At the Indy 500 with the new TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy 500 2022 Limited Edition & James Garner’s Heuer
On Memorial Day weekend, Watchonista went to the 106th running of the legendary Indy 500, got a close-up look at the new TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy 500 2022 Limited Edition, and met an historic watch slated for auction in just a few days.
There’s a lot of cross-over between watch enthusiasts and auto racing fans. It is also a time of transition for both pursuits. Race organizers are adapting to the introduction of electric supercars and adopting new rules for prototypes. Meanwhile, watch manufacturers are experiencing a boom in physical watch sales as the experiment with expanding online sales and incorporating blockchain technology, NFTs, and cryptocurrency progresses.
So, it was fitting then to celebrate the past, present and future of motorsports with TAG Heuer at the Indy 500 over Memorial Day weekend. Plus, it was a blast to see the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy 500 2022 Limited Edition up close (on the wrist of Indy winner Alexander Rossi no less), but that wasn’t the only excitement at the track that day.
The Indianapolis 500 – held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana – is one of the oldest automobile races in the world. Moreover, this 500-mile race is one of the most highly attended single-day sporting events in the world, as well, with tailgate parties stretching for miles and miles along the roads leading to the track.
An event this big is going to draw a lot of VIPs. Acts like Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki got the crowds pumped while famous Indiana native David Letterman watched from the stands.
However, despite the presence of Late Night’s former host, we were most star-struck by Gigi Garner, daughter of actor James Garner, who brought along a few of her dad’s Heuers.
James Garner’s star status was cemented in TV shows like Maverick and The Rockford files and movies like 2004’s The Notebook and 1963’s The Great Escape (which also starred fellow Heuer-fan Steve McQueen). Like McQueen, Garner had a need for speed. So, for his role in John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film about Formula 1 racing, Grand Prix, Garner trained with Shelby Cobra driver Bob Bondurant and even did some of his own stunts.
Gigi Garner shared many great stories about her beloved father. As a long-time fan, I was happy to hear that he was just as charming off-screen as I had always hoped. Additionally, Gigi not only recalled trips to Indianapolis (Garner drove the pace car at the Indy 500 three times – in 1975, ’77, and ’85), but to Indy car events big and small all across the country.
In person, Gigi is just as genial as her father, telling me about her decision to auction off some of her late father’s effects at Phillips’ New York Watch Auction: SIX this weekend (June 11-12). She said, “My dad brought such joy to people’s lives, and it’s time to share with his fans.”
But the headliner is her late father’s iconic Heuer Carrera Ref. 3647N, which he wore in The Rockford Files and has his name printed on the dial. Considered one of the most important Heuers to come to market in recent years, Phillips estimates it will sell anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it sold for a significantly higher sum.
In Indiana, Gigi wore another of her father’s Heuers – a black and gold two-tone model. “It makes me feel so connected to him,” she said about wearing it. Garner was also passionate about animals. Thus, the funds raised during the Phillips auction will go to the James Garner Animal Rescue Fund.
TAG Heuer, of course, is the official timekeeper of the Indy 500 and a sponsor of Andretti Motorsport driver Alexander Rossi, who won the event in 2016 as a rookie driver. And the night before the race, Rossi presented the TAG Heuer’s annual commemorative Indianapolis-themed design – the Formula 1 Indy 500 2022 Limited Edition.
For the 2022 model, the brand worked with Rossi to develop a unique take on the 43mm Formula 1 quartz-powered chronograph. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked for my input,” said Rossi during the presentation. As a result, the striking black timepiece is styled to match the helmet that Rossi wore for the 106th running of the Indy 500 on May 29, 2022, the new TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy 500 2022 Limited Edition.
It also features a stylized image of the speedway’s iconic Pagoda tower and a “yard of bricks” motif around the chronograph track. Finally, the caseback is engraved with the race’s flying tire emblem and commemorative race date.
With all the changes that racing and watchmaking are facing, it was grand to spend a day getting grounded with two institutions: TAG Heuer and the Indy 500.
And one thing that gives us hope for the future of both brands is that both “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and TAG Heuer are focused on the fan experience. It’s true that the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy 500 2022 Limited Edition appeals to the diehard race fans and collectors. But, it is also one of the more attractive and accessible models to come out of the Formula 1 collection in some time.
The first Formula 1s were also the original timepieces produced when TAG merged with Heuer in the 1990s. For Generation X, they were a gateway watch, the first luxury purchase for many enthusiasts.
Fun Fact: In tribute, I wore my original F1 to compare the evolution of this signature timepiece to the latest iteration. Of course, the size has grown, and the case is no longer plastic, but if we had one wish for future Formula 1s, it would be to see a one-to-one recreation of these colorful watches.
The vintage version got a lot of happy reactions at the track as we cheered Rossi on (he placed a very respectable 5th that day). Again, it’s a transformative time – especially after two years of virtual events. But at the moment, the passion for racing and timekeeping still feels strong.
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(Photography by Watchonista, other sources mentioned)