In the early 1960, the young Jack Heuer, freshly installed as the company’s CEO, met Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez and their sons, successful racing drivers. During the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, they told him about a race in their home country of Mexico called the Carrera Panamericana. It was a very fast and dangerous road race that was only run five times before it was canceled. Jack Heuer was intrigued by the speed, emotion, and romance of the race, and decided that it would make a good name for one of his new lines of wristwatch chronographs. Thus, in 1963, the Heuer Carrera made its debut.
Introducing the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph
Careful not to tarnish the legacy of the legendary chrono, TAG Heuer has created a redesigned Carrera Chronograph that keeps the look and the promise of the original chronograph but adds all the ingredients to make it a modern and successful watch for today and the next decade.
Subtle and bold in one natural, ergonomic piece
TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph presents itself in a 39mm steel case with refined ergonomics. Slightly curved lugs with a polished front and brushed sides end in sharp angles that are naturally and effortlessly continued by the leather strap.
Of course, with a “reverse panda” dial, such a heritage racing piece, the perforations in the strap could not be missing – a popular look on sports pieces. The strap ends with a deploying clasp, making it quick and easy to use. The blue dial version comes with a blue calfskin leather strap – a miss in my view, since the perforated design adds to its charm.
To add another classic touch, the Carrera Chronograph was fitted with a rather generous domed sapphire crystal. The inspiration comes from the Heuer Carrera models of the 1970s. The good look is complemented by the dial details, which will be explained later.
The mushroom pushers have undergone an extensive modern redesign. A new position and the more bodied construction ensure maximum efficiency also offering very nice tactile feedback.
Racing pedigree: paying respects to the past, looking into the future
TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph is presented in two powerful designs: the black-and-silver “reverse panda” model picks up more firmly on the TAG Heuer Carrera’s history, while the blue model is inspired by modernity. Both models are built the same way, but the sum of their minor differences makes me wish I had both.
The dial has a complex shape with raised edges. The crystal mentioned earlier has been reshaped so that the curve flows seamlessly over the tachymeter scale that runs around the dial edge and into the case. The flange and indexes are also curved further contributing to the watch’s seamless aesthetic, coherence, and legibility.
The legibility is further enhanced by these details making the readout possible from “impossible” angles. The details create unprecedented depths making a dial that is supposed to be “heavy” with details (three sub-dials, a date window and a tachymeter are a lot of information) streamlined and pleasant to look at. The hands and the hour indexes are in the same style, making the look cohesive and natural. The low light visibility is ok, but not spectacular. Nevertheless, it follows the style expected from a vintage watch: thin luminescent insert on the hands and punctiform addition on the indexes.
The chronograph function uses a central hand for seconds, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour totalizer at 9 o’clock. Both counters feature a circular pattern surrounded by a raised and tilted flange. The printed numerals and indexes ensure excellent legibility.
When it comes to the running seconds and date, the two Carreras differ from each other. The reverse panda dial features a 6 o’clock sub-dial similar to the chronograph’s counterparts, and a date in an unexpected place – 12 o’clock. The black-and-silver model really ticks into that classic “Y” look. The blue version displays the running seconds on a simpler sub-dial delimited only by the printed indexes. Moreover, the sub-dial misses a chunky lower side – in this case used by the date aperture.
When a horological goddess takes over
The one and only Carole Forestier, TAG Heuer’s Movements Director, has overseen the development of the movement. With a history of exceptional movements and extensive experience, Carole has elevated the TH20-00 caliber to the highest echelon. Part of the Heuer 02 family, the movement has a lot to offer. The next-generation movement now features an oscillating weight that allows bidirectional winding, whereas previous versions only charged the movement’s mainspring if the rotor moved counter-clockwise. The 80-hour power reserve is achieved using a 4 Hz escapement.
Caliber TH20-00 is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback and features elevated finishings, in keeping with TAG Heuer’s vision of creating technical yet elegant watches and movements. The skeletonized rotor weight stylizes the TAG Heuer logo and reveals the perfectly executed Genevan waves and polished screw heads. Although rather enclosed by the large bridges, the turret-like column wheel is revealed on the upper side of the movement.
Going further – TAG Heuer Carrera with a tourbillon
Such an anniversary could not be complete without the king of complications – the tourbillon. TAG Heuer has launched a daring Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon. The watch follows the same principles as the anniversary pieces above but comes in a larger, 42mm case. The increased dimensions, the larger domed crystal and the tourbillon create a spectacular combo with ridiculous depths. The view is spectacular.
The blue dial features sub-dials surrounded by high-contrast silver rings, making the chronograph readouts as legible as possible. The chronograph seconds hand, a crisp, triangular shape inspired by the dashboard instruments of the 1960s racing cars, runs above the outer edge of the dial that is punctuated by fiery orange details above each hour marker.
A modern 200-year-old complication
TAG Heuer is a very technically-oriented watchmaker, and the beauty of the TAG Heuer watches does not lie in the “floral” embellishments of the movement or in the highly artistic interpretation but in the simple and concise designs. This is also the case with the current tourbillon where the lines, although well executed, are function-oriented.
TAG Heuer Movements Director Carole Forestier and her team made sure that the Caliber TH20-09 offers the best possible experience. The three spikes tourbillon cage with its open design was given an eye-catching rhodium-plating treatment. The back of the movement offers the same spectacle as the 39mm chronographs. On the technical side, the movement only offers 65 hours of power reserve.
No wonder I really enjoy the black chrono. The reverse panda model, Ref. CBS2210.FC6534 is a greatest hits compilation of some of the most coveted Heuer Carreras of the 1960s, such as Reference 3147 Dato 12, the first Heuer Carrera with a chronograph and calendar functions, and Reference 2447 NS, perhaps the rarest Heuer Carrera of all, with an extremely limited production run of just a few years.
The blue version, Ref. CBS2212.FC6535 is a quieter presence for everyday use and the dark azure color is a nice match for this classic piece. Both the panda and the azure pieces come at the same price of 6,500.00 €, a relatively decent price for the offering.
For the love of the tourbillon, one must be prepared for the 23,000.00 € price tag. Ref. CBS5010.FC6543 is a bit larger on the wrist but still very comfortable and good-looking. The blue background and the glow of the tourbillon cage make a beautiful contrast. The extended five-year guarantee is a nice touch for the potential buyer. None of the pieces are limited, the chronographs are available online. Interesting that TAG Heuer has introduced a waiting list for the Tourbillon Chronograph.