In Depth Review- TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer-01
The Carrera Heuer-01 turned more than a few heads when it was launched at Baselworld in March. The watch is the first model to reflect the design direction for TAG Heuer under the leadership of CEO Jean-Claude Biver and one that reinforces strongly the brand’s “avant garde” positioning. Yet despite its modern looks, there were rumblings about the similarity of the newest TAG Heuer to the watches produced at Biver’s alma mater, Hublot, and whether the new Carrera was enough of, well, a Carrera.
And these questions are even more important than whether or not the Carrera Heuer-01 is a hit with collectors, because the ideas and thinking behind the Heuer-01 are ones that you can expect to flow across the TAG Heuer range in 2016. All the new TAG Heuers we’ve seen this year were signed off before Biver took over as CEO- all except the Carrera Heuer-01, which is a true product of the new team.
So, no pressure then to get this one right! We’ve had the chance to borrow one of the prototype Carreras for the first detailed review. If you were hoping to see every angle and detail of the Carrera Heuer-01, you’ve come to the right place.
One of Biver’s first edicts when he took over the brand was that any watch using an in-house TAG Heuer movement had to look different to other models in the range that used third-party movements- something that hasn’t been the case in the past. And this makes plenty of sense given the price premium necessary for watches with an in-house movement.
So don’t expect every TAG Heuer to look like the Carrera Heuer-01, but you should expect that every model with an in-house movement will be instantly recognisable.
Jean-Claude Biver spoke to WatchTime Magazine recently about the idea behind the look of the new Carrera
“The design of the new Carrera is more modern than [that of] the previous models. You may not necessarily recognise it from a certain distance. It still looks a lot like a Carrera. That’s exactly what I wanted – a new case, but one that’s similar to the old one.
The biggest difference between it and the older model is its modular construction….These cases are produced in-house.”
What Biver means by “modular” is that the case is made up of several components that are combined to produce the completed watch. You can see below that the Carrera Heuer-01 has a separate middle case, caseback, bezel and four individual steel lugs that are joined to the titanium-carbide coated case.
Compare this to a more traditional contemporary Carrera, for example the Calibre 17 model below right, which has a two-part case made up of a base case and a bezel. The benefits of the modular approach is that it’s far simpler, and cheaper to produce variations on the design. Using a different bezel and lugs could transform the same watch into an Aquaracer or Link while carrying over more than half the components.
Looking at these two Carreras side-by-side you get a clear sense of the imposing size of the new 45mm chronograph compared to the more traditional model at 41mm. And yet, the Heuer-01 does indeed retain echos of the familiar Carrera lugs, albeit in a thoroughly modern package.
The modular case might draw the headlines, but the first thing most people will notice is the skeletonised dial- a style of dial that you either like or you don’t. Either way, it certainly gives the watch an industrial, hi-tech look. The dial has polished silver sub-dials at 12 ands 6 o’clock, with a darker metal sub-dial at 9 o’clock. Also prominent are the over-sized hour markers (with a double-marker at 12 o’clock) with their red flashes, complementing the red chronograph hands and detailing on the case.
Look closely at the dial and you see two features that will change before the watch goes on sale. The first of these is the white TAG Heuer logo, which is actually engraved on the crystal, and the second is the legibility of the black date wheel. This last point is important, because as you can see , it takes considerable effort to read the the date on the prototype.
The Case From Every Angle
The Hublot Influence
The elephant in the room when it comes to this watch is of course Hublot, the up-scale Swiss brand revived by Jean-Claude Biver with the launch of the now-iconic Big Bang in 2005. And you don’t have to look too hard to spot the similarities.
But don’t expect Biver to shy away from the Hublot influence- as he told WatchTime, the new Carrera uses the manufacturing techniques perfected by Hublot.
“We took advantage of the technology of the Hublot Big Bang, with its modular sandwich design…We’ve learned from Hublot how to organize a manufacture as well as how to make a modular case.
That’s synergy – one side helping another. And the perfect role model for me is Hublot because Hublot has been organized quite well – it’s all very pragmatic, very quick, very flexible and without any cost overflow.”
So it’s not just the looks of the Carrera Heuer-01 that are influenced by Hublot, but also the way that the watch is made. And given the significant price difference between TAG Heuer and Hublot, there’s little danger that the two brands will be competing for the same buyers.
