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The two-day Heuer Collectors Summit was held this past Monday, September 12th, 2016, at TAG Heuer’s headquarters in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland. It was the second edition of a similar summit held in 2013, with the idea to invite a handful of collectors to exchange ideas, experiences, and above all, share their pre-1985 beauties. Only this time, the enthusiastic collectors were joined by members of the press. Why? Well, you might have noticed that under Jean-Claude Biver’s leadership the TAG Heuer replica watch brand is changing. One arm of the historic watchmaker will be positioned in the past with a continued focus on heritage models, and the other will be duly focused on today with a focus on modern culture. In other words, the brand intends on serving its existing fans while at the same time attracting new ones.

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The summit included a visit to the manufacture in La Chaux de Fonds, the case factory in Cornol, and the movement factory in Chevenez. During our tour of the main manufacture, we saw the different stages of watch assembly, which are becoming more and more mechanized (efficient). In this particular segment of watchmaking, I personally don’t miss the “manual labor” aspect, nor do I consider automation as a “B category” of “real” watchmaking. Quite the contrary, in fact: the more industrialized the process, the cheaper it is to build, and the more precise are the final products. In other words, when done well, it means higher quality with higher volume. The outcome is cheaper prices and a better perception on behalf of the end client. That goal is very doable, in my opinion.

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The Heuer Collectors Summit was also an opportunity to try on some watches prior to the Biver era with models like the Carrera Mikropendulum and Carrera Mikrograph, watches which were responsible for deviating the brand from its target audience but which were great developments in their own right – and for the most part, abandoned. It has been reported that haute horology is dead at TAG Heuer. While there is less focus, this is not wholly true. Don’t forget the new Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon watch, after all.