On 2nd December 09 Tag Heuer announce the Calibre 1887 in conjunction with its 150th Anniversary celebration. The press release stated that the new Calibre 1887 was an “all-new, in-house chronograph”. The marketing department should have stopped at that. Instead it went on to claim that “The Calibre 1887 is the fifth movement designed 100% in-house by Tag Heuer.” Naturally many detailed pictures of the new calibre 1887 accompanied the press-release.
Very soon after the press release, knowledgeable watch afficionados were raising doubts about the claim by Tag that the new movement was designed 100% in-house by Tag Heuer. What gave the game away were the pics released by Tag which clearly showed that the Calibre 1887 bore remarkable similarities with the Seiko 6S37 which was first patented by SII in 1999. The controversy is not so much that Tag Heuer adopted the design of an existing chronograph platform from Seiko, as it is common practice in the Swiss watch industry to rely on another company’s intellectual property and out-sourcing is nothing new. The sticking point is that Tag made a claim which was not wholly true and they should not have taken credit for the chronograph design when it’s clearly not due to them. The case was soon taken up by the many watch blogs and watch forums (or watch fora) on the internet, so much so that Tag’s CEO had to personally intervene on a few of these blogs and forum discussions to clarify the matter.
There’s no doubt that Tag will survive this embarassing incident, as their massive marketing budget will certainly be more than enough for the work of damage control. What is not often discussed is what all this means to Seiko, the Japanese watch manufacturer behind the 6S37. Obviously Seiko has received much free publicity from the many online discussions, not to mention the solid endorsement from a major Swiss watch brand on their chronograph technology. To long term Seiko watch fans this is not surprising and many may even ask what took so long for the Swiss to take notice of Seiko’s technological prowess. Now that Tag has admitted to being possibly the first major Swiss brand to adopt Seiko’s technology, maybe the rest of the horological world will take more notice of Seiko’s claim as a true in-house watch manufacturer.