TAG Heuer: Insights from heritage director Catherine Eberlé-Devaux

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It’s not all about revisiting the past.

TAG Heuer heritage director Catherine Eberlé-Devaux

To the uninformed, Catherine Eberlé-Devaux’s decision to leave the luxury footwear business for the watch trade may seem like a giant leap into the unknown. But not so for TAG Heuer’s perceptive heritage director.

“I’ve always liked to tell stories and that’s what I was asked to do at TAG Heuer,” Eberlé-Devaux explains. She noted the brand’s heritage wasn’t as deeply ingrained like it was with the big luxury names like Hermès and Guerlain, so she “thought it could be fun as I like to develop things like that for a brand.”

Eberlé-Devaux spent 15 years with a luxury multi-brand footwear boutique in France, developing its digital strategy back in 1999, before joining TAG Heuer. Now, she is the Swiss watch titan’s encyclopedic go-to, and fierce guardian of the brand’s archives and history. Here, she takes us through her duties, and shares some of her favourite watches that best epitomise TAG Heuer’s values.

The motto of TAG Heuer is ‘avant-garde since 1860’. How has the brand has expressed this spirit throughout its history?
Our founder, Edouard Heuer, started the company in 1860, and developed the oscillating pinion by the end of the 19th century in 1887. It is a very small part in the chronograph module of the movement that makes it start right immediately upon activation, enabling the chronograph to be much more precise, but also more easily assembled. This means it’s less expensive to produce and easier to fix in terms of servicing.

In more recent years, we were the first luxury watch brand to develop a Connected watch and it was not just to have a Connected watch to compete with other smartwatches but it was more along the lines of something that was entirely within the brand’s DNA.

TAG Heuer Connected Modular 41
TAG Heuer Connected Modular 41

Which period of TAG Heuer’s history fascinates you the most?
I really like the 1960s and the early 1970s because this was a period of modernity for TAG Heuer, which was achieved without the tools we have today. There were no computers or email then and press releases had to be sent by airmail to subsidiaries in various countries, translated, then mailed back to us.

In a very radical move, our CEO Jack Heuer was also the first to sign a Formula One driver as an ambassador. This was in 1969 with the driver Jo Siffert. Back then, it was a completely new thing to do but he didn’t have the tools we do today, where it’s so easy to just email a brand ambassador or take a plane to meet him. In those days, everything was more tedious so for him to have ventured into such a move involved a lot of foresight on his part.

Jack Heuer (right) and his father, Charles-Edouard
Jack Heuer (right) and his father, Charles-Edouard

Which five historical models do you think best represent the brand?
The first would be the Ring Master from 1957.

TAG Heuer Ring Master
TAG Heuer Ring Master

It’s a stopwatch with a glass you can unscrew to change the ring inside and time different disciplines, like a regatta, boxing match or a 100m race. The watch came with seven different rings for six disciplines and one blank one so you could put your own markings and use it to time anything you like, from timing your pasta to something a little sportier.

The second watch I’d pick is the gold Carrera that Jack made and offered to the drivers of the 1970s.

TAG Heuer Carrera from 1970s
TAG Heuer Carrera from 1970s

It has a full gold case and bracelet with champagne dial and black counters—very subtle nuances and colours. I like the link with motor racing because I learnt at TAG Heuer how stressful racing can be. There are so many things that could happen so whatever you can control, you need to control.

Another one from the 1970s I really like is the Montreal.

TAG Heuer Montreal
TAG Heuer Montreal

It’s full of colours and represents the decade really well. It’s like a symphony of freshness. This is a model that’s quite rare—a big watch for big wrists and it’s very enticing.

In the 1950s, we had a very nice moonphase with chronograph and full date.

TAG Heuer vintage chronograph with date and moon phase
TAG Heuer vintage chronograph with date and moonphase

It was probably the most complicated watch we ever made and most of them came in a 14K gold case. I would really love to have one for myself!

The last one is the Mikrograph.

TAG Heuer Mikrograph
TAG Heuer Mikrograph

As I said earlier, it’s the first stopwatch that is accurate to 1/100th of a second. And if you think about what 1/100th of a second is, it’s impossibly short. But in 1916, they had been able to develop a movement that was accurate enough to show that precision and that’s amazing.

In what capacity and how often does your department contribute to the creation of new watches?
If you’re talking about the design and development part, then I hope my department would not have to be that involved because that would mean we don’t have enough creativity to develop new watches. Of course there are some re-editions that we’re very happy with, like the Autavia and Monaco, but it would not be healthy if the museum became the source of creativity for the new collections.

Now if you’re talking about how much I help with the new collections, then I have to say, a lot. Because when we develop a new Carrera, we still have to understand the history of the watch. More recently, when we redesigned the Link bracelet, we went through all the designs of the S/el that was launched in 1988 and thought about how to modify it and what to keep as the design code.

Published in TAG Heuer Articles
Tagged under tag heuer vintage watches
Melissa Kong

Managing Editor

Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".

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