[VIDEO] Review: The New TAG Heuer Skipper Carrera

TAG Heuer’s iconic racing chronograph, the Carrera, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and is taking full advantage of the opportunity to revamp parts of the collection and introduce some special editions along the way. Earlier this year we saw the release of a new ‘glassbox’ style 39mm Carrera released, within a collection of 5 new references. But there was another one waiting in the wings, which finally saw release last month, a new Skipper Carrera which brings the now familiar colorway to the slick modern chassis. It works just as well as you might expect, and best of all, it joins the collection as a regular production model. It is through this watch that we’ll be taking a closer look at the new Carrera collection as a whole, with special attention to the unique details that make the Skipper, well, the Skipper. 

The new Carrera represents the second generation of the modern 39mm glassbox design, which was first launched in 2015 with the Caliber 18 Telemeter. There have been 8 separate, limited edition variations on that original glassbox design in the intervening years, and this new generation marks the first time that it will see full, non-limited production since that initial example back in 2015. This style of crystal, which domes sharply at the edge of the case, is meant to mimic the original plastic crystal of early Carrera watches of the ‘60s. It wasn’t without fault, however, and the latest generation brings a creative solution to the table that plays no small part in defining this new generation of the Carrera.


[VIDEO] Review: The New TAG Heuer Skipper Carrera

Stainless Steel
TAG Heuer TH20-06
Carrera Blue with Skipper Accents
Super LumiNova
Sapphire Glassbox
Water Resistance
Lug Width
2 yrs

TAG Heuer has done well to preserve the Carrera identity throughout the generations, including a few awkward transitional periods. In fact, you could argue that they were way ahead of the trend when it comes to re-issues, as they released a slate of brilliant throwback Carrera designs in the ‘90s in the CS3110 and CS3111 (and the gold CS3140) meant to capture the 2447D and 2447N of 1964. The Carrera may have had a slightly rocky transition to finding its modern footing, eased by such re-issues, which paved a path to a deeper reverence for the original DNA, which is clearly present in the modern collection. 

The Carrera 2447N – credit Bazamu

The new Carrera collection recalls plenty of details of past references, which offer an immensely deep pool of inspiration. According to Jeff Stein of On The Dash, the Carrera model was offered in approximately 110 varieties from its introduction in 1963 right through to the end of the ‘vintage’ era in the ‘80s. And that’s not even counting the plethora of pre-Carrera chronographs, from which a clear through-line can be drawn. A cursory glance at the latest Skipper Carrera reveals a number of nods to past generations, all while embracing a modern platform. This doesn’t feel like a throwback, but the DNA is there.

This Skipper Carrera is not the first time we’ve seen this peculiar colorway rendered on a modern Carrera. In 2017, Hodinkee released a collaboration with TAG Heuer which made use of the colorway within the modern sapphire glassbox 39mm case in a single register chronograph. That watch, which saw just 125 examples produced, ditched the Carrera label altogether, placing the word Skipper right at the top of the dial, with the tri-color yacht racing minute totalizer placed at the 9 o’clock position. It’s worth noting that the minute totalizer counted up to 30 minutes. These are important details that we’ll come back to in assessing the newest Skipper. 

The Hodinkee Skipper

The new Skipper joins a pair of 39mm glassbox Carrera’s which were revealed earlier this year. One is a Carrera blue dial with a similar layout to the Skipper, sans the colors, and the other is a reverse panda, black dial with silver sub dials and a date that’s been positioned at the 12 o’clock position. I’m a big proponent of this move from TAG Heuer, as I’ve discussed before, and it’s a somewhat surprising configuration right out of the gates. Hopefully we’ll see additional iterations on that design soon. TAG Heuer lists this Skipper as “limited production” but not a limited edition. I’m not sure what that means but it does join the other two models that, together with the 42mm tourbillon, round out the new glassbox Carrera design. 

Each of these Carrera references solve an issue that plagued the initial sapphire glassbox design, which is the distortion around the edge of the dial, oftentimes rendering much of the tachymeter or chapter ring illegible. They’ve addressed this with a re-design of the dial itself, creating a curved convex perimeter that follows the shape of the crystal as it domes. The dial then switches to a concave structure that eases into the flat plane of the dial. Not only does this create a visually arresting feature of the dial, it also means that the chapter ring remains visible from nearly every viewing angle. 

