Legend of the Ball

In the jewelry and watch business, legendary is often used to describe a brand, a product, or a person whose legacy looms large in the industry’s collective imagination. But I must confess: The word can get tossed around indiscriminately.

That certainly wasn’t the case on Thursday, March 14, when I attended TAG Heuer’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Carrera timepiece in a cavernous event space in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Surrounded by a private selection of new and vintage Porches and rare vintage Carrera watches, guests of TAG Heuer feted a timepiece collection that was conceived in 1963 as a tribute to La Carrera Panamericana, the renowned Mexican road rally held from 1950 to 1954. Five decades later, the watch line is thriving—as is its, yes, legendary designer and creator, Jack Heuer.

“First and foremost, Jack Heuer is a product man,” said TAG Heuer president and CEO Ulrich Wohn in his opening remarks, referring to the 80-something honorary chairman of TAG Heuer, who had flown to New York City to preside over the festivities. “He champions a no-nonsense approach to design. He insists on relevant functionality, readability, for all Heuer innovations.”

The great grandson of founder Edouard Heuer, Jack Heuer joined the company in 1958 and promptly set up a U.S. subsidiary in 1959, proving his commitment to the American market. The 1964 debut of the Carrera, described as “the first chronograph with a modern design,” was the seminal event from which his legend would grow.

Referring to the product designer as “a self-described legibility freak,” Wohn went on to call the Carerra the fastest growing series within the brand’s current stable. “A tremendous amount of that success has its origins in the Carrera that Jack Heuer introduced in 1963,” he said.

Marketing was another of Jack Heuer’s strong suits, Wohn continued, calling attention to one of his best-known coups: establishing Heuer (the merger with TAG took place in 1985) as the first nonautomotive sponsor for Formula One in 1969 by appointing legendary Swiss driver Jo Siffert as brand ambassador—a tradition that continues today with Leonardo DiCaprio, Maria Sharapova, and Cameron Diaz.

“I’ve been a product man all my life—that’s the thing I love,” Jack Heuer said when he took the stage. “But here I stand a few weeks or months before I retire, and if I’m honest, I’m really a bit proud to have contributed to a product that has lasted 50 years. Thank you very much.”