50 years of Tag Carrera
Half a century ago, one of the ultimate driving watches was born. Here's its story
Posted: 28 Oct 2013
THE DRIVER - JO SIFFERT
‘Seppi' or ‘Smokin' Jo' is one of those drivers whose reputation is founded on more than pure racing results. The son of a poor Swiss farmer, Siffert wheeled and dealed his way into F1, and signed a deal with Heuer in 1969 to become the company's official brand ambassador - the first non-automotive personal sponsorship deal in F1 history. Siffert had been an unofficial Heuer fan for years, and even had a nice sideline buying the watches at cost price and then selling them to his colleagues in the pitlane. Though more closely associated with Heuer's Autavia model - known by many aficionados as the ‘Siffert' - it was Jo's partnership with Porsche in the world sports-car championship that cemented his legend, and helped elevate Heuer's Carrera and Monaco chronographs to iconic status. He won both the Daytona 24 hours and 12 Hours of Sebring with Hans Herrmann in the Porsche 907, raced the gorgeous 908/3 Spyder to victory in the Targa Florio, and became synonymous with the 917, and the 917/10 Can-Am cars. So linked was he to Porsche that they even paid for him to race for March (then run by a young Max Mosley) in the 1970 F1 season, to stop Ferrari from hiring him. Having won a glorious F1 victory at Brands Hatch in 1968 in a Lotus 49 for the privateer Rob Walker squad, he was killed at the Kent circuit while racing a BRM in a non-championship event in October 1971. His passing prompted some soul-searching for Jack Heuer. "I had a personal crisis... [Siffert's] death prompted me to establish some guidelines on how to use racing drivers in our ad campaigns. I decided not to conduct campaigns based on a single driver, but rather to base them on the cars."