The very first appearance of the V4 at a Baselworld opening trade press dinner in 2004 had left journalists speechless. TAG Heuer was not particularly well known at the time for its innovations in terms of movements, which meant that the world’s first mechanical belt-driven watch was doubly surprising in the hands of Jean-Christophe Babin (then CEO) and his marketing director Stéphane Linder (current CEO). “We must first ensure the reliability of the product”, they had warned, “but we will get there”. During the three subsequent editions of the World Watch and Jewellery Show, as TAG Heuer’s Haute Horlogerie expertise became increasingly substantial and self-evident, these same journalists repeatedly enquired about the V4. “We will pour as much energy and means into it as necessary, but we will succeed”, replied the two with one accord.
"We will succeed"
During the three subsequent editions of the World Watch and Jewellery Show, as TAG Heuer’s Haute Horlogerie expertise became increasingly substantial and self-evident, these same journalists repeatedly enquired about the V4. “We will pour as much energy and means into it as necessary, but we will succeed”, replied the two with one accord.
150 years young – and an impressive new notch in its belt
This stubbornness was at last rewarded just in time for TAG Heuer’s 150th anniversary in 2010. Five years of relentless work had finally proved necessary to turn the famous V4 prototype into a model sufficiently reliable for commercialized production. Lewis Hamilton attended the launch of the first 150-piece limited series at a gala event in Paris and was particularly impressed by its V-shaped bridges angled at 15° like the cylinders of the Formula 1 motor-racing engines after which it is named. Two patents underscore the concentrated blend of innovation embodied in this landmark watch: one for the transmission via a high-yield relay of five notched micro belts; and the other for the linear weight, a 12-gram tungsten ingot mounted on the world’s smallest ball bearings.
In the very first interview he gave last year after his appointment as CEO of TAG Heuer, Stéphane Linder said: “I am extremely proud of the Monaco V4, since it symbolically spelt the start of Fine Watchmaking innovation for TAG Heuer. At the time, we had to create everything from scratch, since we did not have the current development resources now available to us. The concept was born in 2002, we presented the product in 2004, and it took four years to ensure its reliability with the help of teams we put in place, particularly with the support of talents from outside the watch industry such as Guy Semon, who is at the head of the 40-strong R&D department. This accomplishment kick-started our move to accomplish other major Haute Horlogerie feats. »
A new complication
In 2004, TAG Heuer owned only a case-making site. The efforts devoted to producing the Monaco V4 did indeed ignite the brand’s drive towards industrialisation. After incorporating a workshop specialising in the production of bridges and plates for mechanical movements in 2009, TAG Heuer set up two assembly workshops in 2010 on its main site in La Chaux-de-Fonds (dedicated to Haute Horlogerie and to its Calibre 1887); and then in 2011 acquired the high-end dial manufacturer ArteCad. The fourth TAG Heuer production unit was inaugurated on November 5th 2013 in Chevenez. The 10 million francs injected into the latter take the sum of investments designed to guarantee the brand optimal control of its component supply chain to an impressive total of 40 million Swiss francs.
So what will visitors to Baselworld discover in the new Monaco V4? Notably a new complication.