Saturday, February 27, 2021

Objects of life #5 - TAG Heuer watch

TAG Heuer Formula 2000 watch

It's a sign of age to have a receipt box that's overflowing - indeed, it's probably a sign of age to have one at all. These days most invoices are electronic, but I still keep the habit of filing the paperwork for those items I perceive to be of value. This morning, I spent a pleasant half-hour rooting through the records for bikes I bought thirty years ago, jewellery that's even older, and paintings from a lifetime of collecting. 

But try as I might, I couldn't find the receipt for my TAG Heuer watch. I know I bought it sometime in the late Eighties, the first (and only) expensive one I've ever purchased. From memory, it cost me about a thousand pounds, but I think that must be wrong, which was why I was checking the file. It seems too much to have paid - a lot of spare cash for the time - I'd not buy a watch for that now?

And yet, for the last ten years it's languished in a drawer.  The face has tarnished so the battery must have leaked; the diving bevel no longer turns and the strap could do with an extra link or two. All in all, it's in a rather sorry state. Which is a pity for an item that hold memories much richer than any receipt could record.

TAG Heuer watches were once all the rage among kayakers. Mine came with me on expeditions to Nepal (twice), Turkey and several trips to the Alps. It's been down more rivers and across more stretches of sea than any boat I've owned.  I wore it when I was married and as a surprise wedding gift bought Jane a matching one that she still wears today. 

I wonder if there's any other object that accompanies us as much as the watches we wear? A wedding ring perhaps, but they're essentially passive - whereas a watch is something we use, a party to the decisions we take. How many times did I check the face of my TAG Heuer; how many choices did I confirm - or cancel - on the turning of its hands?  How much water did it witness flowing under the bridge of my life?

The model I have is a Formula 2000, which reflects TAG Heuer's sporting image. The company has been an official timekeeper at events dating back to the 1920 Olympics;  they're a sponsor today of sports as diverse as football, sailing and athletics. It's all nonsense of course - part of their lifestyle branding - for in practice, any digital watch is more than accurate enough, and I doubt there's an athlete (or a kayaker) who'd still use a model like mine.

But precision's not the point anymore, just as it never really was. Watches - and certainly ones of this sort - have always been about more than utility. For many, they're a form of conspicuous consumption, as anyone who's passed through the arrivals hall at Geneva airport will understand. For others, they're about fashion and style, a statement of who we are - or more likely, who we'd like to be.

The strange this is, none of this has ever appealed to me. We need to be careful in assessing ourselves, but I reckon I don't risk a hostage to fortune if I say that I'm not a brash or bling person - nor for that matter a style guru. And as for sporting prowess, what little there was is now as dormant as my watch this last decade.  

Which makes me think, it's about time I recharged the batteries. Coming to the end of this interminable standstill, there's something pleasing about the idea of its hands turning once more.  Wearing it would be a symbol of new beginnings and times gone by - a reminder that all our days are precious.

So I'm going to send it to a specialist repairer. No doubt the cost will be more than's sensible, but maybe that's fitting. For its value lies not in money but in memories - and in the making of new ones. And that's an asset that takes time to grow.


  1. Yes, you should have it restored if possible Mark, it has memories of so many awesome trips and places.

    I have three watches and love them more than my iPhone. I mostly still wear my everyday watch, a beautiful Victorinox, Swiss-made with a large face for my old eyes, a gift about 10 years ago from my husband.

    I also have my 'evening watch' a more dainty Citizen tank style with glittery stones NOT diamonds! It was purchased on board Cunard's Queen Victoria at the end of a Baltic cruise when ships always have a sale!

    My third is just a large TIMEX Expedition watch on a green canvas strap. . . . .and it certainly has been on many expeditions to all 7 continents around the world! I bought it for my very first safari to Africa. Every time I take it out of the drawer to look at it I recall so many amazing places. . . . . and long to start traveling again and yes, make of those memories.

    Enjoy your weekend.
    Mary -

  2. Sounds a great watch that can tell the time and some great travel tales.

  3. My husband and my brother loved these watches and took great pride in owning them
    I have no such attachment s ... I never wear one

  4. A bit rarefied for me. My husband had a Breitling. For many years it just sat in a drawer, never getting a look in or telling the time until it stopped itself in disgust at the neglect. We gave it to his son who promptly then went to Switzerland (from the US) and took a selfie outside the shop, waving his arm sporting the watch

  5. I think watches can be beautiful but they have become a casualty of the digital age. I hope once restored that you'll wear yours again.

  6. I have had people look at me as if I am crazy at some of the things that I have paid money to repair. The value of the piece, in their eyes, is determined by the replacement value. The value of the piece, in my eyes, is determined by the memories of it. I collect old clocks and the idea of them ticking the minutes off in quiet long ago days appeals to me.