WHERE TIME TICKS ON. A journey to the Northeastern valleys of Switzerland uncovers four separate TAG Heuer manufactures, where innovation never stops
Despite dominating the global horology market, the Swiss watch industry has its worldwide production centered in the nation’s quiet cantons. The surroundings of the Jura Mountains are where the headquarters and manufactures of most major brands reside—usually not far from one another. It is as if there is a shared intimacy between Swiss watchmakers, which only a lucky few will discover.
The point of departure: La Chaux-de-Fonds
If you’re one of those fortunate few, you might snag an invitation to visit TAG Heuer’s inspiring “homes.” Its main headquarters is located right at La Chaux-de-Fonds, the heart of watchmaking within the canton of Neuchâtel.
More than just a regular head office where business runs—if not sprints—it also houses the think tank of TAG Heuer’s watch design. This is where the watch designers pen their sketches and turn their imagination into 3d drawings, some of which get printed through a 3d printer as sort of a pre-prototype piece. This, admittedly, is a rather effective process that allows them to immediately see and feel what they have drawn before, and new design elements might be added or conceptualized at the same time, provided that they stay in line with what the brand stands for—Technique d’Avant Garde.
This design office, though, is only a small part of the three-story building. One wing oversees watch assembly, where the dials, cases and straps are put together. Another focuses on after-sales services, repairing customers’ TAG Heuer timepieces from around the world. But the most exciting—albeit cringe-inducing to any TAG Heuer fan—is the “torture chamber,” where every timepiece produced is tested according to the high standards set by the brand. You would not only see TAG heuer watches plunged into water or knocked by hammers, but also have their straps pulled and twisted by machines. As expected, only the fittest will come out alive from there and make their way into the market.
The Trinity: Cornol, Tramelan and Chevenez
If you still have an appetite to learn more about the different phases of watchmaking, TAG Heuer has more incredible sights to offer. It has, up to date, three other manufactures close to the Swiss-French border responsible for three distinct departments.
For anything related to watchcases, there’s the one in Cornol which handles production from scratch. Basic case cutting and steel baking is done here, supervised by experts. The watch face or dial is created separately at Artecad in Tramelan. This particular factory is over a century old, previously known as Kohli. TAG Heuer had been its biggest customer before eventually acquiring and changing the company’s name in 1999. You can find a wide range of dial variants on the site, especially from the brand’s prized chronograph collection from decades past.
Last but not least is the newest establishment launched three years ago at Chevenez. This is known as a TAG Heuer “workshop” that produces in-house movements, including this year’s TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T—the most affordable Swiss tourbillon movement today. The workshop serves as a forward-thinking action to constantly exercise and maintain this Swiss house’s avant-garde, innovative edge, not excluding its foray into connected devices.
Within these TAG Heuer manufactures, “time” really never stands still. It ceaselessly morphs from one watchcase design to another, takes on new faces within dials and moves using the latest technological propositions in its movements. But whenever you feel like turning back time, fret not; TAG Heuer has the TAG Heuer 360 museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds that could “transport” you in an instant to the brand’s equally glorious past.
This article first appeared in DA MAN October/November 2016. Get your copy here.