TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm – new for 2020
The TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm is a new addition to the Swiss brand’s collection. This new model is offered in four variants, however, TAG Heuer has already stated that additional versions will be released in September 2020. Angus Davies looks closely at these new chronographs from the luxury marque and contemplates whether they deliver advancement.
In January 1962, Jack Heuer was invited to attend the 12 Hours Race at Sebring, Florida. Jack had lent the race organisers a number of Heuer pocket chronographs for timing the race. The racing grid was comprised of professional drivers as well as several affluent gentlemen drivers. While surveying the scene, it occurred to Jack, a consummate businessman, that the amateur drivers and well-heeled spectators proved the ideal audience for Heuer’s wrist-worn chronographs.
While at the event, Jack also met the parents of the Rodriguez brothers, two young amateur drivers from Mexico. Both brothers were competing in a Ferrari. The boys’ parents expressed their relief that the brothers were too young to compete in the Carrera Panamerica Mexico. The parents explained that the legendary road race was considered the most dangerous sports car race in the world. Sadly, the statistics backed up this reputation with the race claiming over 30 lives in five years.
On hearing the Spanish word ‘Carrera’, Jack noted the name. He loved the sound of the word and discovered it had several meanings, always a useful benefit when marketing a product. Once he returned to Switzerland, he registered the name ‘Heuer Carrera’ and vowed the company’s next model would bear the ‘Carrera’ name.
In 1963, Jack designed the inaugural Carrera. His personal obsession for design, manifest with his love of Le Corbusier chairs and modern architecture, was evident with the initial Carrera design. Jack appreciated clean lines and uncluttered aesthetics. He had a fanatical fixation with legibility, believing that a watch dial should always be clean and readily intelligible.
Jack’s preoccupation for clean lines and readability was not lost on the watch-buying public. Over the years, the Heuer Carrera attracted legions of disciples, leading to the model’s legendary status.
Even the most popular products require minor modifications from time to time. Indeed, the lustre of a former great will inevitably fade without continuous improvement. However, revisiting a legendary product is fraught with risk. There are several examples of once-iconic products being clumsily ‘updated’ only for the alluring essence of the original to be lost.
Just for one moment, spare a thought for the designer tasked with refining a legendary model. Success may attract numerous plaudits but failure can also end a promising career. With this in mind, I feel sorry for the poor designer who was tasked with revisiting the design of the legendary Carrera.
Despite the inherent risks, the Swiss avant-garde brand has placed all its chips on black and gambled on a new version of the TAG Heuer Carrera. Will the brilliance of the model shine even more brightly or will its once notable glow disappear into the ether?
A key attribute of the Carrera has always been its notable talent for lucidly imparting information. In the world of motorsport when the frenetic pace of competition only allows a mere glance at the wrist, it is vital the wearer can assimilate each function easily. The Carrera has always fulfilled this need with aplomb and the updated 2020 models perpetuate this trait. Indeed, the Carrera has never enunciated time more clearly.
The four initial versions of the TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm are offered with a choice of dial colours, namely, black, blue, green and, lastly, black with gold-coloured hands and indexes. However, as I will go on to explain later, the differences between each of the four models is not limited to just the hue of each dial. The brand has endowed the variants with optimally paired bezels, pushpieces and crowns, imbuing each reference with its own distinct persona.
Unlike some previous versions of the Carrera sporting an openworked dial, the new TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm features a solid dial epidermis adorned with a circular brushed pattern. This surface treatment is subtle, enriching the dial’s epidermis without detracting from the various indications.
The hour and minute hands resemble those fitted to another iconic model, the Monaco, albeit in this instance they shun the latter model’s red accents. The hands feature a central channel and are partly lined with white Super-LumiNova. Each hour is denoted with a rhodium-plated index, again featuring a central groove and lined with Super-LumiNova. The decision to use baton-type indexes seems very wise as I suspect Arabic numerals may have marred the otherwise uncluttered design.
Three subdials populate the dial, however, at first glance, the model resembles a bi-compax design. Two snailed registers are positioned at 3 and 9 o’clock, a 30-minute chronograph register and a 12-hour chronograph register, respectively. A small seconds display, positioned at 6 o’clock, features an opaline finish which exhibits a discreet, understated appearance. A date aperture is located within the small seconds display. The date is conveyed with black numerals set against a white disc. A minuterie frames the periphery of the dial. A small rectangular section of lume, set within a neat channel, is located between the minuterie and the indexes, augmenting nocturnal legibility.
