07/17/2023
 5 minutes

The TAG Heuer Carrera Restored to Former Glory

By Barbara Korp
TAG-Heuer-Carrera-2-1

Born on the racetrack in 1963, and still on our wrists in 2023: The TAG Heuer Carrera has not only lived to be a ripe 60 years old, but is also still one of TAG Heuer’s most successful series. We were of course expecting TAG Heuer to mark this diamond anniversary with a new model, and we got more than we could have hoped for. At Watches and Wonders 2023, the brand unveiled a new TAG Heuer Carrera chronograph in a vintage facade. Today, we’re looking at the history of the Carrera, why this model is so far-famed, and how the 60th anniversary edition has hit all the sweet spots.

Humble Beginnings

When Jack Heuer set his sights on developing a watch specifically for car racing, he didn’t want to make just any old chronograph; no, he wanted a model in which every tiny detail was adapted to the conditions out on the racetrack. Heuer was set on having a precise movement that worked hand-in-hand with a crisp, legible dial. And in 1963, he presented his prototype: the Carrera, named after the famous Carrera Panamericana rally – a 2,000-mile road race across Mexico in the 1950s – and one of the most adventurous courses in racing at the time.

The watches, which were still sold under the “Heuer” brand at the time, were an instant success. Even today, these vintage chronographs are coveted collector’s items that go for good prices.

Heuer Carrera Chronograph aus den 1960ern – bis heute beliebte Vintage-Sammlerstücke
The Heuer Carrera chronograph from the 1960s is still a popular vintage collectible.

Early Successes

When car racing picked up steam in the 1970s, Jack Heuer won over several drivers with the merits of his new watch. Formula 1 drivers Niki Lauda, Arturo Merzario, and Ronnie Peterson were among the first to don a Carrera, and its reputation soon spread. The timepiece’s design was trendy for that era, and the watch was easy to read even at high speeds. Heuer avoided cluttering the dial, and ensured that all details allowed for optimal light incidence and capture. What’s more, its slightly elongated lugs make for a snug fit on the wrist.

Heuer Carrera aus den 1970ern – bei Rennfahrern ein großer Erfolg
The Heuer Carrera held pole position in the 1970s.

More Than a Chronograph

Besides the famous chronographs, the Carrera collection includes some three-hand models. They, too, prioritize readability and offer sporty design cues, though they are a touch more elegant than the chronographs. The three-hand watches come with diameters of 36, 39, and 41 mm, so are great for men and women. They’re large enough to look sporty-casual, but also elegant enough to wear with more formal attire. If you want a sporty and elegant model without a diamond setting at an affordable price, this watch is a sure bet.

However, fans of motor racing will also be interested in the Carrera Calibre 7 Twin-Time and the Carrera Calibre 8. Just as the name suggests, the Calibre 7 Twin-Time displays two time zones. This is achieved with an additional central hand that points to a 24-hour scale around the dial edge. A very subtle, yet practical detail. The Calibre 8 also displays a second time zone, but via a subdial at 6 o’clock, with an hour and minute hand. This is an absolute eye-catcher and, in true Carrera fashion, very easy to read!

TAG Heuer Carrera Twin Time
TAG Heuer Carrera Twin-Time

2020 – A Big Year for the Carrera

TAG Heuer had another reason to celebrate in 2020. As watch enthusiasts, we do love a special occasion – after all, we can always expect a new model or two. And 2020 was no exception: To mark TAG Heuer’s 160th anniversary, the community was treated to the Carrera 160 Years Silver and the Carrera 160 Years Anniversary. The dial of both Carrera automatic chronographs has the simple “HEUER” inscription, i.e., the company’s original name. These watches exude classic elegance and vintage charm. But there’s more: That same year, to celebrate Jack Heuer’s 88th birthday, the Jack Heuer Birthday Limited Edition was released. The vintage vibes were seen again with the black subdials. This watch immediately became a coveted collector’s item – and of course a stylish accessory that wears great on the wrist.

TAG Heuer Carrera Jack Heuer Birthday
TAG Heuer Carrera Jack Heuer Birthday

2023: 60th Birthday and Rebirth

To commemorate the Carrera’s 60th anniversary, TAG Heuer launched a host of new editions of the Carrera, but it was the chronographs that really stood out. TAG Heuer gave fans what they had hardly dared to hope for: a Carrera that perfectly blends tradition and innovation. The chronograph is once again presented in the legendary “glassbox” design; a domed sapphire crystal encloses the entire dial, complete with tachymeter scale. Earlier variants of this model were somewhat less popular, as this glass design brought down legibility. However, thanks to superior design standards and state-of-the-art technology, TAG Heuer has managed to create a dome-like glass design that actually improves readability from every perspective. This model is of course also incredibly elegant, especially the blue version.

TAG Heuer Carrera Glassbox-Chronograph (Offizielles Pressefoto von TAG Heuer)
TAG Heuer Carrera Glassbox Chronograph (official photo from TAG Heuer)

“The reverse panda model not only features a different color scheme, but also incorporates a unique dial layout. One notable aspect is the placement of the date at 12 o’clock. Although this arrangement has been attempted in the past, it had never gained popularity, mainly because the second hand obstructs the view of the date. TAG Heuer’s decision to reintroduce this design is a nostalgic tribute to the history of watchmaking. These glassbox chronographs, with their enclosed tachymeter scale and compact 39-mm diameter, also look great on smaller wrists.

The two TAG Heuer Carrera automatic chronographs are powered by the in-house caliber TH20-00, which can also be viewed through the display case back. For the first time in the history of the Carrera, the watch is equipped with a bidirectional rotor, i.e., it’s wound by movements in both directions. It also offers an 80-hour power reserve. But all these technical improvements are not reflected at all in the list price of $6,450. Rather reasonable for a fantastic watch with a fascinating history!

TAG Heuer Carrera Glassbox-Chronograph im Reverse-Panda-Design (Offizielles Pressefoto von TAG Heuer)
TAG Heuer Carrera Glassbox chronograph in reverse panda design (official photo from TAG Heuer)

There are also two new TAG Heuer Carrera racing chronographs, catering to those who prefer bigger timepieces. These models come in blue and black variations and are very fairly priced at $5,750 each. While they don’t feature the glassbox design, their dials incorporate vibrant orange and red accents, adding a touch of racing style and ensuring excellent legibility. The red central seconds hand of the chronograph evokes the speedometers found in racing cars. Even if the second hand still needs 60 seconds to complete a lap, these watches are made for everyone who has a need for speed!

TAG Heuer Carrera Racing Chronograph (Offizielles Pressefoto von TAG Heuer)
TAG Heuer Carrera Racing Chronograph (official photo from TAG Heuer)

In Short

If you’re looking for an example of a well-executed anniversary edition, TAG Heuer’s 60th anniversary Carrera fits the bill. They took the bold step of introducing the flagship model with its classic design, yet infused it with fresh, modern elements. The watch is accessible in terms of both price and size, and is perfect for moments on and off the racetrack.


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About the Author

Barbara Korp

The moment I learned that watches were a lot more than just simple jewelry, I was hooked; I become enamored with the elegance of timekeeping. But there was one small hitch: most models were just too big for me to wear! That didn't discourage me, however. In fact, I developed quite a niche interest.

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