160th Anniversary ‘Glassbox’ Carrera

This is a brilliant design feature that solves a technical problem, and establishes a new aesthetic code at the same time, creating a look that feels modern and practical, without losing any of the core Carrera identity. It’s a novel solution that immediately sets it apart from other watches, a good thing for a TAG Heuer. The Carrera has always been a handsome watch, but a few of them have been distinctively so, and I’d say that this design falls into that category.

A single design choice within this curvaceous dial passage ties it directly to the same lineage of the Carrera, and this is the shark-tooth triangles pointing in toward the hour markers on the other side of the peak. Looking at Heuer’s pre-Carrera chronographs you’ll find references like the 2444, which utilize the same triangular shapes around the perimeter of the dial. Another of the small details that pick up with the OG Carrera are the tipped hands, which carry through here, and even take on a potentially polarizing feature in the new Skipper. 

Pre-Carrera Chronograph – credit: Hodinkee

This brings us to the Skipper itself, which takes the design a step further by incorporating a now famous Heuer colorway into the new Carrera landscape. There have been a broad range of Skipper labeled chronographs from Heuer, but this one takes inspiration from the very first, which was released in 1968 in celebration of the ship known as the Intrepid, which won the America’s Cup the year prior. That ship featured a distinct teal colored deck, and that is where we begin with the Skipper colorway. 

The original Skipper reference 7754 used a dual register layout taken from the Carrera 30 chronograph (Reference 7753), placing the minute totalizer/countdown timer at 3 o’clock, and the running seconds at 9 o’clock. That countdown timer at 3 o’clock took on a trio of colors, beginning with a darker teal, then a lighter teal, and finally, an orange section, each accounting for 5 minutes of the total 15 minute countdown. The markings moved from 10, to 5, to 0 at the top. This detail, which was absent on the Hodinkee LE, returns with this new Skipper Carrera, however rather than a 0 at the top, we find a 15. 

While a 0 in this position would have been a nice nod, it’s important to keep in mind that this is not aiming to be a recreation. It’s a modern interpretation of the Skipper, and functionally it hits the notes that it needs to hit. Rather than a running seconds at 9 o’clock, we find a more traditional hour totalizer, and a ‘ghost’ running seconds hand at the 6 o’clock position. It looks like a dual register design, but there are actually three at use, with the seconds hand tracing small orange ticks every 5 seconds, un-bound to a sub dial.

The word “Swiss” rests at the top of a date aperture set into that running seconds at 6 o’clock, another subtle callback to older Skipper models, and a move that works here given then shape of the dial itself at its edge where we’d usually find such a label. Speaking of labels, this is the first Skipper to welcome the word Carrera onto the dial, which is placed above the TAG Heuer shield at 12 o’clock, a position usually reserved for the word Skipper. That word has instead been placed within the hour totalizer at 9 o’clock, following the curve of the sub dial. This positioning may feel a bit sloppy, however, within the context of this being a regular production Carrera, makes a bit more sense. Were this an LE I’d have expected that Skipper to replace the word Carrera altogether. 

That is not where the somewhat quirky elements end with this watch. Going back to the hands, we see the unique tips at the end of the otherwise pencil shaped units, however those tips, on this Skipper, get a coating of the same orange seen on the timing seconds hand, and within the countdown timer. It comes off a bit like fingernail polish of sorts, and while not a large detail, it’s one that you won’t miss on subsequent views. There are small orange dallops on the slope leading to the hour markers as well, which are timing elements so it makes sense. But the orange on the hour and minute hand detaches the color from the timing function a bit. It’s a small incongruity, but this whole watch is about staying on theme, so this feels like a slight misstep. 

One other detail of note on the dial are the applied polished hour markers. They nestle into grooves fleshed out of the slope leading into the dial, and the markers themselves even have a gentle slope in them to mirror this transition. The markers are faceted and polished all around, appearing nearly diamond like in the process. The heavy polishing is a theme we see carried over to the case as well, more on that later, suffice to say that this is not a watch that embraces discretion.


