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TAG Heuer - Layers of Time

TAG Heuer Layers of Time

TAG Heuer teams up with the watch customisation experts at Bamford Watch Department and materials mad scientist Black Badger to create a colourful limited edition.

Partnerships between car and watch brands are a well-trodden — or rather, well–driven — territory, but one pioneering watch house is giving this longstanding synergy a unique twist. Personalisation expert and TAG Heuer partner, Bamford Watch Department (BWD), and the designer Black Badger have collaborated on a set of exclusive TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 5 watches featuring dials made from Fordite, a polymerised composite with a unique striated appearance formed by hardened layers of car paint. 

Fordite hails from Ford automobile plants in Michigan, USA, and is essentially the paint colour — primer, paint, topcoat — that’s sprayed onto car components, from doors to bodies. Over time, layers of paint build up on mounting equipment and needs to be removed. “It would get in the way of rollers and they’d chip it off and just throw it away,” says Black Badger, aka James Thompson, who acquired the Fordite from a relative of a former Ford plant employee. “From the outside it looks forgettable. The outermost layer of colour will have eyebrow hair or tape stuck on it or whatever, because it’s a mess.” 

But once sliced into, Fordite, also known as Motor City Agate, becomes an “unexpected gift”.

Les strates du temps

© TAG Heuer

“You cut into it and it looks like pages of a book,” says Thompson. A vibrant, psychedelic-like swirling design is revealed, each slice completely different to the next. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. And you can never, ever replicate it.”

The Fordite in the BWD x Black Badger watches hails specifically from the period from the 1970s to the 1990s, and has been sanded down into wafer-thin dials and set into only 10 black TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 5 watches, priced at £5,500 each and available for purchase through BWD (see the photo gallery, on top of the page)

“It’s the ultimate recycling,” says George Bamford, founder of Bamford Watch Department. “It’s something ugly that’s been thrown away and made into something beautiful.” Despite working with several LVMH marques alongside his own branded watches, Bamford eventually chose the Carrera model, in black, a BWD signature colour. “I wanted something simple and it had to be the Carrera,” he says. “It just worked.”

Les strates du temps

© TAG Heuer

Such minimalism is new territory for Thompson. The Canadian-born, Sweden-based designer famously works with an especially bright and long-lasting luminous composite, which is crafted from solid blocks, and which he uses to illuminate jewellery and watches (MB&F is a former collaborator). 

But Bamford was insistent that, to use this own words: “We can’t do glow.”
“I wanted to do the total opposite. To be anti what Black Badger was known for. This watch had to sing in a different way.”

Thompson eventually, well, saw the light. “There was a psychotic amount of self-editing and restraint,” he recalls. “It was so easy to make this watch look like a Christmas tree or some kind of movie prop and overdo it.”

Moreover, the collaboration was a chance for the BWD to expand both its own and TAG Heuer’s horizons. In recent years the Swiss house has been venturing into other worlds beyond horology. Cue its four-barrel Monaco V4 — with a V-shaped late supporting four barrels, a design that recalls the cylinders of an F1 car engine — or its Formula 1 models that promise high-speed performance alongside accuracy and precision.

Les strates du temps

© TAG Heuer

“I’m totally obsessed with TAG Heuer,” says Bamford, a notable motorsport fan who adds that the Black Badger tie-in saw BWD develop a new dial-making process for the Fordite. “These watches are already part and parcel of what we are doing, which is exploring personalisation and that wow factor of having something unique. It’s James and I doing the collaboration, but what’s great is that it’s pushing TAG into different worlds, too, and doing things that are unexpected.”

The brand

Over 150 years of watchmaking savoir-faire and technical innovation have made TAG Heuer a global reference in avant-garde sports watches. As it tracked the rise of sports demanding increasingly precise timekeeping, TAG Heuer continually developed its unique capabilities through a long-term vision of what watchmaking is today, and what it will look like tomorrow.

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