Tag Heuer: the Silverstone chronograph is back!

by 08 January 2010

Before the 1920s, watch faces were round; it was impossible to imagine representing the flight of time differently. Under the influence of Art Deco, however, TAG Heuer increased the variety of shapes it proposed — some watches became oval or cushion shaped. In 1969, Jack Heuer solved the impossible puzzle of the square, waterproof case with the unforgettable Monaco — the boldly original watch worn by Steve McQueen in the 1970 race film classic Le Mans. Five years after, in 1974, the company launched the Silverstone chronograph, with a totally new square and round case design. It gets its name from the famous racetrack of the same name. An hour’s drive west of London, between Northampton and Oxford, Silverstone is best known as the home of the British Grand Prix, which it first hosted in 1948. On May 13th 1950, the opening race of the 1st ever FIA Formula One World Championship started at Silverstone. The racetrack has a special place in TAG Heuer’s heart because many of its racing ambassadors and F1 team partners scored career-making victories on it. From Emmanuel de Graffenried, the very first ambassador, in 1949, Juan Manuel Fangio in 1956, Jo Siffert in 1968, Alain Prost in 1985 and 1989, Ayrton Senna in 1988, David Coulthard in 1999 and 2000, Mika Hakkinen in 2001 or Lewis Hamilton with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Benz in 2008, the Silverstone racetrack has pushed the best to achieve their best.
The top drivers of the 1970s admired the Silverstone chronograph for its distinctive name, unique shape and avant-garde look, and the buzz they generated helped make it a style icon of the period. TAG Heuer was Ferrari’s timekeeper throughout that decade, but it was also partnered with McLaren, BRM and Surtees-Ford, and every driver from these teams wore a TAG Heuer watch. In 1974, the year the Silverstone was launched, Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi became TAG Heuer ambassadors. The two legendary drivers chose the chronograph as personal lucky charms. Fittipaldi won his 2nd F1 World Championship that year, driving for McLaren while Regazzoni won the Silverstone GP in 1979.

The Silverstone’s distinctive and vintage design — a squared case with rounded edges in polished stainless steel — was based on another breakout timepiece of the period, Steve McQueen’s 1969 Monaco. Softer edged, graced with a colourful dial, totally new shape, and fully loaded with leading-edge chronograph functionality, the Silverstone is one of TAG Heuer’s purest designs and most emblematic creations ever.
It became a defining symbol of the 1970s, and a coveted design object ever since. The Silverstone was initially driven by the proven Chronomatic Calibre 11 automatic movement, developed in cooperation with Dubois Dépraz, Breitling and Hamilton-Büren, and launched in 1969 as the world first automatic chronograph movement with micro-rotor. Typical characteristics of the movement are the date counter at 6 o’clock and the two pushbuttons, placed across from the crown in two indentations.
To keep the counters, pushbuttons and crown configuration of the original, the new Silverstone’s movement is the Calibre 11 with Dubois-Depraz module.
The re-edition is faithful to the original — not just the same bold mix of round and square and the distinctive technical features, but also the same vintage “Heuer” logo and “Silverstone” lettering at 12 o’clock, and a strap in top-grade perforated alligator.
With its disruptive blend of sport and style, and resolutely geometrical design, the Silverstone is a perfect example of TAG Heuer daring, and a standard bearer of its famous motto: “Swiss Avant-Garde Since 1860.”