The Carrera, like other collections by Heuer/TAG Heuer, is named after a prolific motorsport event or venue. Legendary names like Monaco, Monza, Silverstone, or Formula 1. All strong names inspired by the world of motorsports. The TAG Heuer Carrera, of course, takes its names from the Carrera Panamericana, a gruelling border-to-border road-racing event held in Mexico from 1950 to 1954. TAG Heuer launched the Carrera collection in 1963 and nowadays labels it “born on the racetrack”, something very fitting with the brand’s identity. In 2021, almost 60 years after first debuting the name, the collection is alive and well, with the brand introducing three new models – Date, Day-Date and Twin-Time Date – making the 2021 TAG Heuer Carrera 3 Hands Collection.
The origins of Carrera
The history of the “Carrera” name as used by Heuer pre-dates the launch of the Heuer Carrera collection by a full decade, however. In 1953 Heuer produced the 404 series watch, dedicated to the Carrera Panamericana. This early chronograph wristwatch already shows telltale signs of the eventual Carrera collection’s design to be introduced in 1963.
A Heuer 404 Chronograph – source Amsterdam Vintage Watches
As you can imagine, such an event needs a proper timing instrument, and Heuer already was a reputable manufacturer of quality precision timing instruments like stopwatches and dashboard timers. So, with the spirit of the Carrera Panamericana and the Heuer 404 series in mind, Heuer set out to create a new collection of watches, launching in the early sixties. The focus was to create a watch that was as legible as possible and integrate it with the brand’s racing stopwatch legacy into a wrist-worn chronograph instrument; the Heuer Carrera.
Heuer Carrera 2447 Valjoux 72 Silver Dial first-generation – source www.bukowskis.com
The Carrera would mark a change in design for Heuer, as it focuses on legibility and clarity more than any other wristwatch collection by the brand beIntroducing fore it. The ref. 2447 was effectively a chronograph watch boiled down to the essentials, with its dial and indications being as clear as possible. In the process, Heuer created a rather elegant, simplistic collection that remains a staple in the brand’s portfolio ever since. The original design had a silver dial with simple hands, baton hour markers, a seconds track on an angled outer flange, and a two-, or three-register chronograph display (depending on the movement), and was housed in a 36mm case featuring a very slim bezel, along with sharp, angular shaped lugs and a simple, knurled crown.
The Carrera’s Return
A faithful re-edition of the 1963 Heuer Carrera was created in 1996, followed by several heritage-themed models – yet not directly inspired by existing historical reference – in the year 2000. Even though with a more contemporary design, the DNA of the original was still there. By 2004 a completely new collection of Carrera watches was introduced, giving the watch a much sportier appearance. Under the guidance of Jean-Christophe Babin, newly appointed CEO of TAG Heuer following the LVMH take-over, it was introduced as more of an interpretation of what a modern-day Carrera can be instead of a true recreation.
The 1996 watches that marked the comeback of the Carrera in TAG Heuer’s collection
The latest generation of Carrera’s can be split into two groups basically. On one hand, there’s the Carrera Sport Chronograph, with an external graduated bezel, and on the other hand the more classically styled Carrera Chronograph. Two other recent examples of modern-day variations on the Carrera theme are the TAG Heuer Carrera Green Special Edition and the new TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph that connects the brand with the famous German sports car company. A year earlier TAG Heuer launched the rather handsome Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition watch, to celebrate the company’s 160th anniversary.
Today TAG Heuer expands the collection with new models, none of which feature a chronograph movement, taking the Carrera concept into a new direction, at least for this generation. It’s indeed far being the first time that the Carrera is seen without its emblematic function, as the brand already had such 3 Hands model back in the 1990s.
A late 1990s TAG Heuer Carrera without the signature chronograph function – image by Calibre 11
The 2021 TAG Heuer Carrera 3 Hands Collection includes a time-and-date model, aptly named the Carrera Date 39mm, and a Carrera Day-Date 41mm. The third novelty is the Carrera Twin-Time Date 41mm, a GMT referring to a Heuer Twin-Time travel watch from the 1950s.
TAG Heuer Carrera Date 39mm
Tag Heuer is presenting three new non-chronograph watches, with this Date model being the simplest of the three. The TAG Heuer Carrera Date is available in a fairly modest size, featuring the signature Carrera-style case design.
Housed in a steel case, the 39mm diameter is a very pleasant size and accommodates most wrists. A smart choice from TAG Heuer. They could have just as easily sized this well above 40mm but decided not to. The angular lugs remain a distinctive characteristic of the Carrera collection, as well as the relatively slim bezel to open up the dial as much as possible.
Four references are introduced, all with a sunray brushed dial and simple yet effective layouts. You have a choice between a blue, black or silver dial, with the latter coming quite close to the spirit of the original Heuer Carrera 2447 SN. All dials feature applied, polished indices, a framed date window at 6 o’clock, and a crisp set of hands with a luminous stripe in the centre (for the hours and minutes only). The black dial comes with either rhodium-plated or rose gold-plated hands, completing the quartet of novelties.
All models feature a domed and bevelled sapphire crystal with AR coating, and a screwed-down sapphire crystal caseback, revealing the TAG Heuer Calibre 5 automatic movement. This movement is based on the Sellita SW200, a reliable workhorse that’s easily serviced if needed. It runs at a frequency of 28,800vph and has a power reserve of 38 hours. This seems a bit low compared to some of the newer, comparable movements by ETA, so we hope Sellita will up its game in the near future and bump the power reserve a little.
