In just a few days, TAG Heuer will be releasing its newest Carrera, the Carrera Heuer 01. I recently borrowed a prototype of the Carrera Heuer 01 for a week, enjoyed the watch a lot, and can hardly wait to get this newest Carrera on my wrist. In this posting, I’ll tell you why!!
[Please note that the “live” photos in this posting show the Carrera Heuer 01 prototype that I wore; TAG Heuer subsequently made changes in some elements of the design, as shown in the studio photos.]
Reason 01 – The Urge to Go Bold.
For the past 15 years, I have collected vintage watches, primarily Heuer chronographs. Most of the chronographs that I collect are on the quiet side – Autavias and Carreras from the 1960s and early 1970s. There are black dials and white dials, and some black and white dials, with the only real color coming from some accents in red, blue and orange. But make no mistake about it, the main colors are black and white. It’s probably no coincidence that these same colors – or this same lack of colors — dominate my wardrobe. Suits are gray or navy, shirts are white or blue, shoes are black or brown. The ties provide the color, but usually not too much color.
But every once in a while, I want a watch that will be different. I want a watch that is bright and colorful, a bold watch, a watch that might even be noticed and start a conversation. The watch itself will serve as the ice-breaker, and some conversation will follow — about watches, about style, maybe about collecting. There are a few of these bold watches in my collection, but not enough.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 is a bold, bright, colorful, loud watch. Bold, at 45 millimeters across the dial; bright, with polished steel hands and markers; colorful, with prominent red accents; and loud, when you add it all together. TAG Heuer has mixed these elements in a very attractive way. The newest Carrera may not be the one watch to wear every day at the office, but it’s good fun for the days when you want a bold watch, that will make a statement (or two).
During the course of my week with the Carrera Heuer 01, it was the subject of more comments and questions than any other watch I have worn. “Hey, what’s that watch?” or “Tell me about that watch.” Mission accomplished!
Reason 02 – The Carrera Heuer 01 Can be Quiet.
Most of the time, the Carrera Heuer 01 is a bright watch, a very bright watch. But in low light, something interesting happens. The busy, complicated movement — usually visible in this skeleton watch – fades away, and it appears that the Carrera has a black dial or no dial at all. You see the soft glow of 12 markers, with the lume in the hands showing the time, in a quiet way.
In bright light, the lume looks bright white, amplified by the steel of the hands and markers. In low light, the lume glows with a subtle warmth, strong enough to show the time, but maintaining the calm and quiet of its environment.
Reason 03 – The Legibility is Excellent.
I have been collecting watches for around 15 years, and – for better or worse – one of the essential criteria that makes a watch a “keeper” for me has been legibility. If I can’t look at a watch and easily tell what time it is, or if I can’t read the chronograph hands or calendar, the watch will not get much time on my wrist or last long in my collection. My insistence on legibility has “cost me” some great watches over the years. I like the look of the Breitling Navitimer, and a slide rule can be very useful, but the difficulty of actually using the slide rule scales led me to fairly quickly dispose of my one and only Navitimer. So too, the Hamilton Chrono-Matic Count-Down — an amazing piece of steel, and an interesting concept, but those tiny numbers become an annoyance, rather than a useful tool. Maybe I need to get over this insistence on legibility, and learn to love the beauty of good design and style, but through the first 15 years of this hobby, it just hasn’t happened. If I can’t see it, I won’t wear it!
The Heuer Carrera had its origins in 1963, with a focus on legibility. Jack Heuer sought to design a series of chronographs that the racer or navigator could read, whether on the track or bouncing along a rally course. He stripped away the telemeter and tachymeter scales that cluttered the dials of so many chronographs of that era, so that the dial contains nothing more than 12 thin, applied markers. The hash marks for the minutes and fifths of seconds have moved onto the inner bezel, leaving the dial as open space, with two or three registers used for the chronograph. The 1960s Carreras captured the ultimate of minimalism, as they contain no non-essential elements.
