TAG Heuer Carrera Elegant Chronograph
The TAG Heuer Carrera Elegant Chronograph is presented in a 42mm stainless steel case. It eschews the tachymeter scale found on its sibling, the Carrera Sport, and upholds the brand’s reputation for ‘clear, clean design’. It is only when you examine this composition in detail that it becomes clear how much effort the Swiss brand has devoted to the smallest of details.
Every few weeks I receive an email from an amateur watch designer, eager to show me their latest creation. Sadly, designing a watch is often beyond the abilities of most non-experts. In fact, even those people who are employed as watch designers don’t always get it right.
The first challenge facing most designers is to conceive a dial, rich in detail and yet eminently simple to read. It may sound easy but often watch designs fail at this early stage.
When a watch is equipped with numerous functions, the challenge of designing a clean dial becomes even more difficult. Similar to a great orator imparting information eloquently, the dial can say many things but it should be intelligible at all times.
Jack Heuer, a consummate businessman, understood the importance of design. His love of architecture is well documented. Likewise, he has always been fascinated by furniture design, especially creations styled by Le Corbusier and Charles Eames. While Jack was accustomed to spending time in the board room, he was also no stranger to the design studio. He conceived his own design principles, something he mentions in his autobiography, ‘The Times of My Life’. His overarching goal was to create ‘dials that had a clear, clean design’.
While sports chronographs can sometimes look busy, Jack always had an impressive knack of designing dials that could display much information without overwhelming the wearer.
A few weeks ago, TAG Heuer revealed an updated version of its legendary Carrera, the Carrera Sport 44mm. This new model is equipped with three registers and a date indication at 6 o’clock. Depending on the dial colour, the timepiece is presented with a ceramic or stainless steel bezel. Both are marked with a tachymeter scale.
Now, the avant-garde brand has released a new model, the TAG Heuer Carrera Elegant Chronograph. It is housed in a smaller 42mm case and again incorporates a three register dial layout, albeit, in this instance, the small seconds at 6 o’clock is less conspicuous. Most notably of all, this new creation eschews the tachymeter scale found on the ‘Sport’ in favour of a smooth, softly spoken steel bezel. Further examination of the Carrera Elegant Chronograph reveals other subtle differences worthy of mention.
Prospective purchasers can choose from four dial options, namely, opaline black or sunray brushed blue, paired with a bracelet, or, alternatively, anthracite or silver presented on a brown alligator leather strap.
Longstanding fans of Heuer will recognise that the design of the hour and minute hands closely resembles those hands fitted to the inaugural Monaco of 1969, albeit sans red tones. Near the fulcrum of the dial, the hands are openworked with the remaining grooved section filled with white Super-LumiNova.
The baton-style indexes slope downwards as they point towards the centre of the dial, a feature deliberately intended to play with light. A fine groove divides the curved upper surface of the index, facilitating precise read-off. A small rectangular section of Super-LumiNova is positioned adjacent to each index, recessed within a discreet groove.
As previously mentioned, two snailed registers dominate the dialscape, a 30-minute chronograph register, positioned at 3 o’clock, and a 12-hour chronograph register located opposite. Both displays feature slender rhodium-plated hands. The track encircling each register is angled, rising upwards as it approaches the edge of the subdial. This detail plays with depths and further delineates the registers from the rest of the dial.
A small seconds display sits at 6 o’clock. Unlike the aforementioned registers, this indication has a subtle, reserved quality. It is available for the wearer to use when required, but it doesn’t detract from the other indications. This design element is very different from the small seconds found on the Carrera Sport.
A date aperture is positioned at 6 o’clock and a minute track is presented on the flange encircling the dial.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Elegant Chronograph is housed in a 42mm stainless steel case, 2mm smaller than the Carrera Sport. While the difference in size may not sound much, it may be enough to engage with new audiences who previously shunned the advances of the Sport model.
Another reason for the Elegant model appearing smaller is that the bezel is narrower and incorporates a stepped design with several facets. The sapphire crystal also has a facetted edge and arcs gently above the dial.
Where the crown and pushpieces of the Carrera Sport feature black accents, the Elegant shuns such adornment, infusing the composition with a more formal, dressy aesthetic.
TAG Heuer has not shortchanged the wearer when it comes to detail. For instance, look closely at the caseband and you will note the underside of the case features a subtle undercut, making the caseband appear thinner. Likewise, the Carrera Sport’s interesting lug design has been carried over to this model. The lugs feature a triangular inner facet which slopes downwards towards the bracelet/strap. These may sound like trivial details, however, collectively they enrich the appearance of the watch and take it from being an accomplished design to a great design.
The clasps fitted to the bracelets and straps are of the highest order, steadfastly securing the watch to the wrist while proving simple to open. Moreover, their execution proffers a tactile experience which heightens the perception of quality.
Over the last few months, TAG Heuer has equipped several of its new models with the Calibre Heuer 02 Automatic. Clearly, the brand is proud of its in-house chronograph movement and rightly so. It is fully integrated and features the optimal combination of a column wheel and vertical coupling. This latter combination delivers an array of benefits such as minimal drag, less wear, superior pushpiece feel and stutter-free actuation of the chronograph (for more details of this movement – see my review of the TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm).
The Calibre Heuer 02 Automatic, made at the brand’s dedicated movement facility in Chevenez, has an impressive power reserve of 80 hours. The oscillating weight is openworked and presented in golden tones. Both the oscillating weight and the bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève motif. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement contains 33 jewels.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm and I waxed lyrical about the design and the overall composition of the watch. This latest addition to the Carrera family, the TAG Heuer Carrera Elegant Chronograph, does not surpass the Carrera Sport, it complements it.
While the Carrera Sport is a versatile composition, at ease with jeans or a cocktail suit, the Carrera Elegant is slightly more ‘dressy’ and befits formal attire. Clearly both options are sporty, but the absence of a tachymeter scale and the reserved character of the small seconds display make the Elegant a tad more understated.
Ultimately, the decision as to which watch a prospective purchaser should select probably has more to do with their temperament than any fundamental differences between the models. However, as a watch fanatic, I always applaud brands which provide the public with greater choice.
With respect to design, Jack Heuer was an accomplished designer and had a well-developed eye for details. Looking at the designs of former Heuer Carrera models from the 1960s, despite the dials displaying various indications, they remained eminently legible and notably uncluttered.
Today, Guy Bove, the TAG Heuer Product Director, and his team have repeatedly shown they are able to continue in the same vein as Jack Heuer, creating exceptional designs infused with a myriad of details. Indeed, it is often the subtle details which heighten the overall sense of luxury. Clearly, with Guy Bove responsible for design, the reputation of the TAG Heuer Carrera is safe. Moreover, this watch demonstrates why accomplished design is the preserve of seasoned professionals.
- Model: TAG Heuer Carrera Elegant Chronograph 42mm
- References: CBN2010.BA0642 (black dial); CBN2011.BA0642 (blue dial); CBN2012.FC6483 (anthracite dial); CBN2013.FC6483 (silver dial)
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42 mm; water resistance 10ATM (100m); sapphire crystal to the front and exhibition case back.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph
- Movement: Calibre Heuer 02 Manufacture; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve = 80 hours
- Bracelet: Steel H-shaped bracelet or black alligator leather strap (dependent on model)
- Prices: CBN2010.BA0642 (black dial); CBN2011.BA0642 (blue dial) – £4395 (RRP as at 16.9.2020)
- Prices: CBN2012.FC6483 (anthracite dial); CBN2013.FC6483 (silver dial) – £4550 (RRP as at 16.9.2020)