This is my first in-depth watch review, so please let me know what you think!
Even before I became seriously interested in watches, I wanted a Tag Heuer F1. When I bought myself a watch as a gift for graduating college, it was way out of my price range. Jump forward to last year, and I received an opportunity to buy one at a good price, and tried one on at an AD. Based on a quick test fit, I decided that it wasn't worth the other watch that I would have to sell, and decided to pass. My first impression was that it was not that impressive, especially if you considered the full retail price. Also, as I became more knowledgeable about watches, I became sort of confused by this watch, and wrote it off. What's the point of it? Other than saying "Formula 1" on the dial, what does this pseudo-diving watch have to do with Formula 1? It doesn't have a tachymeter scale, and the Grande Date version that I was looking at doesn't even have a chronograph, yet it comes with a diving extension? I didn't get it.
Well, I had another opportunity to get one, and decided to give it a try. Now I'm starting to "get" this watch. With modern computers and onboard telemetry, no one at an F1 (or any high level) race is using their watch for anything other than to tell time. Drivers other than rally don't even wear a watch, and rally watches are very specialized digital devices. Thus, why does it need any special functions or markings to be a racing watch? People at races just want a watch that looks good, is very easy to read, and is durable. Now that I've had it for a week, I think that this may replace my Orange Monster as my every day "go-to" watch.
With its quirky styling and scalloped bezel Tag F1 has become an icon for the entry level Tag lineup.
As I've become more interested in watches, I've, as you can expect, started to gravitate mainly towards watches with automatic movements. That being said, I feel that a basic, good quality quartz movement is completely appropriate for the F1 series of watches. It's a lower cost entry into the Tag lineup, and it totally matches the character of the watch. Also, it's nice to just throw it on, and not worry about winding it, or setting the time if it hasn't been worn in a few days. That being said, I think that it's a pretty low cost movement for this price.
I believe that this particular watch uses some sort of Rhonda movement. I haven't bothered to check the accuracy, but I'm sure that it's spot on. The large date is a nice addition, as is the small second hand (which all makes the quartz tick less noticeable). The only complaint that I have is that the second hand doesn't quite hit the markers dead on, but that's probably more of an assembly issue. I think it takes about a half hour for the date to change over, starting around 11:30. The two digits are on separate rotating discs, and change independently of each other. I have another watch with a similar, but more complicated Rhonda big date movement, and I believe that on days other than 9, 19, 29, 30 and 31, only the single digit moves.
The Formula 1 has a very unique lugless design, but will accept standard 22mm bands. The entire case is brushed stainless steel. The top of the case is brushed vertically, the sides horizontally, and the bottom axially. The caseback has a cool checkered flag motif going on, along with the T-H logo, and requisite specs, model, and serial number. The watch also has a nice weight to it, and I think that the 44mm size is perfect for this watch. Because of the shape of the bezel and case, it wears a lot smaller and thinner than the dimensions suggest. My only complaint is that I could really do without the black Tag Heuer advertisement on the side of the case.
I like the black coated bezel for 2 reasons: First, it seems that it will be much more resistant to light scratches and scuffs that a traditional brushed stainless bezel would be. Second, it almost appears to be black plastic. Normally I would not like this because it makes the watch look less expensive. In this case I think it's really cool, as it is a throwback to the original F1 plastic bezel, but it's much more durable. It does not have a lume pip, but it does have brightly brushed numerals at 5 minute intervals, and a good outline of the logo at 60, which really make the watch stand out.
The uni-directional bezel itself has a very solid feeling click, and very audible ratchet sound when you rotate it. It has 120 clicks. It seems very secure, but I think because of the design, I have found that it has turned by itself a few times (I think while taking a jacket on and off on a crowded airplane).
Very user friendly. Great looking logo on it. The crown guards appear to give great protection, yet it's still easy to unscrew and adjust. It also features a nice sized outline of the T-H logo in brushed stainless. Also, I like the fact that the crown and guards are black, its gives the watch a more distinctive look.
Sapphire, which appears to be anti-reflective on the underside. My only small complaint is that it sticks out a half mm or so above the bezel. This actually looks really nice, but makes me nervous about chipping an edge if I hit the watch on something.
