Reggie Yates on TAG Heuer and his love of mechanical timepieces

Watch executives once worried about the future of their industry. After all, if you can tell the time on an iPhone, why would a young person bother with a luxury watch? Recent years, however, have suggested that there is less cause for concern than previously thought. Formerly a rather recherché hobby popular among a closed circle of connoisseurs, watch collecting is today the preserve of rappers, movie stars and sports personalities who flaunt increasingly sophisticated watches on the red carpet, in music videos and courtside. Indeed, fine watches are now part of popular culture.
Reggie Yates, the writer, director, broadcaster documentary maker, is part of a new generation of celebrity watch connoisseurs ratifying watch collecting as a credible hobby. “I think that the relationship with the consumer and watches is changing,” says Yates taking a break from shooting his debut feature film, Pirates, which he writes and directs. “For instance, my three leads are in their 20s, and I have a few watches. Every time I turn up with a new watch, they will know about the movement, or about the famous and iconic moments connected to the watch. I found that really mind blowing. As a kid, when I saw a timepiece, I just connected it to a famous person that I had seen it on, as opposed to its history.”


Yates’s career began aged eight when he appeared in the Channel 4 sitcom Desmond’s, set inside a Peckham barbershop. Between 2001 and 2016 he presented Top Of The Pops alongside Fearne Cotton and more recently he’s made a series of award winning documentaries such as Reggie Yates’ Extreme South Africa. He had earned enough money to start collecting watches at a relatively young age. “When I was 22, I bought myself a TAG Heuer Monaco with the classic black strap,” says Yates. “It was around the time when there was a resurgence of everything to do with Steve McQueen, and I sort of fell in love with how he dressed and that watch was the easiest way to find my way into that style.”
Soon after, he added a Carrera to his collection, whose origins can be traced back to Sebring, Florida, home of the 12 Hours endurance race series. It was here in a pit-stop that Jack Heuer first heard about the Panamerica Carrera in Mexico – a race so deadly that it had been banned just a few years previously. It immediately captured his imagination and prompted him to trademark the Carrera name, and the icon that we know today was born in 1963. Yates loves the Carrera’s ability to be both a practical piece of equipment – a dashboard for the wrist – and an item of great aesthetic beauty. “Mine has this gorgeous blue perforated strap. I love that it has a purpose, but you can also wear it every day.” The iconic watch plays a starring role in this year’s 160th Anniversary of TAG Heuer, with the release of a remastered version of the 1963 original, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver, and a homage to the Heuer Montreal, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal. Plus, of course, the new evergreen Carrera Sport Chronograph and elegant Carrera Chronograph.
We often associate watches with specific periods of time in our lives. For Yates, it’s another TAG Heuer in his collection that defined his lockdown experience. The Connected watch has now come to represent turning the fear and doubt created by lockdown into something positive. “Getting into a routine became very important for me to not lose my absolute marbles,” explains Yates. “And wearing that watch really helped with that. I will always associate it with the time I had to think and get to know myself better.”
The watch accompanied him on long lockdown walks that were essential for his creativity. His portfolio of work requires him to perform at the highest level across a range of projects, and these walks helped relieve the pressure of having the production of his debut feature film as writer and director temporarily stopped by Covid-19. Right now, the lifting of restrictions means that filming can be resumed and the pressure’s back on to wrap Pirates, which is about three best friends driving from North London to South London to get into the legendary ‘Twice As Nice’ club night on new year’s eve. “It’s about their obsession with UK garage,” says Yates, who has just returned from a 12-hour, all-night shoot. “We’ve just shot a really beautiful scene with the boys in their yellow Peugeot 205 which they call the ‘Custard Cream’. It’s them having their Wayne’s World moment, but instead of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, it’s ‘Boo’ by Miss Dynamite. It gives me goosebumps because that was my youth.”
With its vivid evocation of London’s black youth culture, music and fashion, Pirates is in many ways autobiographical, and a reflection of Yates’ working class background. “I don’t come from a family where my grandfather can pass down nice watches,” says Yates. “For any kid who’s come from quite humble beginnings, the minute that you can afford that thing that you’ve always looked at, putting it on, wearing it, leaving the house with it makes you feel a certain way.”


And Yates’ hope is that watches such as his beloved Carrera will, in years to come, inspire the next generation of his family. “I promised myself that, when it’s my son’s turn, I would be able to hand those memories down to him.”

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