TAG Heuer at the Monaco Grand Prix

TAG Heuer Announces Special-Edition Watches on the 30th Anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s First Monaco Grand Prix Win

By Jonathan Bues

Ayrton Senna in Monaco

In 1988, when the precocious Formula One driver Ayrton Senna joined the dominant team of the era, McLaren, he also began a relationship with TAG Heuer. Not only did the firm partner with McLaren through a sponsorship, seeing its logo emblazoned on the suits of its drivers and cars, but TAG in fact owned a major share of the McLaren team at the time. Techniques Avant Garde (TAG for short), the parent of TAG Heuer in the pre-LVMH days, was then and remains a diversified technology holding company with interests in a variety of performance mechanics.

Senna was 28 when sponsorship united him with TAG Heuer. He had notched the first of his record six Monaco Grands Prix wins only a year earlier. The young Brazilian would go on to be recognized as one of if not the greatest Formula One pilots of all time, his life cut short by a crash at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at the age of 34.

The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition Chronograph.

Senna’s life and career are memorialized in the devotion of his passionate fans, in the subsequent generations of drivers he inspired and, perhaps most poignantly, in the eponymous 2011 documentary Senna, which presents its subject not only as a preternaturally gifted driver but as a larger-than-life personality whose musings at times verged on the philosophical. If ever a driver deserved to be memorialized with a new range of timepieces, it is Senna.

Thirty years after Senna won his first Monaco Grand Prix, TAG Heuer picked the most apt time and place to announce the new TAG Heuer Formula 1 Ayrton Senna Special Editions: the company’s recently opened boutique in the Principality of Monaco during the Grand Prix. There are three new models in the collection. At the high-end is a Carrera Heuer 01 chronograph edition that sees its imposing, 45 mm brushed-steel case highlighted with touches of racing red. Familiar Senna design codes include the red “S” printed on the running seconds subdial and the name Senna printed on the tachymeter bezel. The watch comes equipped with TAG Heuer’s proprietary link bracelet, also in brushed stainless steel. The Link bracelet is a design element that enjoyed a period of popularity during Senna’s career, and that was found on the early model that Senna wore. On the back, the timepiece has a sporty smoked-sapphire crystal which is also emblazoned with the Senna “S” in red.

The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition.

The Heuer 01 is an in-house column-wheel chronograph movement beating at 4 Hz, or 28,800 bph with a power reserve of 50 hours.

At the more accessible end of the spectrum, TAG Heuer debuted two quartz Formula One models in the Special Edition, a simple watch with time and date and a chronograph. Both of these Formula 1 models carry the Senna symbols on their bezels and dials, in addition to the racing stripe on the dial. Each comes in a 43 mm brushed steel with a black PVD case, secured to the wrist by a black-and-red rubber S-link bracelet.

The Heuer 01 Ayrton Senna Edition

The Race

As one might imagine for a watch company such as TAG Heuer that is so steeped in automotive history, activating at Monaco is going to be a major affair. Not only does the label make a timepiece named after the sport of Formula One, the iconic, square-shaped Monaco timepiece takes its name from the storied street course built out across the principality each May for the running of the premier event on the Formula One calendar.

Max Verstappen driving the Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 on track during the final practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.

These days, TAG Heuer is as immersed in the sport of Formula One as ever. The company sponsors one of today’s leading racing teams, Red Bull, and of course places its watches on the wrists of its high-profile drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. The partnership doesn’t end there—even the power units at the heart of each driver’s car bear the TAG Heuer name, though this is a sponsorship play. (They’re not making Formula One engines in La Chaux-de-Fonds.)

Daniel Ricciardo driving the Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 on track during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.

Celebrity Guest

TAG Heuer brought one of its highest-profile brand ambassadors along for the race, the Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, who toured the Red Bull paddocks and interacted with the drivers and crew. Hemsworth is a fan of the sport, and something of an expert, following the intense research he put into his role in 2013’s Rush, in which he played the brilliant, albeit self-destructively flawed, British F1 champion James Hunt. Hunt’s legendary rivalry with Austrian driver Niki Lauda moves the story along against the backdrop of the golden age of racing.

Chris Hemsworth and Kate Upton.

The Outcome

This year’s race yielded unexpected results across the board as Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton had a poor showing in qualifying that saw the Briton start from the disadvantageous 13th position. He made up enough ground to get to seventh position. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo made the podium in third place, one spot behind his finish last year. As fate would have it, the day belonged to Ferrari, partner of TAG Heuer’s sister brand Hublot. Its driver Kimi Räikkönen, who started from the pole position, and Sebastian Vettel traded places during the race, with Vettel ascending to the highest point on the podium.

Look for a feature story on TAG Heuer and the Monaco Grand Prix in the August/September issue of Watch Journal and find out more information on the new watches here.

Chris Hemsworth with Jean-Claude Biver.
Daniel Ricciardo making cheese fondue with Jean-Claude Biver.
Opening night party on the TAG Heuer yacht.
Chris Hemsworth has been a TAG Heuer brand ambassador since 2015.
The Red Bull Racing team practice pit stops before the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.
Contemporary artist Alec Monopoly was one of the many TAG Heuer ambassadors that attended the race.