The first rule of buying a TAG Heuer watch? Don't buy one that doesn't have a serial number. If you do, you're bringing home a fake (although just to be clear, a serial number in itself doesn't guarantee authenticity. A watch with a serial number might still be fake. It's just that one without definitely is). Every single TAG Heuer watch that leaves the factory is stamped with a serial number (these days at least... back in the days before imitation watches became big business, neither TAG Heuer nor many other watchmakers bothered). Unlike model numbers that are generic to every piece that comes from a certain collection, the serial number is unique to each particular watch. No two watches in any collection from any period will ever share the same serial number. In this way, the serial number becomes an easy, simple way to authenticate a watch. Find the serial number, and you're just a few seconds away from finding out when the watch was manufactured, which model it relates to, ownership details, and so on.
Where can I find my TAG Heuer serial number?
Despite the serial number being the source of some great information, TAG Heuer doesn't exactly advertise it in a prominent way. If you've never noticed it on any TAG Heuer watch you've owned, you wouldn't be the only one. But once you know exactly where to look, it shouldn't take you too long to locate it.
Flip the watch over. Providing the watch isn't either a very bad imitation or a very old, potentially priceless piece from the very early days of Heuer, you should see two sets of numbers engraved on the caseback. The numbers will typically be stacked one on top of the other. The top number is the model number, sometimes referred to as the reference number. This signifies the model of the watch. All watches of the same model will bear this same number. The bottom number is your unique serial number. Usually, the serial number will consist of two or three letters followed by four numbers (e.g., AB1234). But don't panic if it doesn't follow this exact format. For every rule, there's an exception. In this case, the exception is TAG Heuer's fondness for using no letters and 6 numbers for certified chronometers (e.g., 123489). You might also come across the occasional serial number that features a combination of 3 letters and 3 numbers (e.g., HAF455) or 3 letters and 6 numbers (e.g., ABC134679).
As crownandcaliber.com notes, there's rarely enough room for watches with an exhibition caseback to display both the model number and serial number on the back. The model number will therefore usually stand-alone to the right of the displayed movement, while the serial number will be engraved on the edge of the caseback. Watches from the Connected series will always have a serial number that starts with ‘PE’, ‘GL’, ‘AN’, or SC. Although the serial number will feature on the caseback in the usual way, you can also find it on the watch itself by swiping down and selecting 'Settings', tapping 'System', then 'About' and finally 'Serial number'.
I can't find the serial number. Should I be worried?
Engravings are sometimes rendered so small, it becomes almost impossible to see the serial number clearly. In these cases, you might need a loupe or magnifying glass to work it out. If you've tried this and still had no luck in finding the number, you're looking at one of a few possible scenarios.
Number 1. It's a really old watch. If it's a brand new, fresh from the shelf watch, the only reason it wouldn't have a serial number is either because it's a fake or someone's really messed up at the factory. But if it's a very old, very rare vintage piece, it could fall into the pre-serial number era. That said, watches like this are rarer than hen's teeth these days, so it's worth looking at other possibilities before automatically assuming that the lack of serial number is down to the age of the watch.
Number 2. The serial number has been buffed or polished away. Now, it's natural for pre-owned pieces to show a bit of wear. But it's not natural for the previous owner to have polished and buffed the caseback vigorously enough to have completely removed any trace of the serial number. If there's evidence of this, it suggests that they or someone else hasn't wanted the watch to be traced. Most of the time, this means it's been obtained by less than legitimate means.
Number 3. It's fake. If you're dealing with a modern watch, there are zero reasons for it to not have a serial number. Every single TAG Heuer watch that's made these days comes with a serial number. If you find one without, it suggests that wherever it came from, it wasn't an official TAG Heuer factory. Simply put, TAG Heuer doesn't make TAG Heuer watches without serial numbers. But other people do. And by and large, these aren't the kind of people that are on good terms with the law.
Does a serial number guarantee authenticity?
The absence of a serial number on a new TAG Heuer watch signifies one thing and one thing only. It's a fake. But the principle doesn't always work in reverse. As millenarywatches.com notes, just because a TAG Heuer watch has a serial number doesn't guarantee it's authentic. Think about it - if counterfeiters are able to build an entire watch that's close enough to the real thing to convince you it's exactly that, do you really think it's going to be that hard for them to engrave a few letters on the back of the caseback? And not just any old letters either - most of the more experienced counterfeiters have access to the entire back catalog of TAG Heuer serial numbers. All they have to do is pick a number that correlates to the model they've imitated, and bingo - anyone who enters the number onto an online serial number database will think the watch is genuine.
While the serial number is a great way of finding out information about a watch, it's not the be-all and end-all of confirming authenticity. As TAG Heuer notes on its official website, 'a model name and a serial number are not sufficient to guarantee the authenticity of a TAG Heuer timepiece. It is also necessary to examine several aspects of security and movement.' The serial number is a great way of finding out more about your watch. But if you rely on it as your only means of spotting a fake from the real deal, you're asking for trouble.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker