With all the talk of the medium sized divers hitting the market this summer, it’s easy enough to forget that this year, in many ways, is the year of the Carrera. This is the 160th anniversary year for the Heuer brand, and to celebrate they’ve relaunched the iconic racing chronograph in several distinct guises. With this latest announcement, TAG’s strategy has come into clear focus. The year began with an homage to a classic vintage Carrera in a limited edition targeted at enthusiasts, and that release was followed up a few months ago with a maximalist, modern, and sporty take on the watch, offering an assortment of colors in a size geared toward the more casual watch consumer. (And we can’t forget the somewhat oddball Montreal release, another playful nod to the enthusiast crowd). Now, with the simply named TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph, the brand has unveiled the happy medium in this year’s Carrera lineup, an update to the classic design that is set to be a permanent fixture in the collection for years to come. Let’s take a look.
While there have always been a variety of watches under the Carrera banner, we can most easily understand the chronograph as an expression of sporty elegance that was so key to 60s style. It was never a tool watch, necessarily, though it could certainly be used as a tool. And it’s not dressy in a traditional sense either, even though the design team clearly took great pains to get the curves, bevels, and finishing just right. This is a watch that’s always been associated with action and speed, but is also completely refined, and that’s ultimately why the Carrera has endured for so many years – in the world of sports watches, it can be everything to anyone.
This new Carrera is toned down a fair bit from the Sport Chronograph linked above, which was introduced in July. That model has a ceramic tachymeter bezel that recalls other modern, tech forward chronographs made by TAG’s chief competitors, but the watch announced this week is characterized by the lack of a tachymeter scale, and a polished, static bezel. It’s also two millimeters smaller than the Sport, coming in at 42mm in diameter, a versatile modern size that puts it in Moonwatch territory, and steers it away from the oversized look that the Sport embraces. With 100 meters of water resistance, it’s also perfectly capable of dealing with the day to day rigors of life, unless perhaps you spend an inordinate amount of time submerged at great depth, clean fish tanks for hours on end, or actually require a tachymeter scale as part of your occupation.
The layout is true to classic Carreras of the past, with sub dials at 3, 6, and 9. A date sits at 6:00, but like other Carreras introduced this year with TAG’s Calibre Heuer 02 movement, it’s fairly discrete and well balanced. A detail that I particularly like on this watch is that the running seconds indicator at 6:00 isn’t exactly a sub dial at all, but a set of hash marks where the quarter minute indicators should be. The end result is that the dial reads, at a glance, like a two register chronograph, while maintaining the functionality of a running seconds indicator. It also accentuates dial symmetry and brings the watch into the realm of modern design in a way that a traditional sub dial wouldn’t. It’s a small thing, but has a large impact here.
If you’ve perused the other articles we wrote about this year’s previously issued Carreras, you’re likely somewhat familiar with the Calibre Heuer 02 movement already, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s a thoroughly modern in house chronograph caliber that competes on a technical level with chronographs movements from Rolex, Omega, and others. It offers 80 hours of power reserve (you’re reminded of that when looking at the dial), and features a column wheel and vertical clutch. This movement is maybe a bit under the radar because, let’s face it, TAG doesn’t have the clout in enthusiast circles that some of their competitors do, but the specs stack up and by all indications it’s solid and reliable.
There are four variants of the Carrera available at launch, with dials in black (reference CBN2010), blue (CBN2011), anthracite (CBN2012), and silver (CBN2013). The latter has gold accents at the hour markers, which are applied and distinctively wide bodied on all references. There’s just enough variety here for fans of this watch to get what they want, but regardless of dial choice, it’s really the case that’s the draw of the Carrera. There’s just something about the way those lugs are angled and reflect light that’s tough to resist.
The new Carrera sells for $5,350 in all variants but that with rose gold accents, which will cost you a mere $200 more. These watches are available to order now on TAG’s website. TAG Heuer