Posted by Nick L. on April 06, 2020
Before I became seriously interested in watches, I wanted a TAG Heuer Formula 1. When I graduated college, I bought a Nixon watch as a gift to myself, but the “F1” was my dream that I couldn’t afford. Later, when I became more knowledgeable about watches, I realized the error of my ignorance and quickly dismissed it as a basic quartz watch with a fancy brand name.
Fast forward a few years, and I had the opportunity to pick one up for a steal using credit card points. I figured it was worth a shot, as I could always resell it (note that I owned this watch a number of years ago, and it is not the latest version in the lineup).
My first impression? “What’s the point?” Other than saying “Formula 1” on the dial, what does this pseudo-diving watch have to do with Formula 1? It doesn’t have a tachymeter scale or chronograph typical of a racing watch. Heck, it has a diving style countdown bezel and extension on the bracelet! I still didn’t get it.
It wasn’t until I wore it for a few days that I started to appreciate it. With modern computers and on-board telemetry, no one working at a Formula 1 race is using their watch for anything (other than maybe to make sure they show up to the starting line on time). Outside of stage rally, a watch is not needed by a race car driver, or his crew (and rally watches are very specialized digital devices for tracking individual stage times). Thus, why does it need any special functions or markings to be a racing watch? People at races just want a watch that looks good, is easy to read, and is durable.
This might explain why, with its quirky styling and scalloped bezel, the F1 has become an icon in the TAG Heuer lineup.
I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a watch snob. As you can expect, I gravitate mainly towards watches with automatic movements. That being said, a quality quartz watch that is always set to the correct time belongs in the watch box of every WIS.
Additionally, quartz is completely appropriate for the F1 series of watches. It’s a lower cost entry into the TAG lineup, and it matches the funky character of the watch. People who are actually working at a race don’t want to have to worry about winding their watches.
This version of the F1 uses a Rhonda movement. I never checked the accuracy to the second, but come on, it’s quartz. The large date is a nice addition, as is the small second hand (which also makes the quartz tick less noticeable). The only complaint that I have is that the second hand doesn’t quite hit the markers dead on. Annoying for a watch with a $1000 MSRP.
It takes about a half hour for the date to change over, starting around 11:30. The two digits are on separate rotating discs, and change independently of each other. On days other than 9, 19, 29, 30 and 31, only the single digit moves.
The Formula 1 has a very unique lugless design but will accept standard 22mm straps (one of my StrapHabit elastic straps would be a fun way to add some color). The entire case is brushed stainless steel. The top of the case is brushed vertically, the sides horizontally, and the bottom axially.
The caseback has a cool checkered flag motif, along with the TAG Heuer logo, and requisite specs, model, and serial number. The watch also has a nice weight to it, but is only 12mm thick. I think that the 44mm size is perfect for this watch. Because of the shape of the bezel and case, it wears smaller and thinner than the dimensions suggest.
My only complaint is that I could do without the black Tag Heuer advertisement on the side of the case.
I like the black coated bezel for 2 reasons: First, it seems that it will be much more resistant to light scratches and scuffs that a traditional brushed stainless bezel would be. Second, it appears to be black plastic at first glance. Normally I would not like this because it makes the watch look less expensive. In this case I think it’s really cool, as it is a much more durable throwback to the original F1 plastic bezel. It does not have a lume pip, but it does have brightly brushed numerals at 5 minute intervals, and an outline of the logo at 60, which really make the watch stand out.
The uni-directional bezel itself has a very solid feeling click, and very audible ratchet sound when you rotate it. It has 120 clicks. It seems very secure, but I think because of the design, I have found that it has turned by itself a few times (I think while taking a jacket on and off on a crowded airplane).
Very large and user-friendly. Great looking logo on it. The crown guards appear to give great protection, yet it’s still easy to unscrew and adjust. It also features a nice sized outline of the TAG Heuer logo in brushed stainless. Also, I like the fact that the crown and guards are black, its gives the watch a more distinctive look.
The crystal is flat sapphire, and appears to be anti-reflective on the underside. My only small complaint is that it sticks out a half mm or so above the bezel. This actually looks really nice, but makes me nervous about chipping an edge if I hit the watch on something.
