought a Tag it would be a Monaco.
Nowadays they're offering all kinds of super-goodness I don't know what to do with myself. I covered the glass box Carrera in the watch of the year post, it really was a moment, they got a standing ovation from the industry and the online watch fam, and then really smacked everyone across the face with the skipper in late 2023. In addition, the black cased dark lord and titanium skeleton Monaco's at 39mm add something sinister and sleek to the line up to counter the bolder colour of some Carrera's.
Images: Tag Heuer
From top left, clockwise obvs -
CARRERA Automatic Chronograph, 39 mm, Steel - CBS2210.FC6534 £5600
DATE Automatic Watch, 36 mm, Steel - WBN2312.BA0001 £2750
MONACO CHRONOGRAPH Automatic Chronograph, 39 mm, Titanium - CBL2184.FT6236 £9800
CARRERA SKIPPER Automatic Chronograph, 39 mm, Steel - CBS2213.FN6002 £5900
The design language and nods to past while moving forward is perfectly balanced. There is finesse in the above four watches. They aren't afraid to use colour, but it is really well balanced and thought out. My favourite is the black Monaco, it is fresh and sleek in the 39mm case, shame it's titanium. If it was steel, I prefer the heft, it would be cheaper and I would be super tempted, I'm glad it's not but I did go on Chrono24 and see one for sale in Japan for £6.6k, it had a few dings but it's reflected in the price, bit unsure about coated titanium though, and taxes would add £1.5k - so I'll pass. When you think GMT, you don't think Tag, but the Carrera Twin-time (WBN201A.BA0640) at 41mm is a winner at under £4k. It's refined and classy, but still sporty, a very versatile piece.
The range is good, the old school Aquaracer models have a good spread, but some are a bit pricey for entry level quartz watches, and at the other end the glass box is offered in gold which looks great, as does that tourbillon offering, if you're into that kind of thing. While prices are high, there are deals to be had in the pre-owned (I just had an autocorrect to 'pre-wound' which is very cool, better than pre-loved, but doesn't work for quartz). On that non-auto side the Tag Connected smart watch is not being abandoned, and I'm glad they haven't, it's the only Luxe smartwatch that has any kudos. The new 42mm version actually looks great, the 45mm is a bit jumbo. They have targeted the golf crowd which is a pretty good marketing angle, not my thing, but their Porsche Connected version is my thing, it's cool. I just need a Porsche now - a running theme, and the collaboration is working, I am continually exposed to the idea. I may forego watches to put the money into a Porsche, yea right, I hear you say!
In terms of movements, this is something Tag doesn't push on their website, the Calibre TH020 in the glass box chrono's runs at 28,800 hertz with an impressive 80 hour power reserve, the Calibre 02 in the Monaco is the same. Nice figures but they aren't pushing it because they aren't that special, they are in-house, mass manufactured but hand finished, that is the model these days. There is nothing special about this unless the end product looks so good that it doesn't matter, and that's what it is happening here. There is no metas or cosc certification mentioned for the a-four-mentioned (I thank you) or their top Aquaracer dive watches, but their Autavia GMT COSC (WBE511A.BA0650) is a standout here. It features the Calibre 7 COSC certified movement that they need to push more, I guess that might happen in 2024. It's got the same aesthetic, going with Batman colours alone, as the Longines Zulu Spirit, but the Tag doesn't quite have the poise and charm, while it does have the technical chops.
The aforementioned Tag website featuring the above four beauties is really well thought out and fun too. In this day and Information Age, we watch fans deserve a bit more effort from the watch brands when it comes to online interaction, many peoples first look will be online, many will buy online. They have missed a trick not showing us the caseback for all models which is annoying but they have a number of photos as expected with an unexpected bonus of seeing a a very accomplished 3D model of their watch, allowing you to play with the chrono function and see the tourbillon in action. In addition, for the skipper, they take on a very nice journey on at the high seas before you get to the watch itself, best to experience for yourself, links below.
Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon, 42 mm, Steel - CBS5010.FC6543 - £19,950
That's a great price for a new, Swiss tourbillon but they have another , a touch chunkier for £18,000!
In addition, their Savior-faire (Expertise) page is very nicely put together, though the interactive is neither here-nor-there, still a pleasure to watch and top marks for effort. They have a magazine app, and a podcast which I haven't checked out, but their history page is nicely designed too. While I haven't checked out the webpages of all the watch brands, this was just a bonus to add to their offerings in 2023, it shows they are moving with the time in other ways than their watches.
It was close but I think Tag is a worthy winner this year, a bit pricier but they are smashing it but let's see if the change of leadership impacts their flow into 2024. And if Longines keep up their run and add a bit more bravado they might edge it next year. I look forward to seeing what else might they have up their sleeves, I hope they might add some of this flair to their dive watch offerings, the price points go up against Tudor who are current kings of dive with their Black Bay and Pelagos offerings, while Tag are happy on the yachts the range would benefit from some movement in this regards. No easy task but if anyone are in the position to make moves, it is Tag Heuer.
And that's the end of this first post of the year that should have been posted at the end of last year but never mind. Another, apology, I've had comments waiting to be approved on a few posts, and I didn't realise (excuse -I'm an older man, sometimes clueless in the online world). So, thanks and apologies to those kind few who got involved and took the time to comment, please continue to do so, nice things only of course. Back to Uni tomorrow, so posts may be infrequent, but as always I will try my best - not long to go until that's wrapped up (if all goes to plan).
LINKs & THINGS.
Spirit Zulu Time - £3000
Chrono - £3550
Dolce - £1500
Monaco Skeleton Black Titanium - £9800
Skipper/Glass Box - £5900
Carrera Date - £2750
Quick interview with Carole Kasapi that I couldn't embed for some reason.