TAG Heuer Carrera Mikropendulum
Angus Davies gets “hands-on” with the TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulum, a watch with an innovative high-frequency chronograph moved by magnets.
This detailed review of the TAG Heuer Carrera Mikropendulum includes live images and specification details.
The chronograph is probably one of my favourite complications. It is useful and, in relative cost terms, particularly when compared to tourbillons and minute repeaters, affordable.
Some chronographs feature two mainsprings, one to serve the time keeping functions of the watch and one to power the chronograph. This is, in many respects, the ideal scenario as there is less probability of the functioning chronograph unduly influencing the hours and minutes display.
There is much discussion about modular chronograph movements versus integrated chronograph movements. The latter are more complex to produce and therefore more costly. However, purists will often talk of there being less drag on the time keeping functions when the stopwatch is in use. Moreover, the sight of an integrated chronograph and visible column-wheel, shown via an exhibition caseback, is a seductive prospect. Indeed, I confess to having a preference for the column-wheel chronograph and adore the silky smooth operation of the pushers that this often delivers.
TAG Heuer pushing horological boundaries
In recent years, TAG Heuer has pushed horological boundaries with its successive release of chronographs delivering awe-inspiring high frequencies. Commercially available releases started in 2011 with the Carrera Mikrograph 1/100th. The central chronograph seconds hand, at the time of launch, would traverse the dial with unprecedented speed. Shortly thereafter, the Mikrotimer Flying 1000 was released with a display capable of showing 1/1000th of a second. It featured the world’s first 500 Hz mechanical chronograph.
TAG Heuer’s thirst for progression showed no signs of abating as the Carrera Mikrogirder soon followed. This timepiece had the capacity to measure to 5/10,000th of a second. Arguably, the limiting effect of exploiting this capability is the inability of man to activate the stop / start button with the same alacrity.
In 2012, the Swiss avant-garde brand coupled high frequencies with the already complex tourbillon complication by creating the Carrera Mikrotourbillon S. This watch combines the whirlwind complication with a chronograph capable of measuring 1/100th of a second. It features a dual-chained, dual-frequency, double tourbillon chronograph containing twin barrels. According to TAG Heuer, it represents the “most accurate tourbillon ever made”; a bold claim indeed.
It seems that nothing is beyond the capabilities of the artisans based at Tag Heuer’s La Chaux-de-Fonds Manufacture, leading one to ask whatever next?
Back in 2010, TAG Heuer released a concept watch, the Grand Carrera Pendulum. It showcased an usual movement which featured a revolutionary balance, absent of a conventional hairspring. The traditional hairspring was invented by Christian Huygens in 1675, yet here was a brand tearing up the rule book and exploiting the use of magnetic fields to propel the balance wheel.
The rationale for exploring magnetic fields is to obviate the effect of gravity on the balance spring and, by default, negate its negative influence on amplitude. However, like a concept car at a motorshow it was not intended for general sale. Moreover, there was an intrinsic problem with the use of magnetism with the original concept, the adverse influence of temperature.
Three years later, the intellectual minds based at the La Chaux-de-Fonds Manufacture overcame the problem of temperature. Two models were released at Baselworld 2013, one a further concept and a second model available for public sale.
TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulum S
The TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulum S is the world’s first magnetic double tourbillon. The watch features two magnetic Pendulums replacing the hairsprings, one for telling the time and one for the chronograph function. Featuring a dual-chained movement, the time keeping chain oscillates at 12 Hz and the chronograph chain turns at 50 Hz. This breakthrough has led to a chronograph tourbillon capable of measuring 1/100th of a second. Whilst still a non-commercially available model, it does demonstrate that the technical obstacles have been overcome and, more importantly, illustrates the profound ability of the Haute Horlogerie Department at La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Whereas, the TAG Heuer MikroPendulum S is not available for sale and is a concept watch, the Carrera MikroPendulum is very much a commercial watch that was released for general sale in 2013.
The first high-frequency chronograph regulated by magnets
The TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulum represents the latest iteration of high frequency chrongraphs that commenced with the release of the Carrera Mikrograph. The MikroPendulum features the brand’s dual chain platform.
A conventional balance is responsible for the time keeping duties, oscillating at a frequency of 4Hz, with a 42 hour power-reserve. However, a pendulum system, eschewing a normal hairspring in preference for a magnetic oscillator, regulates the chronograph. Moreover, this magnetic oscillator works at a mind-blowing frequency of 50 Hz with a 90 minute power reserve.
The crown rewinds the chronograph, whilst the oscillating mass powers the “conventional balance”.
The anthracite dial oozes modernity. On the right hand side of the dial, fine vertical brush bestows an “über-cool” persona.
At 3 o’clock, a 30-minute chronograph register resides and at 6 o’clock, a 60-second chronograph counter features. A sweeping red central hand, interfaces with an anthracite-coloured scale encircling the dial, marked with 1/100th of second integers.
Below noon, a chronograph power reserve indicator completes the inventory of functions.
Approximately 1/3 of the left hand side of the dial area is recessed and decorated with Côtes de Genève motif, presented in vertical lines running north to south.
The pendulum is mounted on a polished balance wheel bridge. I have seen this bridge in the Haute Horlogerie department, both before and after polishing, and its finished appearance stands testament to the adroit skill of the artisan’s timed-served hands.
Other characteristics of the MikroPendulum
The case is very wearable, measuring 43 mm in diameter. It is made from grade 5 titanium, sandblasted, fine brushed and polished. Viewed from the front, the case shares the same design codes as other Carrera models, but the caseband features the “girder” design previously seen on the Carrera Mikrogirder.
Highly polished titanium chronograph pushers are located in their customary positions, with the stop / start pusher featuring a smattering of red detail, enveloping its form.
The titanium crown design with its black over moulded rubber finish is particularly attractive.
The case back is retained with four screws and features a sapphire crystal providing a view of the movement. The calibre appears very modern in design, with an absence of the traditional finishing I am more accustomed to seeing. This is not a criticism but, arguably, reminiscent of when the stealth jet was unveiled a few years ago. It looked unlike any other plane that had gone beforehand and rewrote the rules.
TAG Heuer has produced a breathtaking timepiece with the TAG Heuer Carrera Mikropendulum. It harnesses much “blue-sky thinking” and showcases the brand’s immense capability.
Interestingly, the approach adopted by TAG Heuer in creating this timepiece is very different from the production of the Calibre 1887. Whereas the Calibre 1887 is produced on a heavily automated production line, the TAG Heuer Carrera Mikropendulum is produced by a small team of artisans based in the brand’s Haute Horlogerie department. The result is a watch that embraces some of the traditional watchmaking craft, but does not appear to be inhibited by convention.
The result is a stunning watch with much magnetic appeal.
- Model: TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulum
- Reference: CAR5B80.FC6339
- Case: Grade 5 Titanium; diameter 43 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; chronograph; power reserve indication for chronograph.
- Movement: Self-winding movement; frequency 28,000 vph (4 Hz) for watch; frequency 360,000 kph (50Hz) for chronograph; 58 jewels; power reserve 42 hours for watch; power reserve 90 minutes for chronograph; 371 parts.
- Strap: Anthracite soft touch alligator leather presented on a titanium deployant.