The three watches TAG Heuer’s Heritage Director would save if the brand’s museum was on fire The three watches TAG Heuer’s Heritage Director would save if the brand’s museum was on fire

The three watches TAG Heuer’s Heritage Director would save if the brand’s museum was on fire

Luke Benedictus

With an illustrious history stretching back to 1860, TAG Heuer have made an awful lot of watches over the years. Consequently, the brand’s museum in La Chaux de Fonds features over 3000 models that have been released, either by Heuer or the modern incarnation of the brand. As part of his role as Heritage Director of TAG Heuer, Nicholas Biebuyck is, of course, intimately familiar with this vast collection and dotes on them with understandable pride. But we wanted Nick to play favourites. That’s why we posed this theoretical question: if the TAG Heuer museum was on fire and he could only save three watches from the blaze, which timepieces would he pick?

Pick 1: Steve McQueen’s Monaco

“I’d have to pick one of the Steve McQueen Monacos that were used during the filming of Le Mans,” Nick says. “One sold in December 2020 for US$2.2 million.”

Introduced in 1969, Heuer’s Monaco was a game-changer. Not only was it one of the first self-winding chronograph wristwatches, housing Heuer’s legendary Caliber 11, it was also the world’s first water-resistant square-cased watch. Designed by Jack Heuer, the watch would go on to be chosen by McQueen as the authentic chronograph of choice for his racing driver character in Le Mans. The piece worn by the actor himself is far too significant to perish in the flames.

Pick 2: Ronnie Peterson’s Carrera

“I’d also have to pick Ronnie Peterson’s Gold Carrera,” Nick admits. “We’re very lucky to have that in the museum.”

Jarama, Madrid, Spain. 26 – 28 April 1974.
Jacky Ickx and Ronnie Peterson chat in the paddock, portrait.
World Copyright: LAT Photographic.
Ref: 74ESP13

In the 1970s, Peterson was a Swedish racing driver and a two-time runner-up in the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship. “Sometime around 1975, Jack Heuer gifted Ronnie a solid gold Carrera on the bracelet with an unusual dial. And on the back it was engraved, ‘Success / Ronnie Peterson from Jack Heuer’.” Nick explains. “It became the watch that Ronnie wore regularly.

In 2016, the chronograph sold for more than 10 times its estimate to achieve CCHF225,000 at Phillips’ sale of important watches. “The museum was lucky enough to acquire it,” Nicholas says.  “So that’s a very, very important watch.”

Pick 3: James Garner’s Carrera

Photo: Courtesy Calibre 11

The TAG Heuer museum is now ablaze. Flames are leaping higher, licking at the glass display cabinets. Time is running out! But Nicholas stays ice-cool under pressure. “The third would have to be the James Garner Carrera,” he concedes with a sad sigh, thinking of all the horological marvels he has just consigned to ashes.

Photo: Courtesy Calibre 11

The story behind this watch was rekindled by the picture above of Garner smoking that appeared in a tweet between two vintage Heuer nerds. The image showed Garner in the classic TV show The Rockford Files wearing a black Heuer chronograph reference 3647N. The eagled-eyed fanatics noticed the dial included a surprise aberration –  an unusual line of text at the bottom. But they were unable to decipher the words from the picture. That’s when things got interesting. Unexpectedly, Garner’s daughter liked the Tweet and got in touch. She revealed that the additional line of white text turned out to be the name of the actor. “He had a Carrera especially made for him with his name on the dial,” Nick says.

Photo: Courtesy Calibre 11

Better still for the TAG Heuer brand story, Garner was also a petrolhead like McQueen. He played a racing driver in Grand Prix and even owned a racing team that competed at LeMans, Daytona, and Sebring in the late ‘60s.

Those are Nick’s picks but as the museum becomes a blazing inferno, if you’ll excuse us, we really should evacuate the premises.