So how do I use these themes of legibility and minimalism to introduce what must be the busiest looking timepiece that Heuer has offered over the last 52 years? The answer is simple. The best confirmation of this new Carrera’s excellent legibility is that over the course of my week of wearing the watch, there was never a time when I needed to look twice at the dial, to see the time of day. There was never a time when I needed to look for the hands or the red chronograph needles. I wore the watch in bright light and the dark of night, at my desk and on the morning run, under a variety of lighting conditions, and the amazing hands and markers were always clearly visible.
Reason 04 — The Heuer 01 Movement is a Champion.
When I first heard that TAG Heuer’s new flagship Carrera would be powered by a new movement, the Heuer 01, I was worried. You see, TAG Heuer’s Calibre 1887 movement has become an absolute favorite of mine, powering three of the Carreras in my collection, which have collectively won the prize as the most accurate mechanical movement in my collection. All three of my Calibre 1887-powered Carreras have been accurate to within three seconds per day. Beyond their accuracy, the movements have an excellent “feel”. Winding and setting are silky smooth, and operation of the chronograph is quick and crisp – start, stop and reset.
The big news here is that, from a mechanical perspective, the Heuer 01 movement is identical to the Calibre 1887, with the only changes in the new movement being aesthetic. The column goes from blue in the Calibre 1887 to red in the Heuer 01; the oscillating weight (rotor) has been reshaped; and certain components of the movement are now skeletonized, consistent with the style of the Carrera Heuer 01.
My week with the Carrera Heuer 01 confirmed that the movement performs exceptionally well in its new environment. The newest Carrera kept near-perfect time, setting the watch was effortless, and if you operate the chronograph with your eyes closed, you will think you are at the controls of the Calibre 1887, and that’s a good feeling.
Reason 05 — This Big, Fat Carrera Wears Well.
A confession – when I first took the Carrera Heuer 01 out of the box, I wondered how I would possibly wear the watch for a week (or even for a day). The Carrera measures 45 millimeters across the dial and the big lugs add to the presence of the watch. In my hand, the weight of the watch felt nothing less than oppressive. My first thought when holding the watch was that I would need to wait for TAG Heuer to offer a version in titanium or carbon, or even a smaller case.
As soon as it was on my wrist, however, this big Carrera felt just right, almost as if the weight and bulk had disappeared. The rubber strap is very comfortable and handles the watch exceptionally well, resulting in a watch that “wears” perfectly. Yes, the watch is large — and there is little that modern materials can do to make a 45 millimeter watch seem smaller — but if the watch looks bulky, put it on your wrist, and I expect that you will react differently.
Reason 06 – The Carrera Heuer 01 Gets the Decoration Right
The very first Carreras, from 1963, were almost devoid of decoration. Dials were black or white; cases, hands, markers and crowns were stainless steel; and that was that. The newest Carrera turns this on its head, as the skeletonized dial transforms the watch into mass of visible parts and components, with no attempt to simplify anything. Starting outside and moving toward the center of the watch, we begin with a wide Tachymeter bezel, drop down to a minutes scale, with hash marks for quarter seconds, then we find a ring with printing for “Carrera Heuer 01” and “Automatic Chronograph”. Continuing our descent to the center pinion, we see a ring for the date numerals and the TAG Heuer logo, in its usual shield.
But decoration is a matter of personal taste, and I like what TAG Heuer has done in the Carrera Heuer 01. The azurage finish of the rings of the three registers is beautiful, with the rings for the minutes and hours chronograph registers finished in silver and the ring for the running seconds register being finished in black. This decoration is functional, with the bright “Daytona rings” drawing your eyes to the chronograph recorders, and the darker finish of the running seconds register remaining in the background.
Jack Heuer loves red accents on his Carreras, and the tradition continues with the newest Carrera. Each of the hour markers has a red area outside the lume, the three chronograph hands are red, and there is an elegant red stripe around the midsection of the case. There are thin rings of color around the pushers — red for the top pusher (stop and start) and black for the bottom pusher (reset). This is logical, to remind us which pusher is which, and attractive, as a finishing touch on the watch.
