Tag Heuer Link – My Review
I honestly believe that the Link bracelet is one of the main reasons for Tag Heuers success during the 1980s and which allowed them to become a world player in the high end watch world. Of course, more recently watch collecting has become a global phenomenon with many of the high end brands becoming house-hold names. In the 1980s the watch world, especially in Switzerland, was in serious danger of being swallowed up by the quartz revolution that allowed for wrist watches to become cheap, throw-away fashion items. In 1987 Tag Heuer, recently evolved from Heuer when Technique d’Avant Garde took over, needed something to re-establish themselves and move with the times. The design was so strong it redefined the brand just when it needed it. This strength in character has allowed the Link bracelet to remain in the catalogue ever since. Subtly refined over the years it still retains the glorious design that help elevate Tag Heuer into a top five brand world wide.
Many watch manufacturers have a flagship timepiece. Tag Heuer’s is arguably the Monaco. From what I have learnt from my years of reading watch books and trawling the internet for information on horology the Monaco does seem to be the most appreciated model. However, what is the instantaneously most recognisable Tag Heuer model? I would argue that it is the Link. The reason being that glorious bracelet.
It was originally unveiled in 1987 adorning a brand new model: The S/El, which stood for Sports Elegance. This was no misplaced publicity. The watch could readily function as a sports watch, alongside casual attire, and a dress watch, alongside formal attire.
Other watch manufacturers had also realised the new role of the wristwatch as a fashion statement during the quartz revolution and the glamorous 1980s but none of them had converted this realisation as well as Tag Heuer with their Link bracelet.
The original Link bracelet was a true revelation when it was first released and has changed little since, allowing it to still be instantly recognisable, elegant, sporty and comfortable. There have been nips and tucks to the aesthetics over the years but it has still stayed instantly recognisable.
The four main watches from the current Link range are the 40mm quartz three hander, the 42mm mechanical Calibre 5 Day/Date, the mechanical Calibre 16 chronograph and the electro-mechanical Calibre S chronograph. Each of these will be introduced here.
Before I start I must mention one element in isolation that I absolutely love: The discrete cushion shape of the bezel that graces the mechanical models, which is perfectly detailed in contrasting satin and highly polished finishes.
I appreciate that a high end quartz watch is an oxymoron to some watch collectors. However, I would argue that sometimes it makes sense. If you need a watch that is running every time you pick it up. If you need that same watch to be accurate every time you pick it up and not lose or gain seconds per day then a quartz watch makes sense. If you then desire that watch to be just as well put together and nicely finished then the Link Quartz is definitely worth considering. Below are the exquisite details of the quartz model that back up this statement.
I love the ribbed effect on the dial of the current models.
The reduced dimensions of this timepiece and weight of the quartz movement contribute to a very comfortable watch to wear.
The Calibre 5 movement is based on an ETA 2834-2 (itself based on the non-day Calibre 5 which derives from an ETA 2824). It oscillates at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) and provides 38 hours of power-reserve.
Once again the detailing of the entire watch reflects the sporty/elegant aspirations of the entire range of Link timepieces.
The Calibre 16 is based on the tried and tested ETA Valjoux 7750. This is a well known 25 jewel movement that oscillates at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) and provides 42 hours of power-reserve.
Image courtesy of tagheuer.com
This is the heaviest of the entire range, due to its size and movement. However, none of the range defining elegance and comfort are lost.
The Calibre S is a technical tour de force that was conceived and designed by Tag Heuer. This is an electro-mechanical movement.
Image courtesy of tagheuer.com
Despite it being fundamentally a quartz regulated movement (for which we get the benefits of super accuracy and not stopping for several years) the movement can be considered mechanical with over 230 components. These include 28 jewels. 5 bi-directional motors.
The Calibre S facilitates normal time read from the three hands and a perpetual calendar from the two semi-circular displays at the base of the dial. These same three hands and twin displays also present the chronograph time, with split seconds, to the nearest 100th of a second.
The displays can be switched by simply pressing the crown. Neither the time or chronograph is disturbed by swopping between the two.
The following two images highlight the stopwatch at zero and the stopwatch having been stopped at 15 minutes and 48.39 seconds.
The following images highlight the Calibre S (preceding model: note the slightly more rounded links) in all its intelligence and aesthetic glory.
Each link bracelet is cleverly designed so that there are no external screws or pins to ruin the purity of their design. The end pin is first removed. This allows the first half link to be drop away leaving the first screw exposed. Upon removing this screw the second half of the link becomes removable and the process is repeated as required. This represents true engineering elegance with a real world application and benefit.
Conclusion: It is not often that a bracelet design defines an entire watch collection. It is also not often that a bracelet can be elegant, sporty and incredibly comfortable. And yet that is exactly what we have with the Tag Heuer Link range of models.
It is clear that the Link bracelet is both elegant and sporty as it looks just as good alongside the simple and beautifully detailed three handed watches as it does against the incredibly clever and utilitarian Calibre S models.
The link bracelet is instantly recognisable. It makes almost all other bracelet designs look generic. This is the sign of a truly great design. I love it and I think it looks just as good no matter which model it accompanies.
Once the senses have been given time to digest the aesthetics the wearer realises that this bracelet is one of the most comfortable available. The fit and finish are impressive at this price point as well. Consider the fact that the entry level quartz model with sapphire glass and all the hallmarks of the rest of the line up costs little more than a bracelet from other luxury brands.
All of these testimonials that I freely give towards the Link bracelet may seem incongruous. After all, this is a watch review. But here lies the charm of the Link range of timepieces. The watches themselves do not get out-shone by the bracelet. They certainly do not lose any integrity as high end timepieces because of this. The range consists of simple, super accurate quartz models to the electro-mechanical hybrid Calibre S with varying levels of complicated mechanical watches in between. Each one fulfils its purpose.
The levels of detail, design and fit and finish are retained throughout. The prices are competitive as well, ranging from £1500 for the quartz up to £2800 for the Calibre 16 chronograph.
Aesthetics are always subjective, I fully appreciate this, and I do realise that I have based most of my opinoins for this review on my own personal evaluation of the aesthetics. Only you will know if you like the Link design. However, I guarantee that you like the design of the Link range then you will not be disappointed by any other aspect of the watches. Tag Heuer were clever by renaming this range from the original S/El (Sports Elegance) to Link as it is more user friendly and identifies the range better. However, Sports Elegance is the perfect nomenclature and accurate description for this most versatile range of timepieces.
All words and images by Richard Atkins and Tag Heuer (unless otherwise stated). This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.