Motorsport: The Heuer Connection
written by A.Morgan - 21st Apr 2011
Heuer, and subsequently TAG Heuer, have always had a deep-rooted relationship with motorsport, but just how deep does it go? With the help of globally-renowned Heuer expert Arno Haslinger, we delve back in time to discover the true Heuer connection…
‘When you go back in history, it is definitely time, and time-keeping – it was always an inevitable link,’ says Arno. ‘Racing needs to be timed. When you go back to the beginning of the century, you already had the link. If you can’t time it, you can’t compare it.’
Heuer’s initial input into motor-racing was through their patented dashboard-mounted stopwatch the ‘Time of Trip’ launched in 1911, that offered single-button timing for the road and air industries.
‘They had these Autavia dashboard clocks – the name Autavia comes from automobile and aviation – and this was start of Heuer in motorsport. After Jack Heuer took over the company, he launched the Carrera in 1964; this extremely simplistic, classic watch design which used a Valjoux 72 movement, the same as in the Rolex Daytona. Then he continued in ’67 with the Camaro, the name influenced by the American muscles cars. Jack Heuer had been for quite a time in the U.S. learning the business, and he was also kind of a car nut. There is a double meaning with the Camaro, ‘camarade,’ meaning friend in French, and on the other side the muscle car, which was very important for Americans, and had big companies like General Motors going for it.’
The link between cars and watches was more than just business for Jack Heuer, it was an interest. The development of timing equipment, both dashboard and wrist mounted, led to the genius decision to sponsor motorsport.
‘It mainly changed during the last few years of the sixties; all the racing suits racing drivers wore were plain white, and companies started to realise that motorsport was an excellent platform to advertise, to position their brand in a certain direction. Jack Heuer was one of the first – he was a visionary at the time because he was the first non-automotive sponsor in Formula 1 and sports car racing. It all started when he made a contract with the Swiss race driver Jo Siffert in 1969, who tragically died in a race in Brands Hatch in 1971. Jack Heuer bought a Porsche from Siffert, who had a dealership in Fribourg, Switzerland, and that’s how the red Heuer badge came to be on Siffert’s racing suit. Siffert was very successful in Formula 1 and was one of the key drivers to race the Porsche 917 with the works team.’
Little did Jack Heuer know that this exclusive deal with Jo Siffert was to be the key step in launching the fame and popularity of the brand through the roof, with a little help from the newly-launched Heuer Monaco.
‘When Steve McQueen started filming ‘Le Mans,’ Jo Siffert provided the 917 race cars from his race car collection, and Steve McQueen saw his period racing suit. He said that he wanted to be as original as possible, so he copied the racing suit, which had the Heuer logo on the chest. He also saw the Monaco, which he immediately liked due to the avant-garde design, and that’s what he wore in the film. He actually was a Rolex man, but he wore the Monaco for quite a time before and after filming.’
The success of the film and Steve McQueen’s influence provided enormous publicity for Heuer and the Monaco, making it an overnight hit, and a certain classic. The bond between fast racing cars and watch manufacturers was sealed forever, and with TAG Heuer still providing sponsorship for the McLaren Formula 1 team today, the bond is still strong. Many other watch brands have also taken a slice of the sponsorship pie since, including Oris, Audemars Piguet, Hublot, TW Steel, Richard Mille and Tissot, but none can hold a candle to the original and brilliant thinking of Jack Heuer back in 1969.
With thank to Arno Haslinger, whose magnificent book, ‘Heuer Chronographs,’ is available now