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What’s in your watch?

by Jordan Ficklin

On multiple occasions recently I had problems with mid-range watches that failed when they shouldn’t. Both of these examples were Tag Heuer wristwatches. At some point in the last couple of years Tag Heuer began using much lower quality movements in their watches. They can’t be saving more than $10 per watch but the end result is lower quality.

The movement above is the ETA F03.111. It has 3 Jewels and lots of plastic, including complete wheels and pivots in the gear train (it’s what I would expect from a low end Seiko or a Timex). Don’t get me wrong. Plastic isn’t bad but it evokes poor quality and the rest of the movement follows. I would never service one of these movements, it would simply get replaced. So how much do you have to pay for one of these gems? This particular watch is a steel & plated gold model with a diamond bezel and diamond dial which is listed for $4100 retail but can be obtained at Amazon for just $2,660.00. The value of the movement is less than half of a percent of the market price and less than a quarter percent of the full retail price. In contrast the value of a Rolex movement represents around 1/3 of the cost of a comparably priced model.

This watch came to me for a power cell and a water resistance test, which I performed, but then the setting lever broke and I had to replace that as well. The quality of the ETA F series just isn’t good enough to be used in any watch that costs more than a few hundred dollars and Tag Heuer should be ashamed of using them in this watches. Spend a few more dollars and use a good quality quartz movement that will stand up to customer use. The F03.111 is a part of ETA’s Trendline which they describe as “economical movements for mass produced watches.” In contrast ETA’s Flatline watches which include the movement is described as “flat, reliable, numerous functions, high performances.” Which would you rather have in your watch? Some Tag Heuer chronograph’s now have movements from ETA’s Fashionline, also described as “economical movements for mass produced watches.” I guess that settles it, Tag Heuer is a fashion watch.

In this case . . . you don’t get what you pay for, you get much less.

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  1. Posted August 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    This is the saddest thing I’ve read all day! I rather like TAG watches, but this puts me off them completely.

    Except if they actually sold the Monaco Concept 24. I’d never be able to resist that.

  2. ARexic
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Very True!! That’s why in every case I get a watch with this mechanism in it that has complications, I always replace it with the more robust and more reliable 256/255 series. It makes a whole world of difference. I wouldn’t ever feel comfortable repairing or replacing an F-series, I wouldn’t be able to offer a guarantee. The F-series id just the tip of the ice burg with that trend though, you could also lump the 80*.*** series with those as well as the Ronda movements, most of which are interchangeable with the 256/255 in dial feel position and hand sizes.

  3. Posted August 20, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Tag is funny company. They now send 20% off coupons to their customers, when their service center sends back watches unrepaired. They go obsolete quickly. Bad service, cheap movements, and you can buy them all over the place.
    They are the Swiss Seiko. Yet, in their top range, they do make some iconic watches.

  4. Andrew Thomas
    Posted August 26, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Is this a current watch? Or an old one?

    TBH I’m more put off with the idea of aligning myself with the snotty, superior owners of Rolex and Omega than the cheap-but-reliable* movements in a TAG. Still, I prefer automatic if there’s a choice (all quartzes as plastic by comparison – why the discussion at all?) so a very nicely decorated ETA 2824 in an Aquaracer 500 for me, thanks.

    * Yes they are. # of derogatory internet comments: several. # of watches powered by them in circulation: hundreds of millions

  5. J.Peter
    Posted August 26, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Andrew, this is a current model. Why the discussion, well because not all quartz are plastic. Tag used to use well made jeweled quartz movements with metal gears and pivots but they have switched to a lower quality movement, which frankly breaks way too easily. The reliability of these movements pales in comparison to a movement which would cost Tag a few dollars more. I have nothing against ETA movements, but the quality of TAG bracelets and cases is also pretty poor and the prices of their spare parts are astronomical. It will cost you more to buy a new crown for your TAG than it would for your Rolex and you’ll have to replace it twice as often. If you include the service costs your Tag is no more affordable than a Rolex or Omega. A Timex, now that is affordable.

  6. pete
    Posted August 28, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I have been selling TAG now for almost 5 years and I have not noticed a decline in quality with the exception of the new mens aquaracers which the dial and bezel seem to be made of plastic. From a watchmakers perspective what are your impressions of their automatic movements?

  7. J.Peter
    Posted August 28, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    For now, TAG is using mostly ETA movements in their automatics which are robust well built movements. They charge too much for them because you can find the same automatic movements in watches for $600-$1000 but they are at least good quality well built movements.

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