TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph
The TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon manufacture movement signals a new era in watchmaking. The avant-garde brand from La Chaux-de-Fonds has unveiled a new tourbillon equipped with a ground-breaking carbon-composite hairspring. Angus Davies looks closely at this futuristic timepiece.
This detailed review of the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph includes images, specification and pricing.
The tourbillon has always been coveted by horophiles. The ingenious mechanism, patented in 1801 by Abraham-Louis Breguet, counters the negative effects of gravity on a watch’s regulating organ. Today, the horological device is selected primarily for aesthetic reasons and the fact that it represents the pinnacle of watchmaking.
However, there is one problem with tourbillons, they are expensive, proving elusive to hordes of watch lovers who yearn to see an escapement enchantingly rotate.
In 2016, TAG Heuer unveiled a pre-production version of the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon. The brand suggested that the timepiece would have a price of ‘under CHF 15,000’ taking the watch-world by surprise. The avant-garde watch featured an Elinvar balance spring produced by Swiss company Atokalpa.
Subsequently, TAG Heuer released a version of the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon for general sale. Its keen pricing and striking looks led to the watch becoming the world’s best selling tourbillon. Since the release of the inaugural model, the Swiss brand has unveiled a number of variants. While some of these watches featured different case materials and even gem-set bezels, they remained essentially the same as the 2016 pre-production model.
Now, TAG Heuer, a brand known for not standing still, has released a new version of its watch equipped with a ‘whirlwind’, the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph. Beyond its eye-catching lime green accents, this watch harnesses innovative hairspring technology that delivers significant technological advancement.
The dial of the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph features an interesting hexagonal motif which is a reference to the structure of the hairspring’s carbon-composite material. This intricate assemblage of geometric shapes imbues the dial with a fascinating texture. Indeed, the word ‘fascinating’ readily rolls off the tongue when describing this neoteric timepiece. The dial is comprised of numerous layers, augmenting its allure. Indeed, I would liken this to the way numerous depths are depicted in a great work of art.
The bold, luminescent hour and minute hands collaborate with rhodium-plated indices to impart the prevailing time. The indices are filled with SuperLuminova and cantilever over the dial epidermis below, again masterfully playing with depths.
A 30-minute chronograph register resides at 3 o’clock. It features a rhodium-plated hand with a lime green tip. The register is openworked, exposing a vertically brushed surface below. Crisp white minute markings are presented on a snailed circlet. Every detail helps convey information with lucid efficiency.
Postioned opposite, at 9 o’clock, is a 12-hour chronograph register. The scale and design language is identical to its aforementioned neighbour. The resultant layout provides agreeable symmetry.
An aperture at the base of the dial reveals the tourbillon. Three lime green rotating arms hold the escapement in position, delivering a dynamic and mesmerising spectacle. The balance wheel is made of aluminium, incorporates white gold inserts and liberal applications of SuperLuminova. This latter detail allows the wearer to easily view the balance wheel in motion, even in restricted light.
The central chronograph seconds hand is embellished with lime green treatment near its tip, aiding readability. A 60-second scale is presented on a black flange, framing the dialscape.
TAG Heuer has skilfully disclosed mechanical elements, such as the hour wheel centre-stage, but without impairing readability. Moreover, the hexagon dial pattern and judiciously applied lime green hue imbue the watch with a notable degree of style.
Similar to its forebears, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph measures 45mm in diameter. These generous proportions may sound off-putting to some readers, however, I would urge prospective purchasers to try the watch for size. The shape of the case and lugs confer a very agreeable union with the wrist.
Another factor which heightens wearer comfort is the low mass of the watch. The case is made of black PVD titanium while the bezel is carbon and adorned with a tachymeter scale.
The push-piece at 2 o’clock features a lime green circlet, whereas its counterpart at 4 o’clock eschews colour. The crown is beautifully detailed with a hexagonal pattern. TAG Heuer has repeatedly used colour, different materials and textures to glorious effect.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph is equipped with an exhibition case-back, affording views of the self-winding movement within.
