The most accurate mechanical timepiece ever crafted
By Mike Hanlon
April 16, 2005
April 17, 2005 TAG Heuer released another first at the Baselworld 2005 global watch mecca - the most accurate mechanical timepiece ever crafted, the “Calibre 360” Concept Chronograph. The “Calibre 360” Concept Chronograph is the first mechanical wrist chronograph to measure and display time to 1/100th of a second, thanks to the exceptionally high frequency of its balance wheel, which oscillates at 360,000 beats per hour, 10 times faster than any other chronograph—a rate that until now was considered impossible.
The ultra resistant and light titanium Ti5 "Calibre 360" Concept Chronograph is the flagship of the range and is being marketed in association with McLaren Mercedes F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya and is designed to highlight TAG Heuer's superior innovation and commanding lead over the rest of the Swiss watchmaking industry, as underlined in 2004 by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney and the business magazine Bilanz, which identified TAG Heuer as one of the three most innovative companies in Switzerland and one of the leading innovators in Europe.
Formula 1 driver and watch collector Juan Pablo Montoya had input in the design of this car racing-inspired Concept Chronograph.
TAG Heuer's history has been more than just radical. Starting with its first stopwatch patent in 1869, followed by the revolutionary oscillating pinion of 1887 — still an essential component in today's mechanical chronographs like the TAG Heuer Calibre 16 — the Company has relentlessly pushed Swiss watchmaking tradition forward by challenging and innovating on its most time-honored conventions.
In1916, with the invention of the Micrograph — the first pocket timepiece accurate to 1/100th of a second — TAG Heuer took the first step towards this year's revolutionary “Calibre 360” Concept Chronograph.
It quickly became the timepiece of choice at top-level sports events, solidifying TAG Heuer's reputation as the world's best timekeeper. Having earned renown for the mechanical perfection of its products, the company continued its quest for accuracy and innovation in the service of both sports and science. In 1969, TAG Heuer revolutionized chronographs at Basel by being the first to market an automatic chronograph movement, the famous Calibre 11 (Chronomatic) with a microrotor to rewind the barrels.
First the Micrograph, then the 1969 Chronomatic Calibre 11, and now the TAG Heuer “Calibre 360” Concept Chronograph. The world's most accurate wrist chronograph, the revolutionary new “Calibre 360” Concept Chronograph directly incorporates technology and techniques drawn from both of these prior innovations.
The “Calibre 360” Concept Chronograph represents the culmination of TAG Heuer’s know-how and expertise in the field of precision mechanical watchmaking and sports timekeeping. Finally, after years of painstaking research and experimentation, every mechanical obstacle has been eliminated through a groundbreaking manufacturing concept and a world first in horology: The first 1/100th of a second wrist mechanical chronograph To achieve this exceptional level of precision, TAG Heuer has developed a unique and complex movement, the principle of which was set by the Chronomatic Calibre 11 in 1969. Made of more than 234 components and modules which 131 are directly from the chronograph movement, it actually fuses two distinctive mechanical movements, each connected to the other but operating independently.
To ensure precision adjustment and independent operation, the basis of the “Calibre 360” Concept Chronograph is an automatic movement, the TAG Heuer Calibre 7, with a power-reserve of 42 hours and a heart beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour. Highly resistant to wrist shock and wear effects, embellished with Côtes de Genève decoration on the oscillating mass, this movement has been certified as a chronometer by the COSC (the Swiss Official Chronometer Control institute).
What is most extraordinary about the “Calibre 360” movement is that the chronograph function is not just a "module" added on to the automatic watch movement.
With its barrel, separate manual winding system, gearwheel and the independent balance wheel and spiral mechanism, it is a genuine and wholly separate movement, a chronograph with a power-reserve counter and a quick-rotating barrel that offers 100 minutes of power reserve, plus its most remarkable component: a single-pallet escapement wheel and special balance wheel. The high-precision mechanism, specially created and hand-assembled, provides an unbelievable oscillating frequency of 360,000 vibrations per hour. With such a high-powered system, the “Calibre 360” creates a new milestone in Swiss watchmaking history. The quantum leap to 360,000 vibrations per hour from usually 28,800 or 36,000 could be compared to a Formula 1 engine jumping from 18,000 rpm to 180,000 rpm !
As the “Calibre 360” is a worldwide first in the history of watchmaking, TAG Heuer has filed for two exclusive worldwide patents :
The first patent protects the 1/100th of a second counter on a mechanical wrist chronograph.
The second patent protects the unique crown control system. The single crown winds both movements and controls the watch’s hour and date settings. A clockwise rotation loads the barrel on the manual chronograph movement; a counter-clockwise rotation rewinds the automatic movement that gives the time.
As usual, TAG Heuer's designers, stimulated by the input of watch collector and star Formula 1 driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, have created an exceptionally daring timepiece to house the “Calibre 360” movement. This masterpiece is easily recognizable thanks to its unique and exceptional architecture: like a pure high-tech engine, the chronograph functions are displayed through the wrought Côtes-de-Genève “chronograph engine”, which contrasts with the flat-black dial.
At 6 o'clock, an oversized circular fine-brushed counter keeps track of the 1/100ths-of-a-second red hand, while at 9 o'clock, a red minute needle directly integrated into the “chronograph engine” displays the elapsed time on a 9 minutes scale disk, particularly adapted for the car-race timekeeping. At 12 o'clock, the wearer can see the power-reserve indicator of 100 minutes, displayed in the same way as the fuel indicator of car’s dashboards, through the “chronograph engine's” angled polished opening. The result is a look as radicallyinspired by car racing as the high-tech technology housed inside it.
Designed to accentuate the Calibre 360’s exceptional movement, the case has been crafted from titanium Grade 5, an exclusive TAG Heuer material developed with McLaren in 1997 for the Kirium series, and combining utmost resistance with utmost lightness as well as sparkling polish effect. It’s a pure TAG Heuer case with oversized crown and asymmetrical pushbuttons, the larger of which, at two o’clock and capped bright red, controls the stopwatch.
Once pressed, the chronograph mechanism springs into action, simultaneously activating the chronograph second hand in the centre of the dial and the 100ths-of-a-second hand located in a counter at six o’clock. Thanks to the high oscillating frequency, the centre hand advances at a perfectly regular pace, and the 100ths counter makes a complete rotation in one second. This invention is not only an aesthetic success; it also lets the user explore just how long a second can last and discover how pleasant it is to watch time pass in a “smooth-as-silk” fashion.
On the caseback, two semicircle windows in sapphire give another perspective on this extraordinary movement, a new classic masterpiece, uniquely designed and manufactured by TAG Heuer.
Developed with Juan Pablo Montoya, the bracelet is, naturally, in stylish black rubber with folding buckle, further enhancing comfort and ergonomy, even when driving at 300 km/h and crossing the finish line with a few 100ths-of-a-second lead.