Tag Heuer Celebrates 160 Years With A Timely Re-creation Of An Iconic Carrera Chronograph
Much has been written about the horological importance of the TAG Heuer Carrera, in many ways the original motorsport-derived chronograph and certainly the earliest example of “mid-century modern” design as expounded in a complicated wristwatch.
The final word, however, must rest with its creator, Jack Heuer, the young, dynamic heir to the Chaux-de-Fonds dial name (founded by his great-grandfather, Edouard, in 1860), who first conceived of a timepiece that, whilst playing heavily on the family business in chronography (having created the earliest timekeepers for auto and aviation racing), swiftly targeted a new market for sports-inflected timepieces. (Helpfully, it was named after the Carrera Panamericana, a Mexican border-to-border road race along the lines of Italy’s Mille Miglia and Targa Florio.)
Writing in his 2018 autobiography, The Times Of My Life, Jack recalls, “During my student years I had become a great lover of modern design. I loved all the furniture designed by Le Corbusier and Charles Eames. Amongst architects, I was a great fan of Eero Saarinen and Oscar Niemeyer. As a student I even managed to save enough money to buy a Charles Eames lounge chair, although it did look a bit out of place when I put it in my rather shabby student digs in Zurich. An opportunity to put my own design principles into practice soon appeared.”
He goes on: “Wrist chronographs had been popular during the Second World War in military circles, in particular among artillery officers who had to work out ranging distances and coordinate attack times between their artillery and the infantry. Many of these chronographs were equipped with military telemeters [a scale used to measure the distance to an object by referencing the speed of sound] with spiral scales which made their dials difficult to read. I wanted a dial that had a clear, clean design and a new technical invention came to my aid. A manufacturer of plastic watch crystals (the transparent cover that protects the watch face – no sapphire crystals existed then) had invented a steel tension ring that fitted inside the the crystal and kept it under tension against the surrounding steel case, thereby greatly increasing the degree of water resistance. I decided to use the inside bevel of this tension ring to carry the markings measuring one-fifths of a second. In other words, the flat dial surface no longer had to carry these markings – they had now been shifted off onto the tension ring – and this was the secret behind the fresh, clean and uncluttered appearance of my first ‘Carrera’.”
Surprisingly, Jack doesn’t quite recall when this was, but research by Heuristas has confirmed a production date of 1963 – a significant moment for the brand as the Carrera model would subsequently become second only to the Monaco in its enduring appeal beyond watch-making (and, later, watch collecting) circles and an important “chassis” for many of its more spectacular creations (most recently the collaboration with Japanese designer Hiroshi Fujiwara on the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02 by Fragment.
Now, to mark the 160th anniversary of the company’s founding, TAG Heuer has released a stunning re-creation of the first production-run model, often referred to as “2447S”, the renowned monochrome silver-dial series of 1964, featuring three azurage counters and a starburst silver-coloured dial, is being reintroduced with some 21st-century updates.
So, while featuring many of the same design highlights as its predecessor (including that elegant dial and polished case and pushers), the new stainless-steel chronograph is slightly different in shape and measures 39mm instead of the original 36mm.
Besides a necessary shift of the permanent seconds counter from nine o’clock to the six o’clock to take account of its contemporary Heuer 02 self-winding movement, other changes include the shape of the central hour and minute hands, which are now facetted and coated with beige SuperLuminova, and the addition of a domed sapphire crystal reminiscent of but not found on the original Heuer Carrera. That said, the original Heuer emblem and Carrera dial text are faithfully installed at 12 o’clock.
The most significant difference between the original 2447S and the modern limited-edition model is the in-house Heuer 02 movement. Entirely Swiss-made at TAG Heuer’s Chevenez manufacture, it comprises 168 components and boasts an impressive power reserve of 80 hours – a 30-hour improvement on the Valjoux calibre fitted to the original.
Presented on a black alligator strap, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition is limited to 1,860 pieces and comes complete with a caseback engraved with “one of 1860” and “limited edition” and a redesigned oscillating weight visible through the screwed-down sapphire crystal that confirms its status as an anniversary edition.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition, $6890 Available from June at tagheuer.com.