Cheshire Oaks / 14th October 2017
Generally speaking, in my experience, while the quality of staff at the Cheshire Oaks has always been superior to that at the Bicester village outlet, it's usually the case that Bicester gets the best stock. However, having fairly recently visited the Bicester branch and been largely underwhelmed, it was nice to see some good stock on offer here today.
Notably, there was a carbon fibre cased Carrera along with several of the higher end Carrera models including the flyback Calibre 36 Racing and the stopwatch style Carrera CAR2C12. But what really caught my eye today was the WAK2180.FT6027 pictured above. I don't think I've ever seen one of these close up before and it really grabbed my attention. Not only is it a 500m diver with a helium escape valve, but it also comes with no hideous cyclops spoiling it's looks.
This watch is surprisingly slender for a 500m diver, and a little bit on the small side for me really. Well, truth be told it's 40.5mm in diamter which really is the bare minimum for me and being black it wears smaller. In fairness it didn't help that I was wearing my 45mm Heuer 01 Skeleton, and I think it would have been fine and I was really rather taken with it.
The problem started when I tried it on. It looked great, but within one minute I could tell it was digging in my wrist and when I took it off there was already a red mark. Now, you may remember my previous troubles with TAG Heuer's rubber straps with deployment clasps, but on first appearance this looked like it would be okay. TAG had resolved the terrible clasp that featured on my other two watches, but this time it was the folding part of the clasp that was digging in me. It seems my wrist is quite oblong in shape and the curve of the folding clasp was just too severe for the shape of my wrist (something the newer designs like on my Heuer 01 have done away with altogether) and so the tail end of it just curved straight into my wrist.
I've experienced exactly this problem before as it happens, on the 2000 models I bought from eBay and subsequently sold on, but I didn't expect this to happen again and makes me wonder if I'm ever going to be able to wear any of TAG's older models?
Still help was on hand... when I first asked to try the piece on the salesman (Joe) asked about my Heuer 01 and asked if I had any other watches. As I listed my collection, he suddenly asked if by any chance I had an account on Calibre 11*. Ah-ha! We had a good chuckle about that and my comments about the staff at Bicester and in particular the guy who tried to tell me the date on the Monaco 24 was the hour register for the chronograph!
He said the staff are not allowed to comment on the forums (which is fair enough and probably a good policy) and that they use the site to get information, in particular the 'Limited Editions' thread - which was interesting to hear. Nice to know in some small part we are providing assistance to those selling the watches we love.
Joe was excellent, if all the staff in the group were like him then I think TAG would be very happy indeed. Nothing was too much trouble, he offered to try fitting a different rubber strap they had in the store (it didn't fit in the end but the offer was there) and failing that he offered to source a pin and buckle style strap for me and to post it on to me free of charge.
Joe managed to find a very similar strap to the one the watch originally came on, but in the end I was very wary of buying something when I couldn't see it in it's finalised form. I must say, it seemed easy enough to get a replacement strap for my CAU2012, but while it fits and it's fine, the strap is bulkier than I'd like and a real struggle to get on and off.
With that disappointment in mind, I really didn't want to take that chance of being unhappy with another purchase again and decided to pass. I did try on the steel cased/bracelet version. And while that was okay, I didn't like the steel case as much as the black case, and more annoyingly without the pop of yellow on the second hand the watch looked rather dull in comparison.
Both watches featured the ceramic bezel and while it may be scratchproof, I'm not so sure about it. Black ceramic looks like an absolute nightmare when it comes to finger marks, I can't imagine what a fully ceramic watch would be like - truly horrible to keep looking nice I should think.
Ever helpful, Joe said they could send the watch to Bicester if I changed my mind and that the offer of the free strap would stand. I actually felt quite bad that I couldn't buy a watch from the guy as he had been so helpful, but even saving about £500 off the list £1650 was a bit too much for me to chance on a purchase I wasn't sure I was going to be 100% satisfied with.
I must admit I am still a bit undecided about whether or not it was the right decision. I think if it had been the blue bezel limited edition boutique version I would have snapped it up and worried about the practicalities of the strap later, but unfortunately it wasn't.
As I left I saw the black and silver Monaco 24 in the cabinet again, it's still gorgeous but it's still £5100 and that's a long way off for me. But you never know...
*Obviously what he should have said was 'Are you Rob from 'tagheuerenthusiast.blogspot.com'? But since he was so helpful I'll let him off!