TAG Heuer Carrera celebrates 60 years in vintage style. Next year marks the 60th anniversary of TAG Heuer’s Carrera, one of 20th century’s defining watch designs. It stands to reason, then, that the Watches of Switzerland Group should now turn to it for its next collector-edition release.
Born in 1963, TAG Heuer’s Carrera is an icon. By any measure, it’s one of the most universally appealing watch designs of all time. Round, functional, legible, versatile, handsome, reassuringly uncomplicated, impervious to the whims of fashion, it’s a watch that rises above most if not all criticism.
Six decades ago, its creator would have been delighted to learn of its longevity. Jack Heuer, who had taken the reins at the family watch company only a few years before, was an electrical engineer by training and a graduate of the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
He was also a keen student of the work of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and the furniture designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, in whose work he saw a mastery of modernism, function and beauty. Like them, he wanted Heuer (as his company was still known at the time) to have a signature style that translated into countries and cultures across the globe.
To that point, Heuer had built its reputation on creating reliable stopwatches and timing equipment. Among the motor races it timed was the 12 Hours of Sebring, and it was there in the early 1960s that Jack met the parents of two hotshot young racing drivers, the Mexican Rodriguez brothers. They told him about a road race in their home country called the Carrera Panamericana that had been held for five years in the 1950s before repeated fatalities caused it to be cancelled.
The name Carrera caught his imagination and he determined it would make a good name for a wristwatch with universal appeal. Carrera, a Spanish word, meant ‘race’, ‘path’ and ‘career’, aspirational terms he reasoned would appeal to upwardly mobile men. Porsche wouldn’t apply the name to its 911 for another decade.
Given his background, Jack wanted his watch to be a usable instrument, a chronograph a racing driver could read, even when hurtling around a race track. He calculated that the combination of influences would make his watch desirable – cool, indeed.
As history has proved, he was right. Over the past 60 years, the Carrera has taken numerous forms and become one of the most sought-after of all watches. But for many, the simplicity of Jack’s original design – clean, clever, timeless – remains the truest expression of the Carrera form.
And it’s to those designs of the 1960s that TAG Heuer and the Watches of Switzerland Group have stuck most closely, and in particular to the influences of model ref 2447 SN, introduced in the late 1960s and now considered one of the most collectible iterations of the Carrera ever made.
The closest link between the old and the new ‘Watches of Switzerland Group TAG Heuer Carrera Exclusive’ is in the arrangement of its so-called ‘panda’ dial, a term watch enthusiasts use to describe a watch with a white dial and black subdials. There are other vintage cues, too, most noticeably the black tachymeter scale around the dial edge, a detail collectors will recognise from the Carrera Ref 1153, which first appeared in 1969.
Under the dial though, the vintage confections run out. In place of the hand-wound calibres of old is Heuer 02, TAG Heuer’s contemporary in-house automatic chronograph. It carries a healthy 80-hour power reserve. meaning it will run over a weekend if you take it off on a Friday night and don’t put it back on until Monday morning.
This being the age of choice, you can have the 42mm watch on either a pleasingly uncomplicated three-link metal bracelet or a perforated calfskin leather racing strap. But in both cases you might need to hurry: only 125 examples of each are due for production, all numbered and carrying the subtle engraving ‘TAG Heuer x WOS’.
We will have to wait a few months for the Carrera’s 60th anniversary proper, but for those lucky enough to land one of these limited edition pieces, the celebrations will have come early.
The Watches of Switzerland Group TAG Heuer Carrera Exclusive is available on a stainless steel metal bracelet priced £5,350 or a black calfskin leather strap priced £5,250. Both will be available exclusively via Goldsmiths.co.uk or in select Goldsmiths showrooms.