OPINION: Mills on ... TAG Heuer

How do you feel about your watch? Sure, you want something sleek and fashionable rather than an 80s digital-style number with LCD light-up panel, a calculator, a currency converter and a bus timetable all built in. But, at heart, is your watch merely a functional instrument appropriate only for telling the time? Or is it a badge, a way of saying who you are and what you stand for, perhaps a discreet way of showing that you are indeed an individual of great taste and no little wealth?

Readers can correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of another category where price differentials and product differentials are so at odds with one another. In other words, in what other category is a product that costs £50 (a Swatch) to all intents and purposes as good as one that costs from £5,000-10,000 (a Rolex or TAG Heuer)? OK, I accept that a Rolex is better than a Swatch, but not ten times better, 50 times better or 200 times better. Curious, isn't it, especially when you consider that whereas an expensive car buys you a better quality journey (and possibly a faster one too) than a cheap one, an expensive watch doesn't buy you a better quality of time. Truly, we are all equal before Father Time. Funny then that, to some, a watch can be one of the most emotional purchases they make, while to others it's as exciting as buying a lawn mower.

TAG Heuer has long associated itself with sport, and quite rightly too since the fit between sporting excellence and split-second timing is clear for all to see. Other top-of-the-range watch brands have also pursued a similar strategy, although some use classical musicians and opera singers too, but few with the same consistency and clarity as TAG Heuer.

This has resulted in a strong advertising heritage, often using powerful black-and-white imagery to highlight the mental and emotional intensity common to all top athletes and to enhance a reportage-style effect.

Now, in an apparently contradictory move, TAG Heuer has signed up Tiger Woods and stuck him in its latest commercial through TBWA/Paris. I say contradictory because, for all the precision and mental strength demanded by golf, it's not a sport governed by time. Most others are - athletics, motor racing, football, yachting, swimming, basketball and so on.

In golf, however, the golfer plays against the course and his competitors, but not against the clock. Ironically, Woods does not even wear a watch when he plays; apparently it affects his swing (which explains everything about my game).

As if mindful of the incongruity of building a strategy around the star of a game in which time has no meaning, the ad pits Woods against a sport in which time is measured down to a thousandth of a second. As dawn rises over Monaco, Tiger and an F1 racing driver warm up at the start line.

They are going to race round the Monaco circuit, only Tiger is "driving" (naff pun intended, I'm sure) his golf ball round the circuit whereas his opponent is driving his F1 car. As the car races off, Tiger whacks his ball, which whizzes off through an apartment block window, a poster, round corners and through the famous Monaco tunnel. Amazingly - and you'll never guess this - the ball and the car finish in a dead heat.

If that description does the ad a disservice, it does only in the sense that it doesn't reflect the full-on nature of some ace computer trickery and slow-mo shots. But it left me with a feeling of "so what?" To borrow from the Renault Clio campaign, it's got plenty of va and loads of voom, but it's got no direction.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Some post-production anorak category only.

File under ... B for Boy Racer stuff.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Time you got an idea for your ads."