Back in January 2020, as the first watch presented by the brand in this new year, TAG Heuer introduced a pretty big watch… Really, the kind of watch that, at first sight, has all the elements to become a classic. Certainly, this wasn’t the most adventurous of TAG’s creation, but let’s be real, it simply looked good – at least, in the press photos. To make up our mind, we’ve decided to give this TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition a test on the wrist. And, well, it doesn’t disappoint.
Last year, TAG Heuer had one main focus: the 50th anniversary of the Calibre 11 movement, along with the watch that was first equipped with it, the legendary Monaco watch. These celebrations gave birth to a series of five watches, one for each decade of the Monaco’s existence. But this year (if things go well…), prepare for something else. First, there was the new Connected Watch Third Generation. According to the brand, another collection which is “set to receive special attention this year is the TAG Heuer Carrera line, which features the brand’s most elegant chronograph”. The opening piece for this year is also a celebration of the 160th anniversary of the brand, founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer in Saint-Imier, Switzerland.
The early Heuer Carrera
For more details about this history of the Carrera, have a look at the video we produced on this topic here.
Back in 1962, then-CEO Jack Heuer heard about the legendary Carrera Panamericana, one of the most treacherous road races in the world. The Spanish word “carrera”, which can be translated as road, race, career and course, caught his attention: he knew immediately that this would be the perfect name for a new timepiece. The following year, 1963, the first Heuer Carrera chronographs left the factory.
As a lover of modern and clean design, Jack Heuer wanted the aesthetics of the Heuer Carrera chronograph to be pure and well-proportioned – features that make the watch perfect for drivers who needed to see the time at a glance during the adrenaline-pumping races. The renowned monochrome silver-dial model of 1964, with its three azurage counters and sunburst silver-coloured dial, is a prime choice to honour the 160th anniversary of the brand. This watch, known as the ref. 2447, became an icon and came to define the design codes of the entire collection for decades to come – including modern watches, which still feature the signature faceted lugs and straight caseband.
There would be hundreds of different Carrera watches to follow this first generation, with multiple cases, movements and dials, especially during the 1970s. But in the mid-1980s, the Carrera was stopped and the brand focused on different models. Until…
In 1996, TAG Heuer wasn’t in the best shape. The brand needed to return to the board as a serious Swiss watchmaker and for that, the solution was to bring back former glories. Hence the 1996 Carrera Re-Edition CS3110 (and its black sister, the CS3111).
The CS3110 (and its siblings) was a faithful re-edition of the early Heuer Carrera 2447. As such, it featured a 36mm case, the same overall design – facetted lugs, pump pushers, straight caseband – and a dial that was clearly in line with a 1960s Heuer watch. No misleading on the provenance of this watch. One main difference with the early Carrera was the movement, as instead of a Valjoux 72, this CS3110 featured a Lemania 1873 – still a hand-wound movement though.
More recently, TAG Heuer introduced several watches paying tribute to early Carrera models. There was, for instance, the beautiful Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph Telemeter and recently the Carrera Fragment made with streetwear designer Hiroshi Fujiwara – and the watch we’ll look at today has a lot in common with this Fragment edition.
The TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition
The reason why it was necessary to mention the Fragment watch is simple. The new Carrera 160 Years Silver shares most of its specifications with this watch, including the case and the movement, yet with a different dial. And the result is extremely pleasant.
The case of this Carrera 160 Years Silver is, first of all, reasonably sized – which isn’t always the case with modern Carrera watches, often in the 42mm range or plus. Here, we have a classic Carrera steel case with a 39mm diameter. It is larger than the original 1960s models, no doubt about it, but remains compact enough to have a desirable vintage flair and to be comfortable on most wrists. The shape is, without surprises, very Carrera indeed. The case is entirely polished, with the iconic faceted lugs and the straight, sharp caseband. The crown and the pushers are also classically executed in line with the Heritage feel.
One regret, which is inherent to most modern automatic chronographs, is the height of the case. This TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years isn’t per se thick, at least for such a watch, being circa 14mm in height. These are classic chronograph proportions. Yet, with a restrained diameter, this gives the impression of a higher case than usual. Not particularly disturbing, admittedly, but just something to be aware of. The watch is worn on a black alligator strap with a steel folding clasp. It is a bit too classic in our opinion and a racing, perforated strap could make this watch even more desirable.
Besides the beautiful case and its restrained proportions, most of the appeal of this TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years comes from its pure, clean and monochromatic dial. No unnecessary inscriptions, no complex display, no date (finally…). Just the essentials. The dial is entirely silver-plated with a sunray-brushed pattern, bringing nice reflections depending on the ambient light – you can see in our photos that the dial can be grey or almost white, but also captures the ambient atmosphere with cold or warm tones.
Apart from the vintage Heuer logo, the Carrera mention or the Swiss inscription, nothing disturbs the elegance of this classic Carrera look. From the hands to the sub-dials, the indexes or the track, everything has been designed with the old ref. 2447 in mind. Some light and discreet touches of fauxtina have been added on the hands and the hour markers – for a touch of vintage cool.
To power this Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition, TAG Heuer relies on its in-house Calibre Heuer 02, a modern integrated chronograph. No more modular ETA/Dubois-Depraz movements here, as we’ve seen in previous re-editions. The Heuer 02 movement is equipped with a vertical clutch and a column wheel, one of the best-known solutions for a chronograph. It is also powerful, with an 80h power reserve. The movement is visible through a tinted sapphire crystal and features a special rotor, with the 160th-anniversary logo. The decoration is pretty basic, with Geneva stripes on the bridges.
Altogether, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition is a very accomplished and balanced watch. TAG Heuer has gathered all the right elements here, with restrained proportions, a nicely executed dial, no superfluous inscriptions, no disgraceful date windows and a timeless look that will certainly make this watch a success now and in the years to come. Modern touches have been added, but just where they should, such as a slightly enlarged diameter or the modern movement. And best of all, the price seems fair.
Price and availability
The TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition (reference CBK221B.FC6479) is a limited edition of 1,860 pieces. It will be available worldwide from June 2020, with a price of CHF 6,300, EUR 5,850, GBP 5,250 or USD 6,450. More details at tagheuer.com.