What can I say about this dial? It looks great, and is extremely easy to read. The raised black round markers are a throwback to the classic F1, with a distinctive triangle above the 12. Plus the whole thing is lume!!! (why do we watch nuts love lume so much???). I love the “Panda” small seconds dial. Also, I really like how well the black date window is integrated into that dial. I know where it is when I need it, and the rest of the time it blends in and does not clutter up the dial. It’s especially hidden on the 30th of the month!
My only complaint is, does the dial really need a Tag Heuer logo, and the words Tag Heuer on it?
I was trying to figure out why the black dial version had skeletonized hands, and the white dial version does not. I realized it’s because of the black sub-seconds dial. If the hands were skeletonized, they would not be visible when passing over that dial (see photos below).
The same is true at night, they they would not be visible over the subdial without lume..
I also like how the seconds hand is mostly blacked out, with just a white stick tip. This gives a much cleaner appearance, and makes it less distracting. The tips of the hands also mimic the shield shaped logo that shows up in other places on the watch.
My only suggestion is to make the minute hand a tad longer to reach the markers, and make both hands about 50% wider. The watch is already very easy to read at a quick glance, but this would make it even better and improve the aesthetics. I was thinking that some different colored hands (i.e. red) would make the time really pop out, but it would ruin the clean look of the watch. The completely black and white design is my favorite feature of this watch.
On a full “charge,” it’s extremely bright. As it dims, it gets harder to see the hands, but it’s still legible even the next morning. The hands also have full lume, and have a more greenish glow, whereas the face is more blue. The second hand does not have any lume.
I’m okay with the lume on the face not being that bright. I’m sure that they wanted to preserve the pure white look of the dial, and in daylight, you can’t even tell that it’s illuminated. My complaint is that the lume on the hands is sub-par. If a $200 Seiko can have fantastic lume, why can’t a $1000 Swiss watch (this goes for you too, Hamilton)?
The watch came with a rubber strap, and I also ended up purchasing a bracelet, so I will review both. Swapping them back and forth is fairly easy, especially considering the lug-less design.
My version came with the rubber strap, which I like more than I thought I would. It gives the watch a cooler, more causal appearance. It’s a nice soft material, with a bit of stretch to it. The back side has notches in it. Perhaps to help keep the wrist cool, or perhaps to allow it to be stretchier? Also, the tip is shaped like the TAG Heuer logo, which is a nice touch. The buckle is also a nice thick piece of machined steel that says Tag Heuer on it. Once on, it’s very comfortable, but the rubber keepers are sticky and not easy to adjust. Hopefully this will loosen up over time, but I would greatly prefer one metal keeper for simplicity.
Also, I don’t like that the rubber has huge TAH Heuer text molded into it. One of the rubber keepers also says TAG Heuer. We get it guys.
The bracelet is overall very nice. The links feel extremely smooth to the touch, and their small size makes the bracelet conform to the wrist well. It matches the design of the watch perfectly, and is a nice modern update to the classic F1 rounded link bracelet. It’s also very easy to resize, with split pins. It dresses the watch up a bit, but still maintains its fun character.
The clasp, however, is just a few stamped steel pieces, not worthy of a $1000 watch in my opinion. The safety clasp is very difficult to open with your fingernail, as is the clasp itself. It also is a friction fit with without release buttons. It took me some time for me to adjust to using it without feeling like I’m going to rip my fingernails out. On the plus side, the safety clasp has a cool T-H logo in it, and it does have 3 micro adjust positions. Also, I still struggle to understand why an auto racing watch comes with a diving extension. That being said, it’s nice to have the extension on occasion, such as if I am sweating, and watch to loosen up the watch a bit to let my wrist breathe.
This watch turned out to be a great “grab and go watch.” It has enough panache and style to wear in most casual situations, but is still durable enough not to worry about.
This model is now outdated, but if you’re already a fan of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 range, I think that this generation of the F1 sits at a sweet spot. The metal bezel is a huge upgrade over the older models, but it keeps the fun styling elements. Also, the white lume dial “panda” version just looks so cool!
The new models are a bit more serious looking (but many are still quartz) and I imagine they aren’t as fun to wear.
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