Achievement Unlocked: A Closer Look At The TAG Heuer Formula 1 X Mario Kart Limited Editions
If you are a child of the 1990s, this cool chronograph and chronograph tourbillon were made just for you.
Today, the second installment of the TAG Heuer x Nintendo partnership arrives in the form of two limited-edition TAG Heuer Formula 1s (a chronograph and chronograph tourbillon) celebrating the Mario Kart franchise.
It's hard to imagine a pair of watches that poke at the twitch-game amygdala as hard as these F1s do: They are both limited editions, so there’s built-in fear of missing out; they appeal to fans of racing watches; they stir up a sense of 90s nostalgia for both the original TAG Heuer Formula 1 and late 20th-century video games; and...one of them is a tourbillon with freakin’ Mario on it!
Watchonista had the opportunity to go hands-on with these tempting timepieces. And they came ready to play!
Go Kart Go!
If you weren’t a child of the 1990s, here’s a quick Cliffs Notes. Mario Kart is a series of racing games developed and first published by Nintendo in 1992. Players battled in go-kart races while using various power-up items. Their characters and courses were based on the previous Super Mario vidgame series with crossovers to other Nintendo gaming franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, F-Zero, and Splatoon.
Again, touching base with that era, the first version of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 was in circulation between 1986 and 1994. It was the first watch produced after Heuer's historic acquisition by Techniques d'Avant Garde (TAG). With its brightly colored, fiberglass-coated case, the Formula 1 represented a new kind of watch. And Super Mario Kart was a novel type of racing game.
Both the timepiece and the games have iconoclastic appeal, and both have since become full-stop cultural icons. Mario jumped from being an 8-bit legend to a character that was as instantly recognizable as the Coca-Cola logo and Mickey Mouse. The F1, designed by Eddy Burgener, was easily identified by its chunky, notched bezel, as well.
The real testament to the watch and the game’s success is their staying power. To bring them together in a horologically relevant way, frankly, is blowing our minds.
Even though Nintendo and TAG kicked off their partnership with the TAG Heuer Connected x Super Mario Limited Edition in 2021, we were not expecting the next collaboration between the watchmaker and Nintendo to be quite so elevated. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 X Mario Kart Limited Editions are real mechanical watches.
The chronograph is fueled by the in-house automatic Calibre 16 movement. This high-frequency, high-performance mechanism has deep ties to racing – they don't call it the “Carrera Caliber” for nothing.
Design-wise, TAG Heuer and Nintendo worked closely together to customize every detail of these pieces. The 44mm steel case frames many references to the world-famous racing games series: the Mario Kart logo is inscribed on the black polished ceramic tachymeter bezel with Super-LumiNova, the 2 o’clock pusher and crown are circled with an iconic Mario-worthy red lacquer, Mario’s M symbol is etched on the crown, and Mario Kart logo is engraved on the dedicated screw-down case back along with an outline of Mario in a race car. The date window at 3 o’clock displays a range of favorite Mario Kart graphics including Bullet Bill, stars, and the banana, instead of the date number.
The watches also recall themes from the TAG Heuer Formula 1 collection. According to Frédéric Arnault, CEO of TAG Heuer, “The spirit of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 collection was the perfect match for mechanical Mario Kart limited editions, thanks to its modern and playful personality, driven by speed and friendly competition. The two timepieces are designed for lovers of fine watchmaking who have kept their fresh, fun outlook on life.”
Okay, for deep-cut vidgamers, Mario’s brother Luigi is missing from this collaboration. But we are impressed that the TAG Heuer/Nintendo partnership has yielded two distinct personalities. The layout of the chronograph edition has a strong family resemblance to the Carrera’s heritage DNA. Yet, it is still a pretty conventional take on the F1 timepiece’s cues.
For the Chronograph Tourbillon, it feels like the design team just had a bit more fun. Limited to just 250 pieces, this turbo-charged tourbillon comes in a slightly larger 45mm case made of high-performance Grade 5 titanium with a screwed sapphire case engraved with the Mario Kart logo and the edition number.
Both watches come with a black calf leather strap with contrasting red stitching and lining, and an embossed reptile pattern. The folding buckle is also engraved with Mario’s M symbol. Each timepiece is presented in a specially developed black watch box with a matching travel pouch.
The most interesting element, however, is the tourbillon mechanism itself. It features an enameled Mario eternally chasing (or being chased by) a blue shell and his nemisis Bullet Bill. If you want to dive deeper into a character-watch nostalgia hole, this animation is reminiscent of the seconds sub-dial on the original Mickey Mouse watches.
Being TAG Heuer, these two timepieces do not come at Mickey Mouse prices. But they are highly finished watches with covetable complications. For those who are more of an enthusiast than a collector, it’s also fun to see a luxury watch brand with such enviable provenance and a storied heritage not take itself too seriously.
Pricing & Availability
The TAG Heuer Formula 1 X Mario Kart Limited Edition Chronograph is limited to 3,000 pieces and is priced at $4,300. The Limited Edition Tourbillon Chronograph is limited to 250 pieces and is priced at $25,600.
They become officially available at the TAG Heuer website and retailers today!
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)