From the '60s till the mid '70s, the Swiss watchmaking industry was on fire. Almost a day didn't go by without one of its brands putting out a new modern-day classic. But then the 80s came, and with it a new breed of watchmakers entered the scene. Suddenly, people didn't want 'modern-day classics'. They wanted the flashy digital and quartz-powered watches flooding the market from Japan. The age of the mechanical Swiss watch, it seemed, had come to an end. The Swiss industry went into hibernation. It was still producing watches, of course, but fewer and fewer people were interested. But for every rule, there's an exception. In this case, the exception came by way of TAG Heuer. In 1987, it released the TAG Heuer S/E, later to evolve into the Link.
With its dressy feel and its distinctive look, the Link was an instant success. Over the next 20 years, it'd become one of the most important cornerstones of the TAG Heuer collection, selling over 2 million pieces and helping the brand weather one of the most difficult periods in its history. In the 2000s, the Carrera was developed from a small-scale novelty item into a full-blown series. When that happened, the Link was relegated from the major leagues to the second division. But you can't keep a good watch down for long. When TAG Heuer began revisiting the Link a few years later, the series once again rose to prominence. It might not enjoy the status of the Carrera or the Monaco these days, but make no mistake. It's a heck of a watch. If you're considering buying into one of the most iconic series ever to come out of Switzerland, you could do a lot worse than taking a closer look at some of these 5 masterful pieces from the Link series.
TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5
In 2016, TAG Heuer began its overhaul of the Link series. After testing the waters with the Link Lady, it hit gold the following year with the TAG Heuer Link Calibre 5. As ablogtowatch.com notes, the Calibre 5 bought a new level of aggressiveness to the series. With its distinctive look and attention-grabbing style, it single handedly proved that TAG Heuer could make dressy “business” watches just as well as it could make sporty numbers. Customers could expect a 41mm case with a contrasting brushed and polished finish and a completely re-designed, integrated bracelet that was bigger, flatter, and altogether fiercer than it had ever been before. Dials came in a choice of three colors: black, silver, and blue. Powering the watch was TAG Heuer's house-branded ETA 2824, a self-winding workhorse visible through a sapphire case back and offering 38 hours of power reserve. Restrained where necessary, attention grabbing where otherwise, the Link Calibre 5 gave the series a new sense of purpose, a new voice, and a new audience. The Link was far from dead, and with this new incarnation, TAG Heuer proved it masterfully.
Link Calibre 16
The early noughties weren't the best of years for the Link. After seeing TAG Heuer through its 'difficult' years between the Quartz Crisis and Mechanical Revival, it got pushed aside when the Carrera and Monaco made the leap from low volume novelty items to the brand's new flagships. But TAG Heuer wasn't prepared to abandon its former savior just like that. In 2004, it added a twist to the tale with the release of the Link Calibre 16. Elegant and distinctive, the watch bought a new flavor to the brand's signature chronograph style. The iconic s-shaped bracelet had been revamped for the 21st century to introduce a more aggressive dynamic to the design. The polished fixed bezel had a slimmer, more streamlined aesthetic, while the dial was given a new level of intricacy. Sleek, sporty, and with just the right balance of restrained elegance and raw dynamism, the 2004 Link Calibre 16 showed the series could still compete with the big boys.
The nineties may have been a decade in which the Carrera ruled supreme, but as watchtime.com notes, TAG Heuer had a fondness for the series that had carried it through the 1980s and 1990s. And judging from our reaction to the Link Lady, so did we. Released to little fanfare in 2016, the new addition would have slipped through the net had keen eyed enthusiasts not spotted its innate greatness. With the Link Lady, TAG Heuer had quietly deconstructed the iconic series, giving its parts a thorough modernization, then resembled them into a piece that had all the classic hallmarks of a Link, but with a very big spin. The Link Lady essentially propelled the Link into a new era, bringing it to a new audience and a new status within the TAG Heuer catalog. Breaking it down, we were looking at a revamped case that blended a cushion-shaped base with an enlarged, overlaid bezel ring, a streamlined, square edged new approach to the S-shaped bracelet links, a feminine aesthetic perfectly complemented by a dainty 32mm case, and a superb range of dial color choice, including a blue-gray mother-of-pearl and a cloudy black mother-of-pear. For those who wanted a little more glitz and glamor, there were also several diamond-set versions.
TAG Heuer Link Calibre S Chronograph
A watch that calibre11.com describes as their favorite watch of 2011 demands you sit up and pay attention. And when you do, you'll find an exceedingly impressive piece in front of you. While earlier version of the Link Calibre S had featured blue highlights, the design of the 2011 TAG Heuer Link Calibre S Chronograph scaled things back a notch, reverting to a monochrome color palette that proved more than fitting to the refined style of the piece. Powered by TAG Heuer’s in-house electro-mechanical Calibre S movement and featuring a good handful of great details (including a 3D effect to the raised subdial, a large 43mm case, re-designed crowns and pushers, a cushion-shaped bezel, and a vertical-striped motif on the dials), this was a watch that was designed to grab your attention and hold it... something it more than succeeded in doing.
Link Calibre 17 Chronograph
In 2018, we were introduced to the new Link Calibre 17 Chronograph. Previous to that, TAG Heuer had tended to fit its chronographs with the Calibre 16 movement. But with the revamp of the Link series already well underway, it chose that year to mix things up further with a Calibre 17 movement, meaning a change from the 12-6-9 subdial layout to a much preferred 3-6-9 formation. And the good stuff didn't end there. The modest case size of 41mm proved the perfect complement to the newly streamlined case design, while the starburst finish and complicated finish of the dial certainly kept things interesting. Sleek and stylish, the Link Calibre 17 Chronograph is the perfect marriage of understated elegance and bold thinking.
Written by Garrett Parker
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