Watches | December 15, 2020 6:17 am

TAG Heuer Pays Tribute to Legendary Driver Ayrton Senna With Two New Chronographs

One automatic, one quartz. Both very handsome.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 x Senna
TAG Heuer Formula 1 x Senna
TAG Heuer

For a brand, releasing a new product associated with a long-dead celebrity, no matter how iconic they may be, is a risky proposition. As there is clearly no way said celebrity could have any hand in the design of the product or even give their approval, it’s quite easy for it to be perceived as a distasteful cash-grab more than a proper tribute. But for every Bob Marley Coffee and Ice Cream, there’s a product made by a brand with a legitimate, documented history between itself and the icon — think Barbour’s Steve McQueen capsule a few years ago — for which the argument could be made that it’s exactly the sort of product the associated icon would endorse and use today.

To understand why Tag Heuer’s new Formula 1 Senna Special Editions can rightfully claim to be the latter, it’s important to know the Swiss watch brand’s very real and very established relationship with the late, great Ayrton Senna. Despite the Rolex Daytona being what many consider the quintessential “Driver’s Watch,” Heuer is arguably the OG watch brand when it comes to racing timers. This was a large part of the motivation behind the Saudi-backed TAG group moving to acquire the Heuer brand in 1984. Their interest in all things racing was already well established — TAG also owned a 50% stake in McLaren International, and one of the largest shareholders in the newly created TAG Heuer watch brand was legendary McLaren boss Ron Dennis. The influx of TAG money allowed the McLaren team to steal away from Lotus one of F1’s most promising young drivers — a Brazilian by the name of Ayrton Senna. With Senna at the wheel McLaren clenched 3 Drivers World Championships and 35 wins during his tenure from 1988 to 1993. Tag Heuer proudly used the driver as the face of their “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” campaign, and Senna, who wore Tag Heuer watches both on and off the track, continued to work with Tag Heuer even after leaving McLaren. The development contract on the Tag Heuer 6000 Series watch, which the Brazilian legend had a hand in designing, was inked just two days before the fatal April 29th, 1994 race that would claim his life. 

The 2020 Formula 1 Senna Special Editions are not the first posthumous Senna-badged watch Tag Heuer has produced — this is actually the tenth Senna watch, each produced under the guidance of the Senna family, which ensures a portion of revenues will be go to the charitable Senna Foundation. The 2020 series Senna watches are available in two formats, a 44mm automatic chronograph and a 43mm quartz chronograph, a nod to the S/EL series quartz chronograph that was the watch most associated with the wrist of Senna himself. Both feature Senna’s stylized “S” logo and tasteful accents in the same bright yellow color that adorned Senna’s trademark helmet, originally a nod to his home country. The S-shaped links of Senna’s own S/EL watch are also echoed in the 2020 edition, in the actual links of the metal bracelet and in the embossed detailing on the black calfskin strap. Both watches feature an attractive anthracite sunburst dial, with the most notable detail being the speed rating on the functional tachymeter bezel. While most Tag Heuer racing chronographs allow the watch to track speeds up to 240km/h, the 2020 Special Edition’s bezel reads all the way to 400km/h, or just shy of 250mph. While no F1 team has yet reached this landmark speed, the pursuit of such is exactly the sort of boundary-pushing performance that Ayrton Senna so embodied.

While breaking speed records may involve herculean effort, Tag Heuer has made owning the Formula 1 Senna Special Edition 2020 far more achievable, pricing the automatic version at $3,200 and $2,100 for the quartz.

Subscribe here for our daily deals and products newsletter, The Goods.