Introduced in 1963, the Carrera was the first Heuer line of watches with its own brand name. While the Carrera was an evolution in terms of design for Heuer, its design was distinctive compared to the more widely seen chronographs of the 1940s and 1950s. Jack Heuer, who was CEO at the time, wanted a watch that was highly legible. It was fair to say he wasn’t a fan of unnecessary tracks that could be found on chronographs of this era, so he had the 1/5 sec scale printed on the thin inner bezel of the watch, which allowed for a simpler and cleaner look but also made the dial look bigger. All-in-all, this resulted in, arguably, one of the best looking chronographs ever made.
Designed with racing drivers and motorsport fans in mind, the watch needed a name that would evoke motor racing spirit. The name Carrera can be traced back to the 1950s and a legendary event called Le Carrera Panamericana, a race that took place through Mexico. Some of the world’s greatest drivers attended this gruelling and often deadly race. As a lover of motorsports, Jack Heuer learned of this race and was taken aback by the name Carrera, meaning career or race in Spanish. Jack decided to register this name for the new watch he had in mind.
Jack Heuer had a clear vision for the Carrera, hence another reason for choosing a name that was easy to pronounce and internationally recognised and also the departure from chronographs that Heuer had produced in previous decades. The first two models of the new Carrera line were the 36mm Carrera 12 ref. 2447, which featured a three subsidiary dial layout for registering hours, minutes, and running seconds and the Carrera 45 ref. 3647, which only featured a 45 minute and running seconds sub dial. The Carrera 12 housed the revered Valjoux 72, which was also used in other notable watches from this time, one of them being the Rolex Daytona. The Heuer Carrera was a great success that spurred further variations.
The second generation of Carrera sported a funkier 70s design, but also housed Heuer’s new automatic winding chronograph movement: the Calibre 11. The Carrera ref. 1153 was a departure from its predecessor and no longer utilised the clean and refreshing dial. The Carrera now featured a larger inner bezel, a date aperture as standard, an orange chronograph seconds hand, and the case had been upsized by 2mm to 38mm, it also sported a cushion shape.
During the 70s and 80s, the Carrera went through several design changes and at some point during the early 90s was even forgotten, so to speak, as the wording Carrera was absent from the dial. It wasn’t until the late 90s when TAG Heuer realised the roots of the brand were still cherished by so many, and so they launched a classic series of watches. The first being the 1964 Carrera reissue, styled nearly identical to the original from 1964. Since then, the Carrera has once again become one of TAG Heuer’s flagship models, with numerous variations being released. But one thing that is for sure with the Carrera, whether you are looking at a new or vintage model, its characteristics are unmistakable.