TAG Heuer - Guy Semon

Guy Semon, TAG Heuer & Haute Horlogerie

Thursday, 27 March. The air in Rhineland was buzzing with eagerness. At 9 o’clock sharp the 2014 edition of BaselWorld, the greatest horology event in the world, was declared open. Here we can find everything ranging from best to worst and from the most ordinary to the liveliest and most original watch presentations.

By Eric Othenin-Girard
Specialised journalist

”We have to cultivate originality”

On the morning of the opening, I had a meeting scheduled with Guy Semon, the head of Tag Heuer’s Haute Horlogerie division. He is an engineer and ex-test pilot at Airbus Industrie. This year he is celebrating two anniversaries at the same time. Firstly, there is his ten years at Tag Heuer and secondly, the tenth anniversary of the Monaco V4. Aficionados will certainly remember it. The V4 was driven by belts and by a revolutionary self-winding system.

In fact, Semon was appointed to develop the brand’s Haute Horlogerie division with the aim of making the brand join the very exclusive circle of maisons which produce original watches.

TAG Heuer V4 Tourbillon

In these ten years, Tag Heuer has produced amazing timepieces,  to say the least, because they have illustrated new ways of exploring very technical, first-class watchmaking. Semon explains: “Our aim is not to create the tourbillon or the minute-repeater. Although we have the necessary knowledge to do so, it would be just another tourbillon or minute-repeater. It was thus indispensable to approach the issue in a different way and to think outside the box”.

Precisely with this in mind he and his team have created some extraordinary watches over the last ten years. Having said that, the Monaco V4 released in 2004 was just a prototype.

TAG Heuer V4 Tourbillon

It wasn’t until 2009 that a perfectly marketable version of the Monaco V4 was released in spite of many experts’ belief that that day would never arrive. It took the brand’s engineers five years of intensive research to be able to overcome the last difficulties. Their biggest challenge was to successfully develop ultra-thin and ultra-resistant transmission belts.

As mentioned above, the brand has created some outstanding watches over the last decade. The list includes; the Carrera Mikrograph, the first mechanical chronograph ensuring a display of 1/100th second via the central hand in history; the Carrera Mikrotimer, also the first mechanical chronograph to measure and display the 1/1000th second; and the Carrera Mikrogirder which measured the 5/10 000th second. TAG Heuer has also worked on the escapement – the heart of the watch – by developing revolutionary adjusting organs that worked thanks to magnetic fields or microblades. This type of watch was called the pendulum.

TAG Heuer V4 Tourbillon

With the development of existing high frequencies and the pendulum, Semon and his team further increased the brand’s credibility as well as that of its production department. This is how Tag Heuer came to sell 200 Haute Horlogerie pieces per year worth over CHF 50,000 each. In actual fact, more than 500 Monaco V4s have been sold so far.

In order to celebrate the tenth anniversary appropriately, Tag Heuer’s creators decided to explore the high frequency micro tourbillon. Their research resulted in the creation of the Monaco V4 Tourbillon whose price has been set at CHF 150,000. The tourbillon is the most iconic element of Haute Horlogerie. In the case of the Monaco V4 Tourbillon, the system is made even more complex as it is accompanied by a micro belt for the first time. This complication presents great advantages as the belt that leads the tourbillon frame prevents it from recoiling and thus guarantees the fluidity of its rotation. This avant-garde watch houses a linear self-winding movement and the mass moves along a rail on the right instead of rotating as usual.

TAG Heuer V4 Tourbillon

The movement, consisting of four microscopic toothed belts that measure up to 0.07 mm, is perfectly shock-absorbing. Another exclusive feature of this watch includes the barrels that rotate on ball-bearing trains. The Monaco V4 Tourbillon was entirely hand-made and hand-assembled at TAG Heuer’s Haute Horlogerie workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Of all the watch’s exclusive materials, the black titanium of the case, used in aero spatial engineering, is one of the most remarkable.

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