The new TAG Heuer Carrera Date 39mm comes on a polished and brushed stainless steel bracelet, with H-shaped links and a folding buckle. The watches retail for EUR 2,550 (black, blue or silver dial with rhodium-plated hands and indices) or EUR 2,750 (black dial, rose gold-plated hands and indices).
Quick Facts: 39mm diameter – stainless steel case and H-linked bracelet – polished and brushed finish – domed, bevelled sapphire crystal – knurled pull-out crown – sapphire crystal caseback – 100m water-resistance – black, blue or silver sunray brushed dials – rhodium-plated or gold-plated applied polished indices and hands – framed date window – TAG Heuer Calibre 5, Sellita SW200 base – automatic – 25 jewels – 28,800vph (4Hz) – 38h power reserve – hours, minutes, date – as of EUR 2,550
TAG Heuer Carrera Day-Date 41mm
The second set of watches launched under the Carrera 3 Hands Collection is the TAG Heuer Carrera Day-Date 41mm. In terms of design, there’s nothing really new to add, compared to the Carrera Date above, as it follows the same overall direction.
The most noticeable difference between the two new models is the size, the placement of the secondary indications, and the inclusion of a day of the week indication. This TAG Heuer Carrera Day-Date is slightly larger, at 41mm in diameter. That slightly bigger size is primarily to accommodate the double window for the day and date on the dial. At 41mm, it is still not an overly large watch although it might be a tad large for smaller wrists. The proportions are the same as its smaller brother, and you get the same level of detail; polished and brushed surfaces, narrow angled bezel, angular lugs and a domed and bevelled sapphire crystal.
The dial, available in black with stamped concentric pattern, or in sunray-brushed blue or silver, the date window moved to 3 o’clock and is joined by a day of the week display. The rest of the details on the dial remain the same, so either a rhodium-plated set of hands and indices on one of the three colours or rose gold-plated hands and indices on a black dial with its slightly different texture.
The same Calibre 5 movement is powering the Carrera Day-Date, but with an extra jewel for the integration of the day of the week disc. The rest of the specifications remain unchanged, and as with the other models, the Sellita-based movement can be seen through the display caseback.
With four different references being introduced, there’s surely a style for everyone, but to mix up things a little more, the silver dial Carrera Day-Date is presented on a brown alligator leather strap instead of the stainless steel bracelet. The TAG Heuer Carrera Day-Date retails for EUR 2,750 with a black, blue or silver dial and rhodium-plated hands and indices, or EUR 2,950 for the black dial with rose gold-plated hands and markers.
Quick Facts: 41mm diameter – stainless steel case – polished and brushed finish – domed, bevelled sapphire crystal on top – knurled pull-out crown – sapphire crystal caseback – 100m water-resistance – black with concentric pattern, blue or silver sunray brushed – rhodium-plated or gold-plated applied polished indices and hands – framed day and date window – TAG Heuer Calibre 5, Sellita SW200 base – automatic winding – 26 jewels – 28,800vph (4Hz) – 38h power reserve – hours, minutes, date, day – as of EUR 2,750
TAG Heuer Carrera Twin-Time Date 41mm
The third novelty presented by TAG Heuer is the Carrera Twin-Time Date 41mm. As mentioned, the Twin-Time designation refers to a historical Heuer reference from the 1950s. The name vanished in the 1960s when watches with a secondary hour hand to indicate a second time zone were labelled as GMT watches by Heuer.
An example of a Heuer Twin Time from the 1950s – image courtesy of Calibre 11
Following the return of the Carrera name to regular production in 2000, we would once again be greeted by a Carrera GMT watch, and from 2004 onwards it would be renamed Carrera Twin-Time. This travel watch within the Carrera collection was updated in 2014 and is now refreshed once more.
The new TAG Heuer Carrera Twin-Time is presented in a 41mm steel case in that familiar Carrera style. This new model, with only one reference available, is presented with a sunray brushed blue dial and a two-tone blue and silver 24-hour ring on the inner flange. Surely, more colour combinations will follow in the future, as previously the Carrera Twin-Time came with either silver, anthracite or black dials. Still, the blue colour fits the sporty theme of the collection rather well.
A second time zone is indicated with a centrally mounted hand that features a triangular tip with a red outline and a Super LumiNova filling. The framed date window has moved from 3 o’clock in the previous Carrera Twin-Time to 6 o’clock in this new version. The rhodium-plated hour and minute hands have a Super LumiNova centre line and are paired with a slender, polished central seconds hand. Rhodium-plated, applied hour indices complete the dial.
The movement inside the TAG Heuer Carrera Twin-Time Date is the Calibre 7, based on the Sellita SW330. Visible under the sapphire caseback, it runs at a frequency of 28,800vph and serves up a power reserve of approximately 50 hours. The TAG Heuer Carrera Twin-Time Date comes on a stainless steel bracelet and retails for EUR 3,000.
Quick Facts: 41mm diameter – stainless steel case – polished and brushed finish – domed, bevelled sapphire crystal on top – knurled pull-out crown – sapphire crystal caseback – 100m water-resistance – blue sunray brushed dial – rhodium-plated applied polished indices and hands – framed date window – TAG Heuer Calibre 7, Sellita SW330 base – automatic winding – 25 jewels – 28,800vph (4Hz) – approx. 50h power reserve – hours, minutes, date, second time zone – EUR 3,000
For more information, please visit TAGHeuer.com.