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Tag Heuer

 

 

Timeline:
1860 - Edouard Heuer founds a watchmaking company in St-Imier, Switzerland
1882 - Heuer patents his first chronograph.
1887 - Heuer patents an "oscillating pinion" still used by major watchmakers for mechanical chronographs.
1911 - Heuer introduces the first automobile dash-board chronograph.
1916 - Heuer invents a stopwatch that is accurate to within 1/100th of a second called the micrograph.
1920's - Heuer watches are timekeepers at the Antwerp, Paris and Amsterdam Olympics.
1933 - Heuer launches the "Autavia" the first dashboard stopwatch for race-cars.
1950 - Heuer introduces the "Mareograph - Seafarer" a wristwatch with chronograph functions and tide indicator. (COOL WATCH!)
1964 - Heuer launches the "Carrera" chronograph. This watch was named for the 1950's "Carrera Pan-america Mexico" road-race.
1965 - Heuer patents the MICROTIMER, the first miniature electronic timekeeping device which was accurate to within 1/1000th of a second.
1969 - Heuer introduces the "Chronomatic", the first automatic chronograch with a microrotor. They also introduce the widely popular "Monaco" worn by movie-star Steve McQueen.
1971 to 1979 - Heuer is named the official timekeeper for formula one racing.
1975 - Heuer launches the "Chronosplit", the worlds first quartz wrist chronograph.
1985 - Heuer joins "TAG" group and the famous watch name and logo are changed from HEUER to TAG-HEUER. Since then the company has craftily built one of the most recognized watch names in the world. Tag-Heuer becomes a very popular and fashionable status symbol.

Barack Obama's Watches

Watch collectors are different. We watch movies, read magazines, and study videos -- not for the usual type of entertainment, not for the intended content -- but to see which watches the stars and celebrities are wearing. Whether we are looking for Steve McQueen with an "orange hand" Rolex, trying to identify Jerry Seinfeld's vintage Heuer Autavia, or seeing whether Paul Newman is wearing a "Paul Newman", we focus on the watches.

So in the United States, in the year 2008, it is not surprising that there is a new subject of such intense horological focus. In September 2008, the most photographed and filmed person is no longer Tiger Woods with his TAG-Heuer (as he is recovering from knee surgery), and it is no longer Michael Phelps (as the Olympic torch has been doused). Rather, the most photographed person in the U.S. of A. in September 2008 seems to be the Democratic nominee for the U. S. Presidency, Senator Barack Obama.

So which watch does Barack Obama wear? That seems like a simple enough question. No sooner had he hit the campaign trail, in early 2007, than the "watch guys" started studying the photos, trying to identify his watch. And he was an easy study. With an image for being somewhat casual, and summertime tours through the Southern states, he often rolled up his sleeves. And when he rolled up his sleeves, the watch freaks saw a big, stylish watch . . . not the usual plastic Timex or Casio, so popular among those running for office (or in office), but a large, light-dialed sport style watch.

But was this watch? The discussion forums came alive. Most experts saw a light-dialed TAG-Heuer sports watch . . . probably either a Series 1000 or Series 2000 . . . one of the common quartz watches of the mid-1990's.

Then suddenly, something strange happened late in the year 2007. In the place of this rather common TAG-Heuer, the experts spotted a huge black Panerai; others saw a black-dialed Carrera re-issue; and still others saw a Royal Oak, something that Governor Schwarzenegger might wear. Wow!! Could this be true? That rather than switching from the TAG-Heuer to the nondescript Timex or Casio, Senator Obama was actually stepping up his horological game? Could it be that he had gone from Wal-Mart to Wempe? What would the pollsters say? What would McCain say? Could this man of the people, the law professor and community organizer, be wearing a high-end Swiss watch? What would the Japanese say? Suddenly, the watch guys began to spread the rumor that Obama was also a watch guy!

This webpage will explore the mystery of Senator Barack Obama's watches. Which watches has he worn? When did he wear each of them? Why did he switch from the simple three-handed sport watch to the massive three-register black chronograph? And what does this mean for the future of democracy in America?

As is so often the case, upon closer inspection, things are not as they first appear to be . .

Barack Obama and His TAG-Heuer

A careful examination of the available photographs suggests that Barack Obama wore a TAG-Heuer Series 1500 Two-Tone Divers watch, from the early or mid-1990's until late 2007. Over this period, this seems to have been his "daily wearer", the one and only watch that he wore over this period of 10 or 15 years.

Of the thousands of photos of Senator Obama that we find on the internet, from Google to Flickr to Getty, the following are some favorite photos that capture the spirit of Senator Obama and his watch. You can click on any of these images, to see a close-up photo of the watch.

Barack Obama's TAG-Heuer watch is a Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver (as shown in the catalog page below). TAG-Heuer introduced the Series 1500 watches in 1991, after the Series 1000 watches had been discontinued. The Series 1500 watches were intended to sell at the price point below the Series 2000 watches, and some of the catalog pages shown below emphasize the "value" of the Series 1500 watches.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Senator Obama's watch, which sets it apart from other TAG-Heuer chronographs of the period and makes it easily recognizable in numerous photos of Obama, is the raised triangles on the bezel. The bezel has these raised triangles at 00-10-20-30-40-50, with numerals at 5-15-25-35-45-55. On the Two-Tone model, these raised triangles are gold-tone, as is the crown. The steel model (shown below) has these raised triangles, but they are steel, rather than gold.

Some facts about the Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver:

  • The Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver was available in three sizes -- the Full-Size (sometimes called "Oversized"), the Three-Quarters (also called the "Mid-Size"), and the Womens. The Series 2000 watches were avaliable in a fourth size, between the Three-Quarters and the Womens, with this fourth size called the "Unisex".
  • Obama's TAG-Heuer is either the Full-Size model or the Three-Quarters (Mid-Size) model; these two watches are identical, other than the size of the case.
  • When introduced in 1991, the Series 1500 Two-Tine Diver in the Full-Size model was Reference 955.706G, and the Three-Quarters (Mid-Size) model was Reference 955.713G. When TAG-Heuer changed its numbering system (around 1994), the Full-Sized model became the WD-1121 and the Three-Quarters (Mid-Size) model became the WD-1221. (Yes, it does seem odd that the smaller watches had the larger reference numbers.)
  • The dials on the Series 1500 Two-Tone Divers were a distinctive "granite" color throughout most years of production. This watch was produced with a white dial only in the final period of production (circa 1998).
  • When introduced in 1991, the Series 1500 Two-Tone Diver sold for $625 on the bracelet or $575 on the leather strap.

The Series 1500 continued in production until around 1998, when the series was discontinued.

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