Perhaps you’ve already heard: Porsche and TAG Heuer just inked a landmark deal for a wide-ranging and long-term partnership covering everything from competitive endeavours to product development. This is excellent news for anyone who is even remotely into cars or watches. (The Venn diagram on those two demographics probably looks something like a total eclipse.) We recently sat down with Frédéric Arnault, CEO of TAG Heuer, and Detlev von Platen, board member for sales and marketing at Porsche, to discuss cars, tech, collaboration, and what makes a great driving watch.
A quick slice of history for our readers here: In 1963, Jack Heuer named the then-new Heuer Carrera after the legendary Carrera Panamericana, a grueling race that Porsche won in 1954. His idea was, in part, to make a watch that drivers could use to tell the time at a glance, even in the heat of the action. So, what are the other hallmarks of a great driver’s watch?
Frédéric Arnault: A chronograph must be able to time, with precision, the laps that you’re doing – and we have great precision on this new TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph Special Edition. It needs to be well fitted on the wrist too, of course. It needs to be ultra-legible and with an easily accessible chronograph function. These I would say are important features, but also the Carrera, with its name and its history, is a chronograph that is intrinsically linked with the world of racing. Wearing this watch, you also express an attitude; an attitude of racing, of competition.
Steve McQueen, Porsche, and the Heuer Monaco. It’s a wild story, right? In the movie Le Mans, McQueen wanted to look like Jo Siffert, right down to the Heuer-branded racing suit.
Detlev von Platen: It started because Jack Heuer, who created the first Carrera watch in 1963, met a guy named Jo Siffert, a Porsche dealer and racing driver based in Switzerland. He started to talk about Le Mans and about racing – and Jack Heuer was an absolutely crazy man about racing – and so it started just like that. All of a sudden you had TAG Heuer and Porsche linked very closely.
Right. And that led to this incredible contract. Jack Heuer explained: “In exchange for CHF$25,000, [Siffert] would put our logo on his car and suit. In addition, he could buy our watches at wholesale prices and resell them to his racing friends at a substantial profit. Which he did with great success because half of the F1 paddock was wearing Heuer watches by the end of the 1969 season!” Why is it that fans of great cars are so often also fans of great watches?
FA: I think there are really similar values between a watch and a car. They’re industrial products with long lead times, with a lot of engineering behind them, and with a lot of thought. Quality is not a given. Great quality and durability is something that’s earned with a lot of time and investment. These are industries that live off of icons. There’s a value of investment in watches, as in cars, with high price points – more now than ever before. So, there are really similar values and similar behaviours in terms of the purchasing process and the thought process behind buying a watch and a car.
Your two companies obviously share a lot of history, but what are the origins of the official partnership announced today and what will it encompass?
DVP: We’ve had many reactions from people saying: “We thought the relationship between Porsche and TAG Heuer had existed for years already.” I think it’s worth mentioning that the nice thing about this partnership is that it’s very long-term. We started the discussion two years ago. It’s a partnership on several dimensions, not just about sponsorship or branding; it’s a very strong integrated partnership.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph is the first fruit of the collaboration. Are there any special elements of it that you’re especially proud of?
FA: We wanted a subtle Porsche inscription; it’s not something you would recognize at a glance. It was important for us that you don’t see everything right away; that you can discover all the details of the products over time.
What challenges are facing the automotive and watch industries now? What’s on the horizon?
DVP: Both industries are going through massive times of change. In the automotive world, we talk about electrification, digitalization, and connectivity. And we see this in a world where the purchase attitude has completely changed with online buying. You realize that brand is becoming a very important thing. The brand aspect – branding – is a very strong promise to your customers and future customers about what you want to do, what are your values, what is your purpose, and how you want to innovate. It’s very, very similar for TAG Heuer. It’s a different industry, but there is a huge change in that industry too in terms of technology and of connectivity.
Okay, important question: do you wear a different watch to drive a different car? Are their good pairings, as with food and wine?
FA: I do see for collectors, who have many cars and many watches, a relevance in pairing them. For example, pairing a 911 Carrera Porsche and a specific Carrera from the TAG Heuer collection makes the experience even more special.
DVP: I think you’re right. I think the car of the future will be connected to everything, to other cars and to people. Watches, I think, will be the vehicle for many things like this. You can imagine many good ideas in this direction – but it’s too early to talk about this.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.