While Heuer’s ties to motor racing are well known, TAG Heuer played on its less well known past connections with the sport of boxing to launch a watch celebrating the legendary Muhammed Ali. This commemoration comes just months after the boxer’s death, yet this 43mm piece demonstrates that a lot of attention was put into its development, blending vintage traits into a more modern platform. What could simply have been a good marketing coup turns out to be a nicely crafted watch, which as a bonus, comes in at a competitive $3,000 price point.
The Special Edition Tribute to Muhammad Ali has deep vintage roots: it actually borrows the design of its dial, and the principle of its rotating bezel, from the “Ring Master” stopwatch launched in 1957. This explains why it still tracks 15 rounds of three minutes, while modern boxing matches are now competed in 12 rounds. Similarly, the white inner ring was kept, as it is relevant for amateur and female competitions, where the rounds last two minutes. Each ring features not only the fighting time; their black intervals also display the recovery periods between rounds.Â
This clever and intuitive system makes total sense for a tool watch dedicated specifically to the timing of a boxing match, as opposed to the original stopwatch, which came withÂ interchangeable ringsÂ that made it relevant for several different sports. The relationship between Heuer and boxing does not stop here, since an automatic wristwatch chronograph was also released in 1985: the reference 510.547 (you can find the instruction booklet on the dedicated page from Onthedash). This new special edition thus represents a continuity with these two significant watches, but with a significant difference â since it’s not a chronograph.
The launch of this watch in early November was very much on theme: it was unveiled at Gleason’s Boxing Gym in New York City with the elite of the boxing world on hand. A unique piece in yellow gold was auctioned for charity, along with a pair of Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, raising $88,000 for the Ali Center Foundation. At this occasion, it was revealed that the project was started with Muhammad Ali prior to its death, and that his wife agreed to the continuation and completion of the project. Interestingly, it was announced as a special edition of 750 initial pieces, as opposed to a limited edition with a set number of examples produced (that is, there will be an initial run of 750 pieces, but it’s not a limited edition per se, and more may be made).
A couple of weeks later, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with one of the production watches in stainless steel. From the start, the legibility was impressive, with the white numerals clearly contrasting against the matte black dial. The black disc also makes the date window much less conspicuous than you might think. My other possible complaint could have been the 43mm Carrera case, which is well past the upper limit of my favorite sizes. However, it was much less of a concern once the watch was on the wrist (the black dial helps again), and I had to remember that this watch was primarily aimed at boxers and boxering enthusiasts, probably with much bigger arms than mine (trust me, the boxers at the launch event were impressively large).
It should be noted that the Special Edition is actually a smart re-styling of the Carrera Drive Timer model (reference WAR2A10), which was released at Baselworld 2014 (which you can see at, of course,Â OnTheDash). Modifying a watch already in production makes sense in terms of development costs and timeline, and here it was neatly done, as the Tribute to Muhammad Ali truly feels like a new watch. Both models obviously share the same case construction, with the inner bezel rotating via the crown at 10 o’clock, and the same Caliber 5 (an automatic Sellita SW2000). The black calfskin rally-style strap was also kept, while the Special Edition benefits from an engraved caseback instead of the sapphire back of the original Drive Timer. Considering this dedicated engraving, the long Muhammad Ali signature on the dial feels almost redundant, and could potentially have been shortened, or kept to the caseback and the packaging (which, by the way, is of very good quality).
The Special Edition Tribute to Muhammad Ali is sold at TAG Heuer authorized dealers for $3,000, a price point consistent with other TAG Heuer watches powered by the Caliber 5, and is therefore compelling for a watch with limited production and interesting vintage roots. And of course, for fans of the late, great champ, Muhammad Ali.
More information on this Special Edition Tribute to Muhammad Ali can be found on TAG Heuer website.Â