1969 was a big year in the history of watches. It marked the creation of the first automatic chronograph movements, among which was the Heuer Calibre 11. This self-winding mechanism was successfully used for the TAG Heuer Monaco and Autavia collections, timepieces that were very popular at that time. Nowadays, Calibre 11 is still a part of Tag Heuer’s heritage and it is mostly available for the Monaco line. Its modern version is a highly functional interpretation of the vintage mechanism, an intricate automatic movement able to offer extreme precision and utility to its wearer.
As Heuer was unable to develop something as costly and complex as an automatic chronograph on its own, he decided to form a partnership with Breitling and Büren along with movement manufacturer Dubois-Depraz. This was a top secret project and its codename was “Project 99”. Their goal was to make the first “Chronomatic”. The movement was launched on the market in 1969 and it was the world’s first chronograph movement with an automatic microrotor.
Even though the original Calibre 11 was marketed as an in-house Heuer movement, the automatic movement was based on a Sellita or ETA ebauche with a Dubois-Depraz module and didn’t have any connections with the initial Chronomatic. The rotor was also embossed with “Calibre 11” and the “Heuer” logo.
Calibre 11 is still part of Tag Heuer’s identity and its contemporary interpretation features the winding crown on the left and the chronograph buttons on the right side of the case. Identically to the vintage Calibre 11, the modern Calibre 11 is modular and its chronograph module is powered by a certified ebauche. The original Chronomatic Calibre 11 was available with a Buren 1281 and a Dubois-Depraz 8510 module whereas todays Calibre 11 has your typical ETA 2892-A2 or Sellita SW 300 base and a redesigned Dubois-Depraz chronograph module. Generally, the Dubois-Depraz chronograph module models used for the modern Calibre 11 are 2018, 2021, and 2022.
Similarly to the initial Calibre 11, the current version rotates the base movement 180 degrees. This is the reason why the winding crown was placed on the left and the chronograph pushers on the right. A significant difference between the original and the modern Calibre 11 is the movement that works at 28,800 A/h as compared to the archaic 19,800 A/h.
One of the most important differences between the vintage Calibre 11 and today’s mechanism is the layout of the subdials. The classic one has the chronograph minutes on the right and the chronograph hours on the left while the contemporary one has running seconds on the right and chronograph minutes on the left.
Calibre 11 is Tag Heur’s most distinctive and iconic automatic caliber. With a diameter of 30 mm and 59 rubies, this self-winding movement was designed to serve as a very powerful and precise timekeeping instrument. Its rapid date correction, 28’800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) balance frequency and 40 hours power reserve are just a few of its highlights.
As far as functionality goes, the modern Calibre 11 keeps accurate time and features a date window at 6 o’clock, a chronograph seconds hand as 3 o’clock and a chronograph minutes counter at 9 o’clock. The open-worked oscillating mass is adorned with Côtes de Genève motif and is engraved with “TAG Heuer — Calibre 11 — Swiss Made”.
Calibre 11 isn’t just the result of many years of research and collaboration, but also a complex and functional automatic movement that has marked the evolution and success of Tag Heuer. It was the mechanism that has promoted and made the chronograph what it is today. Nevertheless, it has turned Heuer into the timeless master of sporty complications.