When Jack Heuer became part of the Heuer company in 1962, the first watch ever to have been launched under his care would’ve been the Autavia (read about it here and here). However, it was the Carrera that was his first brainchild. It was the Carrera that he nurtured in his mind from the early days of his appointment as CEO and was eventually responsible for its birth just one brief year on in 1963.
The encyclopaedic website of all things Heuer (and TAG Heuer), calibre11.com, quotes Jack saying that when he took the helm, his first self-assigned task was to review the company’s range of chronographs. He initiated that review as early as fall of 1962 with a name that he had romanticized since the month of January in the same year.
This was the Carrera, the classic chronograph that we readily imagine in our minds when we think about the incredible Heuer watches of the 1960s and 70s.
Jack launched the watch at Basel fair in 1963 in 20 different iterations, which included tri- and bi-compax versions with 45 or 30-minute chronograph totalizer paired with various scales, such as tachymeters or pulsation scales.
These formed what is known as the first generation of the Carrera, which remained in production well into the late 1960s. Just about then, in 1969, the second generation of the Carrera was introduced with a major revision in the case of the watch.
Essentially now the watch had its crown at 9 o’clock, the chrono-pushers remained at 2 and 4 o’clock, but most notably the case’s silhouette changed to include beefier lugs that seem to usher in the 70s and the age of the integrated bracelet watches.
True enough, in 1974, with the introduction of the watch’s third generation, the Carrera’s case evolved again, such that the lugs were now completely melded into the case body, taking on what is today referred to as the “barrel” case.
Just from its looks alone, there is no doubt that this was a watch of the 70s. The barrel cased Carrera was in production alongside the generation two model right up into 1978 and were powered by some of Heuer’s most known movements — namely the calibers 11, 12 and 15.
The snag in the road came just about at the end of the second and third generation’s production and the dawning of the quartz age. The fourth generation of the Carrera was as a matter of fact a quartz piece. Even more odd, this was a time only watch. There was eventually again a chronograph in the fourth generation, but it was analog-digital hybrid and again, quartz.
These were odd times for the Heuer company. Soon after in 1982, the company was sold off to a gathering of investors. And then later in 1985 to Techniques d’Avant Garde, where the TAG moniker was added to the Heuer brand forming the name TAG Heuer as we know it today.
Just before the selling off, though, there was a fifth generation of the Heuer Carrera. This time with a Lemania movement — the Lemania 5100 to be specific — right up into 1986 before TAG ceased the Carrera’s production in order to concentrate on products that were a lot more accessible to the public. And thus the vintage Carrera sung its swan song.
But the cool thing is, just before it looked all downhill from the fourth generation on, the third generation of the Carrera was one of its most progressive. It was in this time that Heuer stretched its design muscles the most. In fact, in the collector’s community, the great identifier of the barrel cased Carreras are their Cotes de Geneve decorated, colored dials with even more strikingly colored hands.
But perhaps, no other watch in the fourth generation of the Carrera was nearly as far reaching — and just balls to the walls cool — as the all black stainless steel, PVD-coated ref. 110571NC. WITH matching PVD-treated bracelet. Paired with the white and cream dial elements, it’s almost a glimpse into the future we are living today when blacked watches are nothing short of a cult phenomenon.
But why put you through the long history lesson leading up to a cool watch that no longer exists but remains incredibly desirable? Simply because there happens to be one up for sale at Phillips Watches Spring 2017 auction in Hong Kong. Make a note of it: Lot 811.
What’s incredible is that while PVD in general is known to wear out over time, exposing the metal underneath, the example presently under Phillips Watches’ care is in ridiculous condition for a watch that’s well over 40 years old.
But most importantly, for the significant place it holds in the Heuer Carrera’s history, the watch is, no doubt at all — none what so ever — a worthy addition to any Heuer collector’s horde.
Lot 811 Details
Year: Circa 1974
Reference No: 110571NC
Model Name: Carrera
Material: Black PVD-coated stainless steel
Calibre: Automatic, 12, 17 jewels
Bracelet/Strap: Black PVD-coated stainless steel Heuer bracelet, 165 mm. maximum length
Clasp/Buckle: PVD-coated stainless steel Heuer folding deployant clasp
Dimensions: 39 mm. diameter
Signed: Case, dial and movement signed
USD3,800 – 6,400 (HK$30,000 – 50,000)