What can I say about this dial? It looks great, and is extremely easy to read. The round markers are a throwback to the classic F1, with a distinctive triangle above the 12. Plus the whole thing is lume!!! (why do we watch nuts love lume so much???). I love the Panda looking small seconds dial. Also, I really like how the black date window is integrated into that dial. It's harder to notice it, but I know where it is when I need it, and the rest of the time it blends in and does not clutter up the dial (especially on the 30th of the month, natch!). Otherwise it would either have to be offset somewhere sloppily, or replace one of the cool looking numerals on the dial.
I'm a bit torn on the lack of chapter ring. It gives the dial a nice flat, functional appearance, but it also results in a big flat silver gap between the dial and crystal. My other minor complaint is, does the dial really need a Tag Heuer logo, and the words Tag Heuer on it?
I was trying to figure out why the black dial version had skeletonized hands, and the white dial version does not. I realized it's because of the black seconds dial. If the hands were skeletonized, they would not be visible when passing over that dial (see photos below), especially at night. This way, they stand out at any point on the dial. I also like how the seconds hand is mostly blacked out, with just a white stick tip. This gives a much cleaner appearance, and makes it less distracting. The tips of the hands also mimic the shield shaped logo that shows up in other places on the watch.
My only suggestion is to make the minute hand a tad longer and make both hands about 50% wider. The watch is already very easy to read at a quick glance, but this would make it even better, and I think, also improve the aesthetics. I was thinking that some different colored hands (i.e. red) would make the time really pop out, but it would ruin the clean look of the watch. The completely black and white design is my favorite feature of this watch.
On a full "charge," it's extremely bright. As it dims, it gets harder to see the hands, but it's still basically legible even the next morning. The hands also have full lume, and have a more greenish glow, whereas the face is more blue. The second hand does not have any lume.
I'm OK with the lume on the face not being that bright. I'm sure that they wanted to preserve the pure white look of the dail, and in daylight, you can't even tell that it's illuminated. My complaint is that the lume on the hands is sub-par. Because they are fairly thin, they become hard to see against the dial as the lume fades. Making them wider, or better yet, using some better quality lume would go a long way. As it is, they tend to blend in with with face, and you really need to focus to see them once the lume fades.
The watch came with a rubber strap, and I also ended up purchasing the original bracelet, so I will review both. Swapping them back and forth is fairly easy, especially considering the lugless design.
I'm liking it more than I thought I would. It gives the watch a cooler, more causal appearance. It's a nice soft material, with a bit of stretch to it. The back side has notches in it. Perhaps to help keep the wrist cool, or perhaps to allow it to be stretchier? Also, the tip is shaped like the T-H logo, which is a nice touch. The buckle is also a nice thick piece of machined steel that says Tag Heuer on it. Once on, it's very comfortable, but the rubber keepers are very annoying to adjust. Hopefully this will loosen up over time, but I would greatly prefer one metal keeper for simplicity. Also, I don't like that the rubber has huge Tag Heuer text molded into it. One of the rubber keepers also says Tag Heuer.
Overall very nice. The links feel extremely smooth to the touch, and it's very comfortable. It matches the design of the watch perfectly, and is a nice modern update to the classic F1 rounded link bracelet. It's also very easy to resize, with split pins. It also dresses the watch up a bit, but still maintains its character.
The clasp, however, is just a few stamped steel pieces, not worthy of a nearly $1000 watch in my opinion. The safety clasp is very difficult to open with your fingernail, as is the clasp itself. It does not have release buttons, so it also has this problem. It's taken some time for me to adjust to using it without feeling like I'm going to rip my fingernails out. Hopefully it will loosen up a bit over time, but at least it feels very secure once it's on. On the plus side, the safety clasp has a cool T-H logo in it, and it does have 3 micro adjust positions. Also, I still struggle to understand why an auto racing watch comes with a diving extension. That being said, it's nice to have the extension on occasion, such as if I am sweating, and watch to loosen up the watch a bit to let my wrist breathe.
Overall I'm really glad that I chose the white over the black dial. The watch is really growing on me, and I think it may replace my orange monster as my general, daily wear watch. The size and style are just right for day to day activities.
+ Full lume dial, and monochrome panda styling.
+ Updated interpretation of future classic Formula 1 style.
+ Great legibility.
+ Beautiful bracelet.
- Too many Tag Heuer adverts, I mean logos.
- Basic movement, and basic features for the asking price.
- Strap difficult to put on, bracelet difficult to put off.
- Why the diving bezel?