As stated earlier, the TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon manufacture movement has been in the brand’s product portfolio for some time. However, the integration of the new in-house hairspring made of carbon-composite represents a new epoch in watchmaking.
Traditionally hair springs have been made with Elinvar which has proven to be reliable and robust. However, in recent times, silicium (French term for silicon) has found favour with several watch brands. Unlike Elinvar, silicium is not susceptible to magnetism, is light, not liable to corrosion and can be made to infinitesimal tolerances. Moreover, due to its consistency, it requires a watchmaker to perform fewer adjustments.
One problem with silicium is that it is fragile. When TAG Heuer tested different hairsprings, subjecting them to a ‘5,000g/1 m fall onto a hard surface’, metal springs bent and silicium hairsprings broke, but the carbon-composite hairsprings remained completely intact.
Another benefit of the carbon-composite hairspring is that the oscillations are ‘perfectly concentric’, courtesy of the hairspring’s geometry. By breathing more concentrically, the hairspring delivers superior precision.
The carbon-composite hairspring is produced with the collet already attached. Normally with a Elinvar hairspring, the watchmaker has to manually affix the hairspring to the balance wheel axis. This proves time consuming, requires great skill and introduces a degree of variance, potentially impairing precision.
Similar to silicium, carbon-composite is completely antimagnetic, a welcome characteristic in watchmaking. TAG Heuer also state that a carbon-composite hairspring delivers ‘optimal thermal behaviour and aeroelasticity’.
Finally, the smooth external surface of the aluminium balance wheel will mitigate air turbulence and, in so doing, augment precision.
Beyond the technical merits of the carbon-composite hairspring, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph is endowed with a manufacture movement. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 33 jewels.
Whirlwind devices are known for quaffing energy. Therefore, it is very impressive that the TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon manufacture movement has a prodigious power reserve of 65 hours. The movement is also chronometer-certified.
This timepiece has a contemporary, almost futuristic appearance. It therefore seems appropriate that it sets aside the ubiquitous Côtes de Genève motif, enriching the movement plate and oscillating mass with an avant-garde hexagon motif.
An increasing number of watch brands are looking to silicium as a horological panacea, however, TAG Heuer has demonstrated that carbon-composite offers superior performance. This know-how is patented, providing the Swiss brand with a competitive advantage over its rivals.
It is unusual for a watch company to expend vast resources on its own hairspring technology, especially when it involves the use of state of the art materials. However, clearly TAG Heuer has shown it has the resources and the will to invest in research and development. Furthermore, the carbon-composite hairspring took years to develop, demonstrating the Swiss firm is willing to take a long-term approach to research.
The TAG Heuer Institute has undertaken the necessary work to bring carbon-composite hairsprings to fruition. The TAG Heuer Institute is led by Guy Sémon and includes a team of 30 staff with expertise in physics, chemistry and mathematics. I recently chatted with Guy and it is clear that the Institute has ambitious plans and is currently working on many other innovations.
While the hairspring technology employed within the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph is impressive, it should not take all of the limelight. This new watch proffers an array benefits.
In my opinion, this watch is the best-looking TAG Heuer Tourbillon to date. The distinctive hexagonal motif differentiates this timepiece from its rivals. The black hues of the PVD titanium and carbon case components provide an attractive foil for the dial and eye-catching lime green accents. The watch is incredibly comfortable to wear and its asking price has placed the much-coveted tourbillon within the grasp of many more prospective watch buyers.
TAG Heuer has democratised tourbillon ownership while simultaneously delivering significant horological advancement. Based on this impressive performance, I cannot help wondering what to expect next from this avant-garde company.
- Model: TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph
- Reference: CAR5A8K.FT6172
- Case: Black PVD Titanium & Carbon; diameter 45mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 10 ATM (100 metres)
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; day; chronograph; tourbillon.
- Movement: TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon manufacture movement; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve = 65 hours
- Strap: Black calfskin leather and rubber strap, carbon buckle with black PVD titanium folding clasp
- Price: £20,750 (RRP as at 24.1.2019)