Horology, as an artisanal endeavor, has long been built on collaborations. Since the very beginning of the industry, watchmakers collaborated with dial specialists, case manufacturers, hairspring producers, movement makes like ETA, and plenty of other manufacturers that would make all sorts of parts for their watches. In fact, they still do to this day. However, the idea of collaboration in watchmaking has evolved from these secretive beginnings, whereby watchmakers wouldn’t disclose their suppliers, to public collaborations with other watchmakers, artists, and even brands that are completely removed from horology, and TAG Heuer’s latest collaboration is perhaps the clearest example of this in a long time.
While TAG Heuer’s smartwatch collaboration with Super Mario in 2021 did not exactly go down as swimmingly as they had probably hoped, the two brands have continued their collaborative efforts and launched two watches that continue to shock, amuse and enrage some parts of the watchmaking community. Whether that sentiment is deserved or not can be up to you, but let’s explore the two watches and evaluate them as horological timepieces, not the shared similarities of the two brands.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 X Mario Kart Chronograph
Starting things off with the least ostentatious of the two watches, we have the new TAG Heuer Formula 1 X Mario Kart Chronograph, a limited edition release of 3000 pieces built upon the Formula 1 collection’s design. Measuring 44mm in diameter, the timepiece is made of stainless steel and features a black ceramic bezel that contains the Mario Kart logo at one o’clock, where one might traditionally find the tachymeter inscription. However, this is perhaps where the branding subtleties end.
The winding crown at 3 o’clock features the Mario Kart ‘M’ in red lacquer, and the date wheel itself features a whole host of “easter eggs,” as TAG Heuer calls it. These easter eggs are a rotating gallery of Mario Kart graphics that include Bullet Bill, The Banana, and more. Finally, the subdial at 9 o’clock features Mario himself sitting at the 60-second mark, and the entire black dial features a chequered racetrack-inspired pattern. Of course, we should also consider that the base watch used for the collaboration was the Formula One, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Mario Kart itself, which is undoubtedly smarter than a random smartwatch. While people may laugh at the $4300 price tag, it’s not too bad a deal considering its limited edition production and fun design.
While it is understandable that people might not like the watch, TAG’s willingness to step outside the conservative boundaries set by decades of watchmakers unwilling to take a risk is admirable. We can’t wait to see the watch on one of our TAG Heuer Horus Straps, particularly our red rubber strap, considering its subtle red accents on its pusher, crown, and dial periphery.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 x Mario Kart Chronograph Tourbillon
Finally, we have the “Haute Horlogerie piece” out of the two new releases, the TAG Heuer Formula 1 x Mario Kart Chronograph Tourbillon. Made of grade five titanium, it measures slightly larger of the two models with a 45mm diameter and features a similar polished black ceramic bezel with the Mario Kart logo at one o’clock, again where one might traditionally find the tachymeter inscription. It also features the same Mario ‘M’ in red lacquer atop its winding crown and a similar red-on-black color pairing. However, this is where the main similarities end.
With a black semi-openworked dial, the Formula 1 x Mario Kart Chronograph Tourbillon sports a tourbillon aperture at 6 o’clock that includes Mario, the blue Spiny Shell, and Bullet Bill atop the tourbillon cage as they rotate in tandem as if chasing one another around in circles. A far more aggressive-looking watch than its counterpart thanks to its extensive red accents and dark grey sandblasted underlay, the Formula 1 x Mario Kart Chronograph Tourbillon is a daring watch within a daring collaboration. Price at $25,600, this timepiece also does not represent terrible value considering its tourbillon and chronograph, as powered by the automatic cal. 02T as showcased behind its commemorative exhibition caseback.
While the two timepieces are certainly out there, they are interesting expansions of the idea of collaboration in watchmaking. While we may ideally have collaborations that “make sense” in that they are suppliers collaborating with brands on new materials, components, and so on, or two different watchmakers collaborating on a new watch, as we have seen explode in recent years, it is always fun and interesting to see the envelope be extended beyond where it has always remained. For these uncomfortable steps, breed progress, even though it might not always look like it at first, and for that, we must acknowledge that we need brands like TAG Heuer to endure the backlash from time to time and create timepieces that do something new.
Visit TAG Heuer.com for more information.