By deciding to produce only 100 copies of the Carrera Mikrograph Anniversary Edition 1916-2016 vintage chronograph, TAG Heuer risked making many despondent. Indeed, the piece that pays tribute to a century of precision will certainly make more unhappy for not having it than it will please aficionados. But that's also the main objective of the collection – the value of an object only increases when the number of potential buyers rises. In this particular case, the lucky few who acquire the watch will consider it a good investment. Indeed, whilst its historical version is already quite rare, its value will increase thanks to the equally-rare commemorative piece.
Yet, before we delve into an analysis of the commemorative version, it seemed only reasonable to look back into the original piece first in order to understand which part of the brand's DNA both versions share.
Countdown to a Key Piece
In 1914, Charles-Auguste Heuer, son of Edouard Heuer, founder of the eponymous brand, issued a challenge to which the answer turned out to be the Mikrograph in 1916. As a visionary who was well aware that the world and its perception of accuracy would change after the First World War, he instructed his teams of watchmakers and engineers to design a piece that was able to measure time lapses five to ten times more accurately than the then established standard.
The teams put their heads together and, one year later, introduced a prototype equipped with a regulating organ that oscillated at an astounding frequency of 360,000 vibrations per hour. The brand henceforth had the means to mechanically measure short times to 1/100th of a second. The two patents filed in 1916 ensured that the brand obtained the monopoly on this type of product for the following twenty years. Named the Mikrograph, it was the first counter that was accurate to 1/100th of a second and it contributed to the evolution of science and sports by constantly encouraging athletes to push their limits.
Famous for its accuracy, Heuer became the official supplier of the Olympic Committee at the Games in Antwerp (1920), Paris (1924) and Amsterdam (1928).
Until 1969, when the first quartz timepieces offered the opportunity to improve accuracy, the Mikrograph was produced in mass. It is still remembered as the reference caliber for ultimate accuracy despite the fact that its competitors proliferated as soon as the patents protecting the Mikrograph became available to the general public.
Past and Present
The Mikrograph originally only had one function. It did not display time but measured short lapses of time with the utmost accuracy whenever needed. In 2011, TAG Heuer and its technical team, led by Guy Sémon, took on putting together an exclusive caliber made of 480 components. Called the Dual Chain, this original in-house movement was protected by eleven patents. It was equipped with a transmission system with two mechanical regulators. The first one oscillated at 4 Hertz to display time. The second one, however, was for the (pusher) chronograph function: controlled by a traditional column wheel, it could reach a frequency of 50 Hertz, that is, 360,000 vibrations per hour, with an autonomy of 90 minutes.
At the time, the purpose of the independence of the two regulating organs' was to guarantee the chronograph’s high accuracy and a long-term functioning for the time display. The 2011 original self-winding caliber was produced in 100 copies to commemorate 100 years of the Mikrograph, and It also gave life to the Carrera Mikrograph Anniversary Edition 1916-2016 chronograph.
The essence of high-end technology and an interchangeable gear
With such an exceptional product, it was only natural to keep things interesting to ensure that the watch holds on to its appeal. This is why the 45-mm steel case, water resistant to 100 meters, was designed to allow for customized wearing. Thanks to a clever bayonet fitting, it can be put in a Carrera middle. The pushers and the crown are found at 12 o'clock in this configuration.
On the wrist, it is worn with a finely-perforated grey calfskin strap which is closed by an ergonomic TAG Heuer deployment buckle. Delivered in a grey alcantara-coated ashwood presentation-case, the instrument comes with two other supports. In the first one, the case of the amazing chronograph is mounted on a desk, and the other is fixed on the dashboard of a classic car as a timekeeping instrument.
As the brand's management put it, the watch and the other two supports are collectibles but also perfectly accessible since the piece is offered at slightly less than CHF 20,000.