Taking a step back, this is an exceptionally handsome dial, all things considered. The colors work, the layout is spot on, and the architectural solutions that TAG Heuer have brought to the table here are potentially generation defining. Sure, it’s got some oddities, but in the broader context they seem to add a welcome level of personality. It certainly won’t resonate with everyone, and I think that’s a good thing for a watch like this. The Carrera is a traditionally handsome watch in almost every regard, and seeing it pushed outside of its comfort zone just a touch reveals something unique about it. 

Okay, so it’s a good looking watch, but what’s it like on the wrist, everyday? This is where much of my quibbles with this watch reside, truth be told, but once again I’m forced to take a step back and say, on the whole, not too bad. Provided you put the supplied strap through an intensive break-in period, or find another strap option altogether. 

The OEM sailcloth/canvas like strap certainly looks the part. It pairs well enough with the dial, and feels right at home in the photos, however in practice, it’s one of those straps that you’ll find yourself constantly adjusting on the wrist. The stiff ends prop the case of the watch up off the top of the wrist just enough to ensure that it never quite settles in the way that you’d like. Thankfully, swapping straps is a simple enough exercise, and this is a watch that looks pretty sharp on the variety of strap options I’ve cycled through. 

The case of this new Carrera is my biggest source of consternation with the watch. First, it is sized beautifully, measuring 39mm in diameter, 13.5mm in total thickness (which includes that glassbox crystal), and about 46mm from lug to lug. It’s an easy watch on the wrist (once you’ve got it on the right strap) and presents next to no issues in day to day garb. Every other, more intangible element of the case, feels ever so slightly off, however.

Beginning with the lugs, which have a lovely shape and inner bevel, but are polished along the top and inner surface. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal, but the manner in which it’s polished comes off slightly plastic-y, like a toy that’s received a ‘chrome’ plating. The creases and lines are as crisp as I’d like them, but this is only at close inspection. At arm’s length away, it looks just fine. But compared to something like a Speedmaster, which is priced within $300 of this Carrera (and comes on a fabulous bracelet), it leaves a lot to be desired. This is also the case with the ‘feel’ of the head of the watch. It feels light, and again, kind of plastic-y. Next to the 3861 hesalite Speedy sitting next to this watch on my desk, the overall fit and finish don’t exactly feel up to par. 

None of these issues on their own would bother me all that much, but combined, lend to a feeling that this watch is priced somewhat optimistically. Especially in light of other watches in or near this segment. My initial reaction to the $6,750 price of this watch was pleasantly surprised. Here was a historic colorway in their new platform, using their new in-house/group column wheel chronograph movement (with 80 hours of reserve), and it wouldn’t have surprised me to see a near $10k price tag. This would have put it in the realm of fellow LVMH brand Zenith and their excellent chronographs, and with the lack of a bracelet… maybe its price was just right. 

After spending some time with the watch, I’m now of the opinion that it is indeed priced optimistically, but not by all that much. This is still all of those things listed above, and this is the cheapest, easiest way to get into a Skipper Carrera, so perhaps there’s something to be said about it existing at all. My criticisms could also be applied to the base Carrera, of course. There’s just something very special about this particular dial, and I dearly wish the case were held to a higher standard by TAG Heuer. Mercifully, there is a brushed sidewall to save it from the full on chrome polished look, but some crisper execution would go a very long way here.


As for the movement, well I’m not sure how much that helps the situation, either. This Carrera is using the new TH20-06 chronograph movement with 80 hours of reserve on tap, and providing a semi-decent view around the backside of the watch. The oscillating weight, which is shaped like the TAG Heuer shield, has been the subject of my ire the past few days thanks to its audible nature while moving. It doesn’t take much wrist movement to yield an unpleasant grind sound that’s noticeable from a bit further out than I’d prefer. Again, just another small thing that on its own would be easy to dismiss. 

As nit-picky as I’m being here, I genuinely do like the watch, and as you might have guessed, that largely comes down to the dial design and execution, as well as the strong wearability factor involved. You could say that this watch is one dimensional as a result, and you’d probably be right, but there’s enough personality in that single dimension that it’s able to break through many of the slights I’ve experienced with it.

And that’s really the story of this watch. It’s somehow more than the sum of its parts, and opens another chapter not only in the history of the Skipper, but of the Carrera as a whole. It’s not perfect, but I think TAG Heuer is taking the right approach here, and if you weren’t paying attention to the Carrera before, you should probably start, because this thing has glimpses of brilliance yet to be teased out by TAG Heuer.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.