Tag Heuer 980.023 / 180.023 / 180.123 Review

Heuer (subsequently Tag Heuer) made some amazing dive watches. This review focuses on the dive watch which was in production for nearly 20 years in different variations and is known as ‘Deep Dive’ or ‘Spirotechnique’. This is certainly not the first post about this topic and definitely not the last.

Diameter42mm
Lug to lug46mm
Lug width20mm
MaterialStainless Steel
Basic information

The watch comes either automatic or quartz, with depth rating of 1000m or 200m and under various brand names. The distinctive features of the watch are its large bezel and crown at 4’o’clock.

The most famous incarnation of the watch is the variant known as ‘Spirotechnique’. This is a watch initially produced by Tag Heuer and later produced by Auricoste for the diving equipment company La Spirotechnique. This watch was issued to Marine Nationale combat divers and the issued watches are the most sought after pieces especially if they come with provenance such as decomissioning paperwork.

The other pieces don’t share the same fame, but have other merits. The other variants come either Tag Heuer or Heuer branded. ‘Deep Dive’ variant 980.023 boasts depth rating up to 1000m. The automatic version 180.023 has depth rating of only 200m can also have the Spirotechnique logo on dial. The ‘Nightdiver’, or reference 180.123 has full tritium dial, but is otherwise the same as the 200m automatic.

Reference980.023
980.023N
980.023L
180.023
180.123
906.21.05
ManufacturerTag Heuer
Heuer
Tag Heuer
Heuer
Auricoste
MovementESA 536.121 
ETA 955.114 (N/L)
ETA-2824-A2ETA-2824-A2
Thickness12mm (L)12mm (N/L)
13mm
12mm
Various references

The Dial

The dials of the different watches are nearly identical. They differ in branding, movement and whether it was produced for La Spirotechnique or not. The Deep Dive dial has a crystal retaining ring and extra gaskets which explains the extra depth rating.

All of the dials have tritium hands and indexes and no radium or luminova variants exist. I haven’t owned or handled the Heuer variant, but I wouldn’t hesitate adding one to my collection if one showed up.

The Movement

The ref 180.023 & 180.123 automatic versions use ETA2824, which is offers no surprises either positively or negatively.

The older Heuer branded quartz versions (980.023) use ESA movement, which can be difficult to source parts for in case of movement failure. However, the newer Tage Heuer branded ETA variants are replaceable quite easily and there are no worries from the maintenance perspective.

The Case

The case has uniformly polished finish and there is no play between polished / brushed surfaces. The bezel is a dominating feature of the watch as it is both big and tall. Despite of the polished surfaces, the watch pulls off that rugged tool-watch appearance that is very popular among vintage collectors today.

In spite of the relatively modern (read large) size, the watch wears comfortably. This is due to moderate lug to lug and low 12mm profile. My personal preference is a tall case back that extends bellow lugs and the non-Heuer variants lack this feature. However, it wears exceptionally well on nearly any strap or bracelet.

The edges of the lugs aren’t particularly defined, and the case is vulnerable to extensive polish. The crown side has two distinct surfaces and over polished cases typically loose the definition here. Same applies to the lugs, which also should have two distinctive edges diving the lug. On badly polished examples the lugs are nearly round and the definition is lost.

Polished case

Finally, the various references seem to have come with different crowns. Some of the 980.023N and 980.023L seem to have a smaller Tag branded crown whereas the crowns on the automatics seem to be larger. It may also be the watches I have handled have had service or aftermarket crowns.

The Bracelet

The standard bracelet to the watch is your typical Heuer / Tag Heuer diver jubilee with hollow end links. It is a comfortable bracelet, made out of good steel and a good companion to the watch. It is relatively hard to find these bracelets or extra links to them. Collectors looking to add add the bracelet to a rogue watch-head should be prepared to spend a pretty penny and significant amount of time on auction sites.

This is not going to be a popular opinion: the bracelet is is nothing special, and similar quality jubilee bracelets can be easily acquired if one suffers from the steel bracelet fetish and does not care about the originality. The bracelet is flimsy and rattly, but not in the good Rolex five-digit way. Both the deep dive and the Nightdiver are extremely versatile on a Nato strap and not being able to find a watch on the bracelet shouldn’t force anyone to skip the watch.

Conclusion

The Tag Heuer ‘Deep Dive’ or ‘Spirotechnique’ is a watch that works well on a nato strap. It is a versatile watch with very utilitarian look. It is susceptible to excessive polishing, but its maintainability is relatively good due to aftermarket parts producers such as tag1000diver. Even the ESA quartzes can be converted to more modern movements with some difficulty. As such, it is a vintage watch that can be worn, even heavily, which cannot be said from all vintage watches.

References

TAG Heuer 980.023N Deep Dive 1000m

HEUER/ TAG HEUER 1000M & SPIROTECHNIQUE- THE ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S GUIDE