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in this issue ASA BUTTERFIELD BY MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK

Watch: Interview with Harry Schumacher of TAG Heuer

TRAINING DAY. Harry Schumacher, the customer service-training & technical advisor of TAG Heuer, came to Jakarta in October, 2015, to showcase the mechanical beauty of in-house movements

 

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TAG Heuer has a long history in the watchmaking industry. After anchoring itself in Indonesia with quite a number of boutiques and stores, the Swiss brand has now become a household name, with the younger generation and senior gentlemen alike becoming well with its horological reputation and innovations.

Nurturing that strong brand foundation is Harry Schumacher, the man behind both the customer service and training departments of TAG Heuer. His careful measures in handling the brand’s clients as well as improving the talents within the company who tinker and service the various timepieces are expressed in the way he converses with every curious individual about the brand’s values and his responsibilities.

 

“It is our first in-house calibre within the regular collection, apart from the haute horlogerie category”

 

As part of that is his trip to visit Jakarta in October, 2015, he was present at a special evening at the TAG Heuer boutique in Grand Indonesia. There, the multilingual advisor de-assembled the calibre 1887, an in-house movement mostly used in Carrera timepieces, in front of attending guests. “It’s a special movement,” Schumacher started off, “since it is our first in-house calibre within the regular collection, apart from the haute horlogerie category.”

 

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The calibre 1887 itself is actually not a novel invention. Designed back in late 2008 to 2009, it came into existence as a step toward a better TAG Heuer, one that consistently and continually pushes the envelope for technological advancement. “To produce a mechanical movement from scratch takes about four to five years. And back then, we didn’t have the machines and talents for it, so we did what we could do to save time,” he spoke candidly. Long story short, TAG Heuer acquired a basic design license from another company and significantly modified the construction to comply with its own particular watchmaking needs. “We did produce the main parts such as the main plate, bridges and oscillating weights—these are the more complex parts. The screws and cogwheels were bought from specialist companies. It might take 20 to 30 years for us to do it all independently,” Schumacher closed with a smile.

That smile intrinsically relates to how the watchmaking business works in Switzerland. Considering the growth of the companies after the Quartz Crisis back in the ’70s, there is a strong network between them so that each would reciprocate the others with their respective technological contributions. As an example, the calibre 1887 is named after the year when TAG Heuer patented an important part for mechanical stopwatches called the oscillating pinion. Today, oscillating pinions are used not only in TAG Heuer’s timepieces but also by other watchmaking brands in Switzerland.

 

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Speaking of today’s watchmaking, one cannot elude the looming threat of high-tech smartwatches. While TAG Heuer already made a big announcement on their venture in this direction together with Intel and Android Wear, many pros and cons still weigh in on the whole idea. Does TAG Heuer have to jump on the bandwagon of smartwatches? Schumacher didn’t flinch a bit and took the bull by the horns by saying, “Which one is better: to get on the train when it starts moving or to run after it when it’s already departing?”

More than that, the Swiss advisor believed that TAG Heuer is trying to lead the way for other Swiss watch houses by collaborating with those technological giants. “So keep an eye on TAG Heuer always. It’s still a ‘hot’ brand, no matter what,” he went on while wearing a smile that once again piqued our attention.

 

“Which one is better: to get on the train when it starts moving or to run after it when it’s already departing?”

 

Asked on which timepiece from the company that he liked the most, Schumacher didn’t hesitate to pick out the Heuer 02. Essentially a Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon, this exceptional timepiece is both good-looking and aggressive in terms of pricing—fetching only 15,000 Swiss Franc (at the time of the interview). Just before we got carried away with more talk on personal preferences, one trivial question finally hit the elephant in the room: “Your name … Schumacher. Are you related to the German racer?”

He paused for a second, hesitating to answer. “Yes.” For a moment, you could hear a pin drop; but Schumacher quickly set things right. “No, I was just kidding. But remember that Michael Schumacher’s brother named Ralf who’s also a racer? My brother’s name is also Ralf Schumacher. He’s heard that question more times than I do,” he laughed heartily. It was definitely a fitting end to a great evening in Jakarta, as the watch maestro enjoyed his time surrounded by a bevy of local watch enthusiasts.

 

Text: Chris Andre.
Photography: Evan Praditya.

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