This year, TAG Heuer’s new release strategy has largely centered around a rethinking of the classic Carrera. The introduction of the new “Glassbox” references at Watches & Wonders were a show favorite, and they’ve lingered with us in the months since as tasteful, wearable chronographs that make us think of all the things we like about vintage Carreras, but in a great contemporary package. Our meeting with TAG featured a bunch of Carreras that weren’t quite ready for mass consumption back in March, embargoed until later in the year. One was the Skipper that Blake reviewed here, and another is a new reference that dropped last week, made as part of the brand’s partnership with Porsche, that is among the most interesting (and strange) new chronographs I’ve encountered. It was perhaps the watch at Watches & Wonders that I wanted to talk about the most, but couldn’t, so I’m glad that it’s finally here, ready for its proverbial closeup.
At first glance, the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronosprint x Porsche appears to be just another effort in co-branding. We’ve seen this before, of course – there was a very different Carrera introduced earlier this year with the Porsche treatment. But this isn’t your run of the mill Carrera – the movement has a party trick up its sleeve that I wasn’t expecting, and I don’t think has ever been done on a watch in quite this way. When you start the chronograph, the seconds hand jumps out of the gate very quickly, getting about one third of the way around the dial in just a little over 9 seconds. From there, it gradually slows, until it nearly stops, hitting the minute mark at 12:00 after exactly 60 seconds, with the breakneck pace set in the first 9 seconds completely accommodated by the end of its run. Letting the chrono continue to run, it follows this same pattern of rapid acceleration followed by an ever so gradual decline in speed.
Does this have a practical purpose? Honestly, no, not for me, and I imagine most who wind up with this watch strapped to their wrist will have to admit the same. But it’s an incredibly cool effect, and also deeply weird for anyone (most of us) completely used to seeing a normal chronograph in action. The reason for the shifting speeds of the timing seconds hand go back to the Porsche partnership: 9.1 seconds is the time it took the original Porsche 911 to hit 100 kilometers per hour. The speed of the seconds hand, then, is meant to simulate the rapid acceleration of a Porsche coming off the line, followed by a gradual evening out. I suppose if you were behind the wheel, some interesting timing experiments could be conducted at 9 second intervals, but this feels mostly like a whimsical curiosity, which is something we welcome with TAG.
This effect is achieved through a new caliber, the TH20-08. It’s impossible to watch this thing in action and not wonder exactly how TAG was able to do it. The answer, according to TAG, is in the pair of snail shaped wheels used within the chronograph mechanism. The oblong shape, precisely crafted using MEMS engineering processes, ensures the precision of the second hand’s acceleration, and that it’s repeatable over and over again.
The watch itself is nice looking, very much a classic Carrera with a silvered dial and red accents throughout the timing scales that give it a gauge cluster feel. The Porsche wordmark on the outer seconds scale (which, again, is incredibly strange – note that the thirty second marker is at approximately 9:00) is some fairly obvious branding, but while I’d normally not be a fan of something so on-the-nose, I think for this watch, it’s not only excusable but actually works well. The functionality of this watch (such as it is) is so uniquely tied to Porsche that it would be weird if the brand wasn’t somewhere on the dial. It’s impossible for it to be arbitrary on the Chronosprint, as it is on so many other watches built on similar ideas. I’d even go so far as to say that this is the one of the few exercises in branding where you can and should feel completely secure in owning it without owning the car that the watch is linked to. If I was that compelled by the strange new movement, I wouldn’t let a little thing like not owning a Porsche stop me from picking one of these up.
The case of the Carrera Chronosprint measures 42mm in diameter and is 14.9mm thick. In addition to a stainless steel model, TAG Heuer is also producing a version in rose gold with a beige dial that is functionally identical. Both have 100 meters of water resistance and are mounted to leather straps with embossed “911” logos. The steel version retails for $9,200, while the gold will set you back $23,500. TAG Heuer