TAG Heuer is a sentimental favorite for me. The black and gold 1000 Professional Diver 980.029N was one of the first watches I can remember lusting after. A beat-up pre-owned Formula 1 watch was as close as I ever got to the 1000 Pro. Over the years I’ve watched the brand go through some funky gyrations as they experimented with smartphones (groan!) and leather goods (not such a groan…) culminating in that famous period several years back when you needed to click through a ridiculous number of menu options before you could see a single watch on their website! Perhaps the identity crisis is coming to a close as we see the Heuer logo adorn a watch meant for racing.
One of my friends from university and I have a plan: to make it to age 60 and begin racing classic cars. Frankly, we’ve both struggled to get to the point where buying, restoring and racing a car in a race like the Mille Miglia or Carrera Panamerica is not such crazy idea. We took our beatings when it was time to get beat-up. We cut corners when it was time to cut corners. We sold-out when it was time to sell-out. Admittedly we’re not crusaders for a better world or champions of heroic causes: we’re fully-grown children and that persistent desire to be foolish keeps us young, while every single indicator around us is telling us that we are getting older.
For that risk-taker in us all, they present the TAG Heuer Carrera Caliber 18 Chronograph; a watch that is somewhat like a racecar in its approach – stripped down of any frippery – just what you need to get the job done.
Under the Hood
Just as with a racecar, the key feature of a racing chronograph is the engine/movement. The Calibre 18 is an automatic winding, 40-hour power reserve watch with output for constant seconds at 3, date at 6 and a 30 minute counter at 9. While there are no down-draft carburetors or velocity stacks on the Calibre 18, it does have a Côtes de Genève oscillating mass in the event you want to pop-open the hood and show it off to your friends.
Aerodynamics on the Wrist
Wind-resistance and drag are not major factors in determining which chronograph will be best for your racing needs, but it is nice to have a slick presentation. The new Carrera Calibre 18 case is not really that new. Paying tribute to the cases Jack Heuer used 50+ years ago, the Carrera Calibre 18 is a 39mm polished stainless steel sport watch – plain and simple. Fitted with a large crown, stock pushers at 2 and 4, I can easily see using this watch with a set of racing gloves. Fitted on a perforated leather racing strap, I can also see shifting this watch around on my wrist while moving from driving to navigating.
Another nice touch is the domed sapphire crystal. Racing watch purists are bristling now, I just know it. You’re all sat there imagining the Captain Picard meme that says: “FFS – Why Not Plexiglas?” I can understand your agitation; plexi IS sexy. (But only in certain settings.) If you intend to get out there and mix-it-up while wearing your watch I can assure you, as person who has spent the past 374 days wearing a Plexiglas crystal, sapphire is an upgrade.
For the record, the watch is rated to 100M water-resistance. And also for the record, if you test the water-resistance of your chronograph while racing, you have probably failed miserably as you are UNDER WATER!
KISS: Keep It Simple Son
This is not a shout-out to the rock band (they don’t need my help getting publicity!) This is about the dial. The flat silver dial with panda-style counters for minutes and constant seconds will provide contrast. Ensuring that the dial is legible for quick glimpses are the simple grey markers for the hours and the white-on-black text for the minute and seconds read-outs.
Now to say something critical: The watch has a Telemeter index around the dial. WHY? Jean-Claude Biver – get someone back at HQ to Photoshop a version of the dial with a tachymeter instead, trust me, you’ll love it. Once again, if you are in a car and need the service of a Telemeter that means you are approximating the range of incoming artillery shells. As far as auto racing goes, it is considered another huge fail to be subject to artillery. I’m sure it has happened, but I don’t want it to happen to ME!
Kicking the Tires
If we are having a moment of brutal honesty, I’ve not been able to pull-the-trigger on any of the recent TAG line-up. I’ve flirted with a few models, but when push came to shove, they were left standing at the altar for Omegas. I couldn’t tell you one concrete reason why – but my gut instinct was to go with the Swatch group’s sport brand. That was then, and this is now. TAG Heuer is now under the tutelage of Jean-Claude Biver, the man who saved Omega, Blancpain and turned Hublot into the cultural phenomenon that it is today. If there was ever a watch salesman who can turn-around those lost sales it is Mr. Biver. And this year, at Basel we might just see that begin to happen.
As for my racing days to come, I’m in training. I need to start by removing my spare-tire. By that I mean, the one that sits below my ribs and above my waistline.