TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T

Angus Davies gets ‘hands-on’ with a pre-production version of the new TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T. This automatic chronograph has COSC certification, features a flying tourbillon and is delivered at a remarkably attractive price-point.

This detailed review of the TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T includes live images, specification details and pricing.

TAG_Heuer_CARRERA_Heuer-02T_wrist - ESCAPEMENT magazine by Angus Davies

Writing about fine timepieces is an enjoyable profession. The joy of seeing objects of beauty being crafted by the hands of talented artisans is a privilege I would never wish to forgo. There are few spectacles which elicit as much passion in me as seeing a watchmaker masterfully work on a ticking piece of wrist-worn art.

Sadly, there is a downside to my occupation. Despite seeing numerous watches I would dearly love to own, there is the realisation that financial responsibilities and pecuniary limits acquisition.

Noble metals, métiers d’art and complications conspire to seduce and frustrate in equal measure. Whilst I can readily see their intrinsic worth, I have become resigned to never owning some of the most expensive examples of haute horlogerie. Indeed, I would liken this scenario to arriving at a social event whilst knowing my name does not appear on the guest list, where a sense of frustration is likely to ensue.

The tourbillon, invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet and patented in 1801, was originally conceived to counter the negative effects of gravity on the balance spring. Whilst the device continues to aid precision, I think it is the majestic sight of the tourbillon cage continuously rotating which delivers the most appeal and primarily encourages purchase.

Regrettably, I have come to accept that the cost of a tourbillon is beyond my financial grasp and its hypnotic whirlwind motion will forever elude me. However, TAG Heuer has recently proffered hope with the planned release of ‘the only COSC automatic chronograph with Tourbillon produced by the Swiss watch industry for under 15,000 CHF’. Whilst this still remains an expensive watch, it brings the tourbillon complication within reach of a whole new audience.

I recently had the opportunity to handle a pre-production version of the new CARRERA Heuer-02T and appraise its form.

The dial

The first thing to notice about the styling of the TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T is that it shares a family likeness with the CARRERA Calibre Heuer-01, released in 2015. The design language is unreservedly modern, reinforcing TAG Heuer’s reputation for avant-garde timepieces.

TAG_Heuer_CARRERA_Heuer-02T_subdials - ESCAPEMENT watch reviews by Angus Davies

A 30-minute chronograph register is positioned at 3 o’clock, with a 12-hour chronograph register located opposite. This bi-compax layout is different from the dial on the CARRERA Calibre Heuer-01 which includes an additional small running seconds display.

Above 6 o’clock, the flying tourbillon is revealed via a large, circular aperture. The absence of an upper bridge makes this a flying tourbillon and confers an unrestricted view of the whirlwind at play. The titanium and carbon flying tourbillon consists of three double-spoke arms which ooze modernity. While some haute horlogerie tourbillons are equipped with an upper mirror-polished tourbillon bridge, necessitating hours of hand polishing, this watch eschews such traditional finishing and, by default, the production costs this would inevitably incur. In this regard I do not feel shortchanged, the neoteric appearance of the watch suits the approach taken.

In the upper area of the dial, a single barrel can be seen. It repeatedly depicts the company’s shield logo on its form and is supported with an upper bridge bearing the brand’s nomenclature. By effectively splitting the dial into four distinct areas, there is a pleasing symmetry and proportion to the layout.

The hour and minute hands are polished, satin-finished and lined with SuperLuminova. The applied indexes share similar properties to the hands and their faceted extremities wonderfully aid legibility.

A key aspect of the design language is the repeated use of skeletonised detail. The open-worked bridges bestow a very structural aesthetic, reminiscent of a race car chassis, reinforcing, once again, the contemporary character of the watch.

The case

The 45mm case of the TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T is constructed of grade 5 titanium and consists of 12 modular components e.g. lugs, case middle, bezel etc. This approach to construction was first seen on the CARRERA Calibre Heuer-01 and, moving forward, provides the watch company with many possibilities to pair different materials and, in so doing, altering the character of the watch.

TAG_Heuer_CARRERA_Heuer-02T_case - ESCAPEMENT watch magazine by Angus Davies

The pre-production prototype presented to me was fitted with a perforated rubber strap, but the brand has stated the watch will come with a strap formed of matte black alligator sewn onto black rubber.

TAG_Heuer_CARRERA_Heuer-02T_caseband - ESCAPEMENT watch blog by Angus Davies

Another difference on the TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T is that the lugs do not sport screw heads on their vertical flanks, unlike those seen on the CARRERA Calibre Heuer-01 and initial prototypes of this tourbillon revealed in 2015.

A tachymeter scale graces the black titanium bezel and the watch features an exhibition caseback.

The movement

At Baselworld 2014, TAG Heuer revealed its new CH80 movement. At the time it was offered in two models which featured stunningly handsome panda dials. The company subsequently decided to postpone the release of the new CH80 movement. However, the stillborn CH80 has now provided the basis for the Calibre HEUER-02T.

TAG_Heuer_CARRERA_Heuer-02T_movement - ESCAPEMENT watch blog by Angus Davies

The movement shares the same modern mien as the rest of the watch. For instance, the movement bridges are delivered in a stealthy-shade of black while the open-worked oscillating mass resembles the wheel of a sportscar, tantalisingly exposing movement components beneath.

The inclusion of a column wheel chronograph will, no doubt, please purists. Pressing the pushpieces accords a delightfully positive feel and reaffirms TAG Heuer’s reputation for making excellent chronographs. The power reserve of the Calibre Heuer-02T is said to be in excess of 65 hours and precision is assured with chronometer certification by COSC.

Clearly, to deliver a flying tourbillon at such an aggressive price point has required the company to achieve production efficiencies. Nevertheless, the company has stated that ‘all the fitting, assembly and adjustment work is performed by hand’, hence the Swiss craftsmanship I prize so highly still remains in evidence.

TAG_Heuer_CARRERA-Heuer_02T_balance - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus DaviesFurthermore, TAG Heuer has not only drawn on its own expertise but sought the help of the highly respected Swiss company Atokalpa to produce the balance spring. The four-arm balance features poising weights positioned in-board on each of the four spokes, mitigating turbulence and hence aiding precision.

Closing remarks

The case is large, measuring 45mm, but its scale means that the dial display proves eminently simple to interpret. The company plans to offer both a non-limited edition of the CARRERA Heuer-02T as well as a ‘Black Phantom Limited edition’. However, I suspect that the model will prove incredibly popular and lead to many further variants being released in due course.

Since Jean-Claude Biver became the CEO of TAG Heuer, the company has focussed heavily on delivering high quality Swiss watches at remarkably keen prices. The proposed release of the TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T brings the tourbillon, one of the most expensive and coveted complications, within reach of a far larger audience. Indeed, for some would-be tourbillon buyers this watch proves to be an unprecedented taste of affordable luxury that they could never have dreamt of experiencing beforehand.

Technical specification

  • Model: TAG Heuer CARRERA Heuer-02T
  • Reference: CAR5A8Y.FC6377 (non-limited edition); CAR5A8Z.FC6377 (Black Phantom limited edition – 250 pieces)
  • Case: Grade 5 titanium; case diameter 45mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; chronograph.
  • Movement: TAG Heuer Calibre HEUER-02T; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); power reserve in excess of 65 hours
  • Strap: Matte black alligator sewn onto black rubber with matching stitching, supplied with deployant buckle with safety push-buttons.
  • Price: ‘Under 15,000 CHF’ (non-limited edition) / 19,900 CHF (Black Phantom version)(RRP as at 3.3.2016)

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