There’s only one strap option for the Carrera Heuer-01- a nicely designed rubber strap with rally-style perforations. It’s absolutely the right type of strap for a modern watch like this and works well with the overall look.
One unusual feature is the use of small metal end pieces between the strap and the case.These fit into two grooves on the end of the strap and are held in place by the springbars. Towards the top of the strap is an debossed TAG Heuer shield.
You can remove the end-pieces to fit other straps, such as the aftermarket Zulu-strap shown below- probably not the best colour combination, but certainly the right thickness to match the bulk of the case.
The photo below shows well the integrity of the overall design- take a look at the way that the squared edges of the strap meet the squared angle of the lugs…..perfect.
These are the first photos of the final production watch and you can spot several differences from the prototype:
- New TAG Heuer logo/ shield on the movement plate rather than engraved on the crystal
- New TAG Heuer logo on the tachymeter bezel
- Date window moved to “3.30” position and now with white background
- Bolts on the side of the lugs have been eliminated
- Redesigned rubber moulding on the crown
Overall the changes are relatively minor and fairly typical of the refinements that go into finalising a design even after it is shown to the world’s media and watch dealers.
Powering the watch is a familiar movement with a new name- the Calibre Heuer-01. The movement is a lightly modified version of the Calibre 1887, the 3-register chronograph movement that TAG Heuer has made in-house since 2010.
The rotor has been redesigned and there are splashes of red detail to distinguish the movement from the Calibre 1887.
We already know that the Carrera Heuer-02 Tourbillon is on its way, but what this new naming approach means for more mainstream models with ETA/ Sellita movements is not yet clear.
On the Wrist
Here are a few shots of the Carrera Heuer-01 on the wrist
But is it a Carrera?
The question of whether the Carrera Heuer-01 has enough of the spirit of Jack Heuer’s 1963 masterpiece was one of the key issues raised when the new chronograph was launched. The original Carrera was just 36mm in size and offered a clear, legible dial. How can that legacy translate to a 45mm watch with a skeleton dial?
The answer lies in looking at the Carrera as a range of watches rather than a single model. We already have several Heuer-branded Carreras with a heritage theme, as well as many sporty, yet contemporary options. The Heuer-01 doesn’t try to replace these classical models, simply to offer a more modern design to sit alongside the existing watches. It’s similar to the relationship between the traditional Calibre 12 Monaco and the Monaco Twenty-Four- there’s room for both.
And don’t think this is an issue that TAG Heuer isn’t aware of, as Jean-Claude Biver made clear during his talk with WatchTime when talking about the future of the Carrera range:
WT: What does the Carrera stand for? What does it need to have?
JCB: It has to have the DNA of the past; it has to look like the very first one.
WT: The first Carrera was known for many things, like good legibility. Jack Heuer dispensed with superfluous details.
JCB: Yes, that will all come back. The watch you see here is only the first step.
In fact, this year we have seen more Heuer branded watches from TAG Heuer than we have for 15 years- expect the Carrera to offer both modern and classical options during the Biver era.
Price and Availability
TAG Heuer is sticking to its guns that the new watch will go on sale with a price of EUR4,900, which is outstanding value for this type of watch. That is less than the retail price of the Calibre 18 Telemeter and the same as the Calibre 17 Carrera. It felt like a watch costing twice that amount- the Monaco Twenty-Four for example retails at EUR12,000.
Expect the first watches in stores towards the end of November.
In Summary- TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer-01 45mm Chronograph
The Biver-era at TAG Heuer kicks off with a (big) bang- a cleverly designed, thoroughly modern Carrera that you won’t confuse with other models in the range powered by Sellita or ETA movements. The modular construction not only looks cool, but helps keep the price in check. This is a lot of watch for the price and is a clear signal of what we can expect from TAG Heuer over the coming years.
Oh, and if you like the design but wanted something even more special, the Carrera Heuer-02 Tourbillon will be launched at the same time.
- The “Carrera Twenty-Four”- a technical, modern interpretation of the classic Carrera
- It looks great on the wrist
- Clever design
- Red hot price
- Not convinced about those end-pieces
- Don’t like skeleton dials? This is not the Carrera for you
- We got our hopes up- the Heuer-01 was rumoured to have a 3-6-9 layout
- 45mm is a little on the large side
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