The sample that I wore had red accents, but at the launch of the Carrera Heuer 01, on October 13, 2015, TAG Heuer showed samples of the new Carrera in a variety of colors. In addition to the red, there were Carreras with accents (and straps) in orange, blue, green, yellow and white.
This variety of colors represents a new approach for TAG Heuer. The last time that TAG Heuer presented a new line of watches that crossed the color spectrum was in 1986, with the launch of the Formula 1. Ironically, this was the very first model line introduced after TAG’s acquisition of Heuer.
Reason 07 — The Price is Right.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 will carry a suggested retail price of $5,250. Considering its materials, workmanship and movement, this seems like reasonable price. Look at this watch again, and consider alternatives from other brands that might offer this type of bold look and style, and the Carrera Heuer 01 becomes compelling.
Reason 08 – To Carry the New Flag of the TAG Heuer Brand.
The TAG Heuer Carrera 01 is a critically important watch for TAG Heuer. Over the past year, Jean-Claude Biver has become the CEO of TAG Heuer and announced an aggressive plan to reposition the brand, with greater focus on lower-priced watches and abandonment of the haute horlogerie models. Skeptics wondered whether the brand could avoid a return to its darkest days, when TAG Heuer was a nice the gift for the graduate, but not a watch for the real enthusiast.
With the Carrera Heuer 01, TAG Heuer is making a statement, a bold statement. TAG Heuer declares that its flagship watch will offer dramatic styling, attractive decoration, high-quality materials and a superb movement, all for around $5,000. Yes, the TAG Heuer line-up will offer more expensive watches (for example, the recently announced Carrera Calliber Heuer 02, a $15,000 tourbillon chronograph). And yes, TAG Heuer will offer some lower-priced watches that will make amazing graduation gifts. But the Carrera Heuer 01 will be at the center of things, confirming that TAG Heuer will continue to make watches that will appeal to the enthusiasts.
The Carrera that Ed. Heuer & Co. introduced in 1963 has come to be recognized as Jack Heuer’s Carrera. He set the design criteria for the watch, gave the watch its beautiful name, and proceeded to peddle it to racers, sailors, divers, scientists, doctors and other enthusiasts, all around the world. While there have been several re-issues of the Carrera known as “Jack Heuer” models, he continues to be most closely identified with the very first ones, from 1963.
In 2015, it is impossible for an executive to draw a watch on a napkin, and see it in production a few months later, but I believe that the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 will be thought of as Jean-Claude Biver’s first Carrera. The Carrera Heuer 01 seems to reflect reflect his aesthetic preferences and design choices, as well as his big smile and quick laughter. This new Carrera also reflects Mr. Biver’s new strategy for the 155 year-old TAG Heuer brand, and it instills confidence that this strategy will be successful.
Bold, bright, colorful, loud . . . Yes, this is Jean-Claude Biver’s first Carrera, and I like it!!
Just the Facts – TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 01
- Three register, automatic chronograph, in 45 millimeter case, water resistant to 100 meters, with in-house Heuer 01 movement
- Dial — Black skeleton dial, with three registers, each decorated with azurage finish
- Chronograph minutes at 12 o’clock
- Chronograph hours at 6 o’clock
- Running seconds at 9 o’clock
- Markers — Applied markers, with white and red luminous inserts
- Date — Skeleton date disc with window between 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock markers
- Hands — Polished and sand-blasted hour and minute hands, with luminous inserts; red chronograph hands; polished running seconds hand
- Case – Steel case with
- Fine brushed steel lugs
- Brushed black titanium carbide middle case
- Brushed black titanium carbide steel bezel, with gray tachymeter scale
- Crown – steel with fluted rubber grip and TAG Heuer logo
- Pushers – steel, decorated with red ring (start / stop) and black ring (reset)
- Strap — Black perforated rubber strap, with black titanium carbide coated titanium clasp
- Suggested retail price — $5,250
November 3, 2015