Meet the man behind the relaunch of TAG Heuer’s most storied line.
Photos by Atom Moore
Blame it on IKEA. Blame it on Marie Kondo. Blame it on the resurgence of midcentury modern design. Today we live in a world in which sleek minimalism can sometimes feel like the only acceptable aesthetic.
Guy Bove disagrees. As the new product director at TAG Heuer, Bove brings a robust sense of design that fits in well with the storied Swiss brand’s commitment to rugged adventure.
“To those who say, ‘less is more,’ my feeling is that too little is not always enough.”
Soft-spoken with wavy brown hair and a Balbo beard, Bove cuts a debonaire, yet unfussy, figure. He’s young, sharp, and — as anyone who has seen him affably roaming the halls at Baselworld in one of his wide lapel wool suits — very stylish. And while, much like his personal wardrobe, you could never categorize his design philosophy as maximalist, Bove likes to bring together disparate elements and moods when creating a luxury timepiece. Call it understated eclecticism.
“I look for a balance between readability, being fit for purpose, and an amount of detail or quality of detail that, even if it is not obvious to most people, creates the right feeling — typography, proportions, three-dimensional detailing, finishes,” Bove tells us from his office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a small city nestled in the folds of the Jura mountains on the French border. “I think a well-designed product should combine a feeling for quality with a sense of being in the now but also being able to survive the test of time — it should look effortless.”
Whether he’s skiing in the Alps, or hiking in search of the perfect photograph for his visual art side hustle, Bove — who says he would have been just as happy being an architect or a writer — is always open to inspiration. He sees it everywhere, even in the periphery of his life: the colors in shop windows, the contours of passing cars. Perhaps it’s this unconventional approach to watch design that has put him in such high demand.
After recent posts at Chopard and Breitling, where he led the iconic brand’s reboot, Bove was poached by TAG in late 2018. Consider that a major coup, especially since TAG had ambitions to relaunch its famous Autavia line. Like so many of its watches, the Autavia is known for a connection to motorsports. The original, introduced in 1933, was a double chronograph designed for dashboards. After becoming a wristwatch in 1962, it was adopted by some of the world’s fastest Formula 1 drivers. In short, it became synonymous with racing paddocks and the thick, wafting fumes of petrol.
When tasked with a redesign, however, Bove was more interested in the Autavia’s lesser-known connection to aviation, which the Swiss native closely links to the spirit of grand adventure that became so pivotal to this project. The Autavia’s original double chronograph was also built for airplane cockpits, after all, and it was used by both the Kenyan and Argentinean Air Forces.
“In the new Autavia collection, the goal was to introduce a new facet to the TAG Heuer range, one which brings the wearer back to a time of great adventures,” Bove says with the enthusiasm of a boy whose imagination can still be stoked by fighter planes.
This timeless ode to adventure permeates the new collection. Devoted TAG Heuer heads will be relieved to also find specific, albeit updated, details harking back to every era of the Autavia. There’s the pusher, crown, and numeral dials inspired by the 1933 original. The case and bezel are borrowed from the 1962 iteration, and the inner flange indexes are straight from the 1970s. Add 3D luminescent blocks for the numerals, not to mention a vintage-inspired band that’s easily interchangeable — making this rugged watch as versatile as it is rakish — and you’ve got a thoroughly modern timepiece.
Yet, it’s the namesake Isograph that truly powers the revamped Autavia. First introduced in TAG’s Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph, it’s a carbon-composite hairspring that’s virtually resistant to shocks, temperature disruptions, and even magnetic fields. The state of the art invention, the oscillatory regulator, is the combination of a hairspring with a balance wheel that becomes the groundbreaking heart of the watch. Made in-house out of this innovative patented material, the combination of carbon nanotubes and amorphous carbon allows for freedom of shape and exceptional chronometer precision.
This new collection is spread out over seven models. Bove, however, isn’t shy when choosing a favorite. “I really like the aged bronze and green combination with the dark brown strap,” he says, sounding more like an unabashed collector rather than the creative brain behind the relaunch. “They blur the lines between today and yesterday and really stand out with anything you are wearing — or that I would wear at least.”
With its smoked dial and utilitarian vibe, it’s an unsurprising choice for Bove, who admits he’s a big fan of WWII era mil-spec watches.
And that’s indeed the point of this revamped line: For all its style and deft mix of history and modernity, the Autavia — much like a worn chambray shirt or a beat-up Defender — evokes a personal history of adventure, of a life well-led.