Close examination of the dial reveals an extraordinary attention to detail. The snailed chronograph registers at 3 and 9 o’clock feature contrasting, circular brushed tracks which sit slightly above the main dial’s epidermis. Between the central dial area and the minuterie is a subtle fluted pattern, only discernible with close inspection. The Carrera typography has been carefully updated. The result of this finessing is that the watch feels more luxurious and, to be honest, it looks more expensive.
All models are housed in a 44mm stainless steel case. The treatment of the various case and bracelet surfaces has clearly been the subject of prolonged consideration. While fine-brushed surfaces abound, there are isolated pockets of gleaming steel which tastefully enliven the overall composition. The sloping, bevelled inner edge of the lugs is highly polished. Likewise, areas of the caseback and some facets of the bracelet’s central links also shine resplendently.
Appraising the sapphire crystal through a macro lens reveals it to be slightly curved with a faceted edge that sits proud of the adjacent bezel. Once again, the luxury watch firm has obsessed over the minutiae, delivering a chronograph rich in detail. However, despite the number of subtle characteristics, everything coexists harmoniously. Furthermore, a reoccurring theme with this watch is that it exhibits seemly conduct at all times. There is a welcome absence of outré styling or gaudy details. Indeed, while this watch has a sporty profile, its styling would also befit cocktail attire.
The blue and black monochrome dial options are paired with a matching ceramic bezel. This is fixed and marked with a tachymeter scale. The green dial is combined with a stainless steel bezel, granting the watch a very different appearance. The last option pairs a black dial with 18-carat 5N rose gold hands, indexes, pushpieces and crown. This model is equipped with a black ceramic bezel incorporating golden text, numerals and markings. This particular reference rejects the stainless steel bracelet fitted to its siblings in favour of a black alligator leather strap.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm is equipped with the Calibre Heuer 02 Automatic. The movement’s name and power reserve are mentioned on the dial, albeit while still upholding the unassuming nature of the watch. The brand should fanfare this movement as it is superb. Indeed, TAG Heuer appears to be using this movement more and more.
The Calibre Heuer 02 is fully integrated and pairs a column wheel with a vertical coupling. This arrangement provides an array of advantages when compared with modular chronographs, cam-actuated chronographs and fully integrated chronographs featuring a column wheel and old-school horizontal coupling.
Firstly, pressing the pushpiece at 2 o’clock grants a smooth velvety action. When the chronograph is actuated or halted, the central chronograph seconds hand doesn’t stutter and there is no discernible hesitation, ensuring the measured elapsed time accurately reflects the duration of the observed event.
Often when a chronograph is in use, the amplitude of the balance wheel drops, impairing the accuracy of the watch’s timekeeping functions. This scenario is often termed, ‘drag’. However, the specification of the Calibre Heuer 02 mitigates the influence of drag, courtesy of the column wheel and vertical coupling ensemble. Lastly, a further benefit of this type of chronograph is that the movement is less susceptible to wear.
The balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement contains 33 jewels. The power reserve is an impressive 80 hours.
Firstly, I wish to say to the designer of the new TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm they can sleep easy. This watch is stunning and surpasses its forebears. It is not the case that one single aesthetic detail proves a game changer, it is the cumulative effect of numerous small enhancements which catapults this model onto another level.
The attention to the minutiae, with the intelligent use of proportions, colours, textures and depths, imbues this watch with a discernible quotient of luxury. Indeed, this model looks far more expensive than its older siblings.
Another highlight of this watch is the Calibre Heuer 02. It is produced in a high-tech movement facility in Chevenez. The widespread use of automation ensures each movement is free of human error and is made to a consistently high standard. The combination of a column wheel and vertical coupling provides an array of benefits which are relevant to all would-be wearers.
Lastly, I have to return to TAG Heuer’s design department. As I stated before, it has conceived a wonderful chronograph. Furthermore, the model’s execution is superb. However, TAG Heuer has inadvertently raised the bar, making a repeat performance even more challenging. I am only glad that I don’t have to continuously improve horological legends!
- Model: TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm
- References: CBN2A1B.BA0643 (black dial); CBN2A1A.BA0643 (blue dial); CBN2A10.BA0643 (green dial); CBN2A5A.FC6481 (black dial with rose gold details)
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 44 mm; water resistance 10ATM (100m); sapphire crystal to the front and exhibition case back.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; 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)
- Price CHF 5,600 (RRP as at 7.7.2020) for CBN2A1B.BA0643 (black dial); CBN2A1A.BA0643 (blue dial); CBN2A10.BA0643 (green dial)
- Price CHF 6,400 (RRP as at 7.7.2020) for CBN2A5A.FC6481 (black dial with rose gold details)