At TAG Heuer no two anniversaries are the same, which is hardly surprising for a brand whose models – Autavia (1962), Carrera (1963), Monaco (1969), Monza (1976) and Aquaracer (1982) – are milestones in watchmaking history. Last year it was the Monaco’s turn to celebrate its first half-century. A fabulous prelude, one could say, to this year’s jubilee corresponding to the 160th anniversary of the brand that Edouard Heuer founded in 1860 in Saint-Imier, a village in the Swiss Jura region. Regrettably, the coronavirus put festivities into lockdown, though not before the unveiling at LVMH’s Dubai Watch Week in January (the brand has been part of the group since 1999) of some of the developments that would be marking this special event. And so the world learned that 2020 would be about the Carrera, with new models launching throughout the year.
This was no random choice. Created in 1963, the Carrera has become the flagship for technical innovation at the brand. The man behind this chronograph, with its clean lines, uncluttered dial and high performance engine, is none other than Jack Heuer. An electrical engineering graduate, great-grandson of Edouard and a motor racing enthusiast, he was convinced that much could be done to make chronographs more functional and user-friendly. First off the drawing board, the Carrera 2446 has Jack’s name all over it. This bicompax chrono measures 36mm in diameter, with sunken registers and a central hand sweeping a fifth-of-a-second railroad scale. The movement is a Valjoux 72 beating at 18,000 vibrations/hour. Jack Heuer named his watch after the Carrera Panamericana, a gruelling 2,178-mile open road race across Mexico that was called off after its fifth edition in 1954 because it was simply too dangerous.
Like its namesake, the Carrera has pursued high performance and speed. In just under 60 years, no fewer than 12 generations have seen daylight. Each one has been synonymous with improved technology, with certain evolutions better described as revolutions. Examples include the Carrera Mikrogirder whose chronograph hand makes 20 rotations of the dial per second, making it the fastest mechanical watch ever made, capable of measuring 1/2,000th of a second (1,000 Hz), or the Carrera MikropendulumS, the first watch with a magnetic escapement. In a more recent past, in 2016 TAG Heuer took the wraps off the Carrera Heuer 01 with an openworked dial and modular case, followed by the 02T tourbillon chronograph at a remarkably affordable price point. Among the very latest developments is the Heuer 02 whose next-gen movement is a 4Hz (28,800 vph) chronograph with column wheel and vertical clutch, offering 80 hours of power reserve.
Sport meets vintage
This impressive roll call reprises this year in the form of two vintage-inflected designs. In January, TAG Heuer unveiled the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition, directly inspired by the 2447S, a silver-dialled Carrera from 1964. The only notable differences are the diameter – increased from 36mm to 39mm for this 1,860-piece limited edition – and the movement, with the Heuer 02 calibre replacing the Valjoux 72. The same in-house movement drives the second anniversary release, the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition which also plays the retro card. This time, inspiration came from the Montreal – a range of automatic chronographs with the novelty of coloured luminescence that Heuer launched in 1972. The anniversary execution fuses the original Montreal, in particular its colour scheme, with the design codes of the modern Carrera in a limited edition of one thousand. As for the third release, it picks up on the Carrera’s racing credentials. Presented as four variations, each 44mm, it puts the emphasis on functionality and is typical of the brand’s “spirit of endurance”. This Carrera Sport will return in September, but with a more retro vibe. A further two special editions are scheduled to roll out before the end of the year.