Catherine Eberle Devaux, Heritage Director at TAG Heuer, tells The Peak why she has the best job in the world.
My role, basically, is to preserve, value, restore and respect our history at TAG Heuer. Preservation is about making sure the documents and archives are sorted out, classified and numerised. It’s also about making sure all the pieces we have in the TAG Heuer 360 Museum are catalogued. We have just over 300 timepieces on display in the museum and another 100 on the road as part of exhibitions we do all over the world.
We are constantly holding different exhibitions in different countries. For example, we have an exhibition on innovation in Malaysia and one on motor racing in Singapore. Later, these shows will travel to other countries. We always have a message when we organise an exhibition and we use watches to illustrate that message. We hold these exhibitions because we believe that, if you know your past, you will be able to build your future in a wiser way.
Archives are also very important for a brand like TAG Heuer, which has a young and sporty image, because even though we have been around since 1860, not many people know what has happened between then and now. Our role here is clear: to tell the story of TAG Heuer. Our way of doing that is through the watches. This is why it’s important for us to have the most complete collection of TAG Heuer timepieces possible. This is not just about having one Carrera in our collection, but about having all the versions and executions of the Carrera we have ever made. There is a number of criteria when we buy watches for our collection. One is that we don’t have the watch in our collection and another is because it’s a historical timepiece that has been owned or worn by a celebrity like Steve McQueen, for example. Other times, it’s because it’s an exceptional timepiece for certain reasons.
Recently, we bought an Autavia 2446, a regular one, but it was significant because it came with a letter signed by Jack Heuer (the brand’s honorary chairman and great-grandson of the founder) to the first owner.
I oversee the museum, archives, restoration workshop, exhibitions and books, and try to find a way to tell all those anecdotes we have from our history so that the end customers, the people who matter ultimately, know about TAG Heuer.
Luxury today is not just about mechanics or design; it is also about emotion and heritage. If, say, I were to explain what Jack Heuer did on the first design of the Carrera in 1963, why he did it that particular way and how we maintain this to the present day, you will have greater appreciation for the watch. My job, then, is to attach all these stories to the watches so that they become more meaningful.
My role is to ensure that what we do today is not a contradiction of our history. The museum should not be a source of inspiration or creativity. It’s about what has happened in the past and is where the facts are. It’s not about nostalgia; only about being aware and proud of who we are.
Of course, my work doesn’t deal only with facts. It is also about the know-how the brand has acquired and, I can tell you, today’s knowhow has never been as strong in our whole history. Today, we can fully develop and assemble a tourbillon in our manufacture in La Chaux-deFonds and, recently, we launched a new generation tourbillion with a carbon composite hairspring (the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph, the first ever watch to be regulated by a carbon hairspring with a nanoscopic structure). And I am there to prepare for the next heritage of TAG Heuer, making sure we don’t lose what we have learned.
I didn’t come from the watch world when I joined TAG Heuer in 2014, and I have learned and discovered so much since then. What I cherish the most, however, is the relationship I have with Jack Heuer. We speak every week and he shares a lot of his memories of TAG Heuer with me. But we also talk about the future – the composite hairspring hairspring, novelties, and new cases and designs. It is amazing to have access to such a legendary figure in the watchmaking industry, someone who achieved so much and was responsible for all the modernity that the brand has today. It’s been interesting and fun doing this job – I think it’s the best job in the world.